Our Community Initiatives
During our participatory action research phase, we are developing a number of community initiatives working together with local people and relevant stakeholders to address some key themes which emerged from our research (difficulties in accessing support for language learning, loneliness and isolation, lack of community spaces especially in smaller and more rural settings).
The Make It Happen Café in Peterhead was a collaboration between SSAMIS, a local youth circus organisation Modo, The WEA, Aberdeenshire Council, and Caged Beastie, creative artists.
In our pop-up community café we delivered a week-long creative programme where language teaching, arts workshops, politics discussions and gardening came together to try and meet migrants’ needs, particularly to overcome the social isolation that many of our participants reported as a feature of rural living.
Choose Peterhead, a town planning consultation process, concluded that an inclusive community café, in the heart of the town, would be particularly valued by the migrant community. Make It Happen Peterhead was a creative experiment, and also market research into the longer term viability of a community café.
A key goal of Participatory Action Research is that the participants are at the heart of the action research, co-creating knowledge, and creating initiatives that meet their needs. The Politics Café; a post-Brexit current affairs discussion group that was part of the Make It Happen café, is now meeting regularly, without SSAMIS input. A great example of participant-led activity.
Our research shows that learning English is highly valued by migrants, but that current ESOL provision doesn’t always meet the learners’ needs. In particular, people need practice speaking English, ideally with native speakers.
Aberdeenshire Council have said that Peterhead’s Local Learning Community Partnership priorities include delivering learning opportunities for hard to reach parents around ESOL with a focus on Family Learning and wider community integration
In response to this, and following the success of Make it Happen Peterhead, SSAMIS, in partnership with the WEA and Modo, are running a series of language cafés. These are informal ESOL classes, with a focus on conversation, making connections, sharing cultures, and building community, as well as language learning.
Our research shows that ESOL for families, where children could come too, would overcome barriers around access to provision and affordable childcare.
SSAMIS is working with the WEA to attract funding to develop a pilot programme of family learning ESOL for Aberdeen City, in line with Scotland’s ESOL Strategy, Welcoming Our Learners 2015-2020.
Making Migrants’ Lives Visible
Ssamis prioritises the often hidden migrant voice in both its theoretical and empirical approach, because the experiences and perspectives of migrants themselves remain little understood.
The ‘Journeys’ exhibition in Peterhead is one example of how Ssamis has created a platform for migrants to represent themselves, their lives and their everyday experiences.
The Arbuthnot Museum in Peterhead has a collection of artefacts reflecting Peterhead’s whaling and fishing past, but nothing that shows the impact of recent migration to the town. The migrant community is also underrepresented in visitor numbers.
Ssamis, in partnership with Aberdeenshire Council Museums Service, and Caged Beastie, Creative Artists, have created an exhibition comprising portraits, a film, a ‘living map’ which is a visual representation of people’s migratory journeys across Europe, and a collection of ‘objects from home’ that have been lent by project participants. The exhibition asks the questions: Why do people from other countries move to Scotland? What would you say to welcome new people to Scotland? What makes a place feel like home? How can we make newcomers feel more at home in Scotland? Visitors to the exhibition are invited to write a welcome message to migrants in the North East.
The materials developed for ‘Journeys’ are being used widely in dissemination events and community engagement opportunities across Scotland, including the Kelvingrove Museum, Glasgow, and the Scottish Rural Parliament in Brechin.
Ssamis asks ‘How can collaborations between a range of actors (migrants, policy makers, service providers) lead to improvements in policy responses and forms of service provision at local, regional and national levels in order to better accommodate migrants’ social security needs in a range of locations across Scotland?’
A key aim of the Participatory Action Research is to build capacity within the migrant community, and look for additional funding and support to sustain the community engagement activities sustainable beyond the scope of the project.
Having dedicated time to build relationships with participants and other agencies is hugely beneficial. Our research crosses Local Authority borders, facilitating knowledge exchange and sharing good practice.