Long before the Covid19 pandemic, precisely – the spring of 2019, Civil Connections fell into a network with an interesting documentarist – Neil Bell, who at the same time happened to be the founder and CEO of a high-impact, social-focused, game development company in Sweden – Impact Unified. Neil was showcasing an award-winning board game – THE JOURNEY ISTANBUL, under the framework of the Euro Mediterranean fostering of dialogue for cultural understanding and regional peace in the wake of migrations and new societal configurations. As Neil went on, true the board game has and continues to have a high impact, but this impact had the potential to be exponentially extended/distributed to audiences across the globe if it was turned into an already beaming trend of digital educational games.
As the conversation went on – another 2 years later, both Civil Connections and Impact Unified, flanked by two other partners – AddArt of Greece and Systems and Generations of Turkey, evolved the idea into a project with several components, which were later found relevant under the Erasmus plus funding program, thereby attracting a grant in December 2021.
Below is a resume of the core components and process of this project.
The project seeks to promote European values and intercultural dialogue to build common histories in the face of immigration into the European Union and new forms of interaction over the past and many years to come. This is embedded in innovating an award-winning board game into a more agile, easy to multiply, close to realistic presentation of refugee journeys into an Augmented reality version (AR). This is aimed at bringing the dialogue about refugees and migration to each and every European’s close experience as long as they have access to a screen. And help to build a virtual cultural heritage museum in order to provide an available repository of cultural knowledge.
This project has a background in the trends and figures provided by the UNHCR, although the total number of migrants arriving in Europe peaked in October 2015 when approximately 222,500 refugees and migrants arrived in one month, of which most by far (211,700) landed in Greece, coming from Turkey, this flow of migration from the Middle Eastern and North African countries will continue, and most likely to be exuberated by the recent shocks of the Covid19 global pandemic. Of course, this comes with many social-cultural challenges to the European community, especially the young populations, educators, and the job market sector that need to welcome, understand, interact, and support the settling of the newcomers.
In light of these, we cannot just close our eyes and hope that the troubles and related processes will sort themselves out. We need to strategically act. Our answer in this project is to share various several practices on how we can do this by innovating an award-winning board game into a more agile, easy to multiply, close to realistic presentation of refugee journeys into an Augmented reality version (AR). This is aimed at bringing the dialogue about refugees and migration to each and every Europen’s close experience as long as they have access to a screen. Thus, this project is one of the contributions to a more culturally aware, diverse, and integrated part of the world.
The project seeks to promote European values and intercultural dialogue to build common histories in the face of immigration into the European Union and new forms of interaction over the past and many years to come. The project’s fundamental value is its aim to innovatively do this through enhancing digital skills, new technologies learning and utilization, critical thinking, and media literacy, but also help to build a virtual cultural heritage museum in order to provide an available repository of cultural knowledge. We want to widen people’s knowledge, and knowledge sources through developing a repository of usable, expandable, easily multipliable, socially, and technologically innovative, publically available products.
The project concretely aims at giving possibilities to European partners to develop innovative ideas – here in the form of an AR migration game and related supportive components, that among others contribute to:
- The strengthening of cross-cutting cooperation around the ideas of European citizenship, and tincture cultural awareness for citizens – in a creative and innovative way.
- To engage different actors – organizations, education institutions, and policy circles, to gain the skills and replicable platforms and knowledge/tools repositories to empower current and future generations to be culturally aware, successful innovators in their local communities.
- To provide skills, technologies, and competencies to young people as well as adults to creatively come up with innovative solutions to societal challenges
- To create cultural, intercultural, multicultural awareness among participants by leading them into the essence of other cultures and letting them be better acquainted with their cultural heritage and ultimately promote interculturally
- To discover and appreciate cultural diversity, to enrich our lives in order to prevent humanity’s cultural heritage from being destroyed and forgotten.
The project results will include the following:
- Innovating the board game “The Journey: Istanbul” into or to the level of Augmented Reality (AR). The board game “The Journey: Istanbul” has been already introduced, publicized, and played in over 20 countries and achieved great success. System & Generation included the game in their regular activities such as English Conversation Clubs to contribute to awareness-raising efforts. The game was also included as an activity by many youth exchanges in Bulgaria- Bansko, Plovdiv, and Sofia; Turkey – Istanbul, Izmir, Ankara, Corum; Georgia –Tbilisi; the UK – London; Sweden – Simrishamn, Göteborg. The game has been played by about 1,000 youngsters so far and reached around 5,000 indirect beneficiaries. The AR version of the board game will make the gaming experience more realistic and effective.
- Create a Live Action Role Playing (LARP) game titled ‘What Now?’, based on locations in Greece to make the participants feel like “walking in the shoes of a refugee” or trying to find a way out of there. This will be followed by game rules that will make it applicable in any European country. Live-Action Role-Playing (LARP) game entails the quest – ‘What Now?’ It is a Live Action Role Playing game where participants take part in a simulated game where they play as refugees who have successfully navigated a long and treacherous path, the participants have finally arrived in Greece, where they are now staying in relative safety in an improvised camp on one of the islands and there is no time to rest. Each participant has a decision to make. Should they continue north from Greece on foot towards Germany and apply for asylum as they get there? Etc. Live-Action Role-Playing takes on the refugee topic will be highly It puts the participants in the shoes of actual refugees and forces them to make decisions refugees must make.
- Set up an open-access web- and app-based platform hosting Virtual Cultural Heritage Museum (VCHM) using Augmented Reality (AR) which will serve as an online digital platform to make all the above products available, as well as collect other videos of various migrant stories. These videos will include stories about the life of refugees – as well as well-established and well-known figures of migratory background – and what values these people have brought with them. Creating and developing the Virtual Cultural Heritage Museum will allow us to further raise awareness about migration and common cultural heritage, and reach even a larger number of people all around the world, as the platform will be available worldwide in several languages (English, Turkish, Greek). The Virtual Cultural Heritage Museum (VCHM) both on the web and in the Augmented Reality (AR) versions will provide an online digital platform for people of different nationalities and cultures to share their own values and cultural heritage as well as encounter those of others. Linking up with other similar virtual archives including at the Global, EU-, national and regional levels will give further traction to the project and reach wider user communities.
- Publish a comic book with the stories of surviving refugees told by the fisherman role model Kostas Pinteris which will also be put on stage by theatrical performances by drama students from the different partner countries to enhance empathy based on the above-mentioned stories of Kostas Pinteris. Kostas Pinteris, a fisherman on the Greek island Lesbos, has been rescuing refugees from drowning in the Aegean Sea for many years and has become a local hero, and has been nominated for the Nobel peace prize. Pinteris is among the closest eyewitnesses to what Syrian refugees have suffered in their efforts to reach Greece. He has collected a large volume of memories and stories about refugees and the re-telling of his stories about refugees in Greek amphitheaters will help refugees’ voices to be heard and their stories are passed on to future generations.
The project is a consortium of four organizations from diverse regions of the European Union including Denmark and Sweden from the North point, Greece, and Turkey from the South. The organizations representing the countries include:
- Civil Connections Community Foundation (CCCF) of Denmark
- Impact Unified AB of Sweden – https://www.impactunified.com/
- Participation Design Agency of Sweden – participation.design
- System and Generation Association of Turkey – systemandgeneration.com
- AddArt of Greece – addart.gr
Project website: https://civilconnections.org/the-journey-now/