This January, Catherine Shovlin, Artmongers Director of Research, went back to the refugee camp to carry out impact evaluation on the July 2015 artwork and discuss next steps with the team there.
We used the well established 5 measures of wellbeing (connectedness, physical activity, learning, helping and awareness), represented as a visual scale to overcome language and literacy challenges.
We surveyed refugees before and 6 months after our intervention in the area and, in order to have a comparison, in a control group in a different part of the camp. Our hypothesis, based on our experiences on other projects, was that working together to have a positive impact on shared public space improves community well being. So we were excited to see the results – a great improvement in wellbeing that seems to confirm the value of this work.
While Catherine was there she spent time seeing how we can get some of our other ideas going. For one thing we want to raise the funds to create 4 more neighbourhood spaces later in 2016 so we are pleased the people there supported this idea. We also piloted some of the new ideas… A song exchange between children on the camp and children in our community, sewing circles for women and girls to develop skills and have a reason to get together, and a mobile library, which can operate as a satellite of the new library the NGO are planning to install on the camp. The new vocational skills centre that has just been created at the camp is a perfect fit with the sewing idea and it was great to be able to take donations of books and sewing materials from our local community in Telegraph Hill. Just by starting to talk about these ideas we are already identifying other potential partners who could support with gifts in kind or publicity.
We believe that changing the way spaces look changes how we feel in them, and therefore what happens next. Of course there are major practical challenges faced by the refugees here and around the world, but it is encouraging to know that projects aimed at human spirit also have a role to play. There are ways all of us can help. Now we are working on a detailed impact report which we can use to discuss next steps with potential founders.
All in all, the feedback and the evaluation is positive, so onwards and upwards!