Istanbul Pop-Up CityLab on the 'Social Inclusion of Migrants'

Koç University held its first physical Pop-up CityLab on 'Social Inclusion of Migrants' organized in within the scope of PCD and in collaboration with Istanbul & I. We spoke to Maria Laura Easter Ramirez Galleguillos, one of the organizers, about the event and the importance of using engaged research methods.

On August 05, 2022 the ‘Social Inclusion of Migrants’ Pop-up Citylab was organized in the scope of the Participatory Design Conference (PDC) 2022. Organized in collaboration with the Graduate School of Social Sciences and Humanities (GSSSH) at Koç University, Istanbul & I (volunteer community) and the Koç University UNIC team, it was held at the ‘Istanbul & I’ offices in Istanbul with 23 participants. 

We spoke to Dr. Maria Laura Easter Ramirez Galleguillos, a recent graduate from the Design, Technology and Society doctoral program at Koç University, who was involved in organizing the event. She explained, ‘This event was organized as a skills workshop, meaning that we wanted to pass on some kind of skill to the participants. In this case, the skill was world-building as a creativity and research skill, that we applied to envision migrants' social inclusion in Istanbul in 2050”.

Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality (IMM), and its affiliate Istanbul Planning Agency, has been holding a series of events and activities under the theme of Istanbul 2050 Vision during August. Istanbul 2050 Vision aims to provide urban residents, especially youth, with the space to discuss key issues concerning Istanbul’s future and contribute to envisioning possible solutions to current and emerging urban challenges. With over half a million registered refugees and more than 500,000 foreign residents, migrant inclusion is and will remain a important issue in the context of metropolitan Istanbul.

Commenting on the significance of the participatory methods relied on in the CityLab, Ramirez Galleguillos said, “… (it) allows to discuss the future, people's dreams and visions, and alternative realities as well as their perceptions of the present and their lived experiences. Additionally, it is a fun way to include people in research”. She continued, “As we invited both locals and migrants living in Istanbul, to me the best outcomes are related to how people from different cultures come together to build an alternative world, how they discussed their different perceptions of their life in Istanbul, and how they can even start some kind of bond by being part of the same teams”.

For Ramirez Galleguillos as a researcher, engaged research methods that rely on including communities in the discussion are key to addressing societal challenges, “… because they [community members] are the ones that are experiencing these challenges daily. For me, as a researcher involved in Participatory Design, we cannot do anything without the participants, the people, and the communities. Research done in the lab, behind closed doors, doesn't impact the world. If we want to make changes we first need to understand the lived experiences of the people who face them, as well as asking them how we can solve them, engaging them in creating solutions that are agreed and shared. This is why, in participatory design we considered the participant another expert in the project team. We share decisions making and we aim to build solutions with them, not for them”.

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