There was probably no better place than Istanbul to hold CREID’s first face-to-face event, which took place early February, after two years of online gatherings. Istanbul has long been a crossroad of different cultures and religions. The 27 participants from CREID partner organisations* also hailed from different countries, cultures and religions as well as having diverse backgrounds and expertise.
“It was a wonderful opportunity and a long due one”, one participant commented, “the physical presence of all partners was very healthy and helped gain better understanding for all of us”.
With less than a year to go before the CREID programme is due to wind down, participants converged to evaluate the programme, discuss and address challenges, establish new partnerships, and identify new funding opportunities.
They were joined by a guest from the Faiths Forum for London as well as two local Turkish journalists. We were delighted to also hear from guest speaker Dr Rohzen Kamal Mohammed-Amin, founding director of Digital Cultural Heritage Research Center at that Sulaimani Polytechnic University in Iraq, co-director of the Nahrein Network and Vice-President of the RASHID Network. Dr Rohzen made a moving online intervention on hate speech against the Yazidi people in Iraq, praising CREID for its work in the area.
Groupwork and participatory approaches ensured all participants could contribute to discussions
The atmosphere was engaging and energic from the very beginning. The 26 sessions were delivered using a mix of presentations, group activities, discussions, debates, pair and share, and Q&As.
The participatory approach to delivery made the workshop lively and informative, giving everyone an opportunity to engage with each other, express their opinions, identify shared solutions, and above all learn from each other.
One participant praised groupwork for its informative effect, saying that “through groupwork you get a chance to know others’ work in detail.”
We were lucky to have Claire Thomas, Deputy Director of Minority Rights Group (MRG) and member of the CREID Steering Committee to facilitate the workshop who was very effective in encouraging proactive participation by stimulating reflection on key concepts, helping the attendees to break down the issues they raised, and ensuring all participants contributed to the discussions. Her bottom-up, empowering attitude was one of the factors which contributed to the success of the workshop.
Successes and challenges for CREID over the last two years
At first, a brief overview of CREID progress was given by Al-Khoei Foundation (AKF) and MRG. Among the achievements we celebrated, the Collective Pakistan website, developed independently by a CREID trainee to give religious minorities online space, was cited as an example of sustainability and empowerment.
We also discussed the challenges we face, including new restrictive Government rules, FCDO funding cuts, and the Covid-19 pandemic, which affected all projects.
The event included eight problem-solving sessions, in which presenters could draw on the experience and expertise of everyone in the room. Each session included a brief illustration of individual projects, which provided context to the shared challenges, and helped participants learn about other projects. In two of these, representatives from each project illustrated specific unresolved challenges and received advice from expert participants.
In relation to our work, major concerns brought to attention were:
- the misuse of the blasphemy law.
- the hate speech used by politicians and how to assess the impact of hate speech on people.
- the large inter-generational gap between elderly and youth, which makes the former uninterested in hate speech.
- finding suitable gatekeepers to access marginalised local communities.
Among the suggested solutions, it was proposed to contrast the process of otherisation by contacting and sensitising influencers and politicians, networks with diverse leaders, to hire more gatekeepers, and use local interlocutors. One of the few unresolved challenges mentioned was the lack of knowledge of whether algorithms contributed to increasing the spread of hate speech.
When it was highlighted that hate speech increases during political campaigns, numerous suggestions for addressing this were made. For example, intensifying lobbying, increasing the number of seminars on hate speech, and producing short factual reports during the campaigns.
Another project which caught the attention of participants was the Water filtration plant, a project which succeeded in defending the human rights of a religious minority community in Pakistan by helping to ensure access to drinkable water. The idea for fund-raising, building, and sustaining a water filtration came about through a presentative community committee, supported by CREID partners.
Thanks to project sharing, participants were able to recognise similarities and trends in challenges, solutions, and achievements, which eventually contributed to develop a strong team spirit and strengthen the feeling of belonging to the CREID programme.
Opportunity to review Theories of Change
“Theories of Change” (ToCs) are commonly used in development practice. The approach encourages an analysis of the root causes of development challenges and how they influence each other, draws on stakeholder knowledge and available evidence to consider pathways for change, identifies underlying assumptions and considers risk. During the workshop, participants reviewed ToCs developed by CREID partners AKF and MRG. They assessed the validity of previously identified pathways and proposed amendments to the ToCs. AKF and MRG brought previously prepared data sheets to ground the discussions in evidence.
Methodological learning and impact stories
Participants received practical training on how to develop rigorous questionnaires to develop and support their Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning Plan. The session focused on how to choose questions, reduce bias and ensure that questionnaires are aligned to ToCs and log-frames. We also ran a session on how to develop and write impact stories, evidence-based narratives which illustrate a programme’s impact on people’s lives. A key element in these is the human element in the shape of a narrative/tale told by the beneficiaries.
One participant said “[the] session on impact stories was very important…[it] explained complex things with great simplicity”.
Where next? The importance of partnerships
It is a testimony to the sustained commitment and passion of our partners that our final session, which discussed “where next after CREID” was one that was vibrant with discussions about building more diverse donor support, understanding new opportunities in international advocacy and inter-regional cooperation and developing synergies and partnerships among existing and potential partners.
“Thanks to the session on lobbying, I got to know the upcoming schedule of international organisations”.
Our “building partnerships” sessions showed participants how to identify ways of working together, understand risks, learn mitigation techniques, and maximise resources, outreach, and influence. Among the benefits, the session proved to be helpful to understanding other projects in greater detail:
“I learned more details about the other projects!” said one participant.
Many suggestions were also made to find other donors and areas for intervention, leading to concrete plans for the future.
As well as this enriching face-to-face experience amongst the 27 of us, we also shot six video interviews with participants from Iraq and Pakistan. Each illustrates one or more projects and describes specific cases of impact on the beneficiaries’ lives.
*CREID partners who attended include representatives from Al-Khoei Foundation (AKF), Minority Rights Group (MRG), the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), HIVE, Independent Media Organisation in Kurdistan (IMOK), Bytes for All, Centre for Law & Justice (CLJ), Bargad, KirkukNow, and the National Commission for Justice & Peace (NCJP), in Iraq, Pakistan, and the UK.