Climate Change: Testimonies from Refugees


Project Summary

A partnership pilot project to compile testimonial data, promote discussion about current effects of climate change including migration, refuge and asylum. 

Benefits & Impact

The project has introduced approaches, ways of working, thematic connections, which are fairly new in each of the respective fields and communities of interest involved.  The degree of confidence in the skills gained, observational data, and analytical rigour is of course limited given the short scale of time for such a project, but the success has been in showing the potential for such work as a popular or community-linked activity involving critical research, cultural engagement, politics and science, and most of all in having developed the connections, interest and enthusiasm of a range of partners towards a consolidated further project.

Responses to the feedback sheets for the training course section expressed a consistent score of “Excellent” for the training, and an average of nearly excellent for ‘How well was the project run?’ and for ‘Coordination/ marketing/ bookings’.  Only the score for ‘Venue, access arrangements, food’ averaged to be lower as a “Good” result almost entirely due to catering problems on the first day only.

The final day of the course was most revealing, working with eight of the original group who were keen to stay on for an evaluative discussion.  Most said they would have liked more discussion, contrary to the earlier perceptions received from staff working with the refugees who emphasised that the communities would centrally need a skills development magnet to bring them to the sessions.  This may have been true for a number of participants, but we may have attracted a different set of participants if we had profiled Climate discussions differently.

Responses (by discussion) to the interest and worth of the discussion forum was a keen interest for this to be an ongoing advisory, support, discussion and development group for the longer term future project.

Audience responses to the final event (from questionnaires) suggested a very high level (“Excellent”) of interest and relevance of the event.  The scores for the overall quality and for the enjoyment of the event were roughly between “Excellent” and “Good”.  The ‘Venue, access, organisation food’ score was very variable across the forms, but again averaging roughly between “Excellent” and “Good”.  Central to the slightly lower scores here was the difficulty of discussion for a variety of factors relating to the venue space, numbers, variety of methods, panel preparation, the complexity of the range of issues under discussion, wide range of starting reference points for audience members, and possibly an over-rich variety of content.  Nevertheless, the format of the event was widely applauded and the majority of respondents expressed an interest to support or contribute to further activities.


“I enjoyed having an interesting discussion on global warming / climate change with Dr. Ernesto Hernandez.  I liked the whole session, especially the video editing.  I learned in depth making videos, video editing skills and the techniques of publishing them. I can use the skills with any projects in my community if required. I would like more discussion about the subject of climate change and refugees, and want to use my time and skills for projects like this.” Female project participant originally from Afghanistan

Lessons Learnt

Technical/resources/equipment: The project encouraged use of participants’ own computers where possible, as the ability for people to practice practical skills after the training sessions is critical to empowering participants.  Availability of PC laptops for the workshop was limited, so this was necessary.  Better resourcing and more practice sessions would be good for future work.

Discussion – this was most successful during the forum meetings, although there were excellent discussions and interviews conducted during the training course.  More programming of discussion and content about the subject and issues in question would have been beneficial.  The final event would have particularly benefited from a proper pre-discussion meeting between all panel members and the chair to assist ‘tuning-in’, yet this was confounded by the practical complexities of the event including the film showing immediately prior to the discussion (which panel members needed to watch) and the food arriving late.

General approach – this was consistently perceived as very successful and appropriate.  It was also described as being a “pioneering project” by scientist Ernesto Hernandez, and it is to everyone’s satisfaction that despite various (mostly minor) issues including of resourcing, this complex project was vibrant, involving, compelling and productive.

Allowing and encouraging expressions of interest in Climate Change – we recognised the need to focus on encouraging involvement of people wanting to discuss climate-related issues rather than on media/creative skills.  From a brief email call-out we received a fair response from migrant individuals interested to be interviewed on the subject, and the participants also expressed greater interest than was originally expected.

Worker and admin time – the amount of time required of workers to conduct this project was in considerable excess to the amount of paid hours available.  The amount of administrative time to maintain the partnerships, organise a bespoke public event, run a bespoke training course with a fully developed curriculum, organise and conduct additional interviews, edit film footage and upload to the internet, and convene properly prepared discussion forums, was relatively high and was achievable only through the absolute commitment of the workers to the project.


Members of refugee and migrant communities come from countries strongly affected by climate change and are familiar with many eco-friendly habits.  Migrant groups themselves could record their observations of climate change, as activators rather than passive donors of data, and collaborate on a multidisciplinary forum, all towards a cultural mixed-media public presentation.

Aims & Objectives

  • To enable refugee communities, scientists and social scientists to collaborate on climate issues using creative media and facilitation.
  • To bring academic knowledge and understanding into the experiences and observations of refugee communities.
  • To stimulate a greater appreciation and enjoyment of approaches within science, esp. among refugee communities.
  • To bring refugee observations and questions to the analysis of academic research.
  • To stimulate a greater appreciation amongst scientists and social scientists of the kinds of directions and enquiry questions that refugee communities would like to develop.
  • To engage a wider public in the outputs and debates.


4 training sessions: MRSN supported Kooj from media/arts group Virtual Migrants to train 15 members from different refugee communities in video interview and documenting techniques, including uses and methods of editing, internet uploading and blogging.   These sessions were popular and discussions about climate change and refugees were integrated within the sessions, including a session involving scientist Ernesto Hernandez.

An interdisciplinary forum of scientists, social scientists, cultural workers and community members jointly developed an interview and data acquisition format. 

Interviews: The refugee members in collaboration with Virtual Migrants artists used this as the basis to gather testimonial data from themselves and from migrants and local people interested to be interviewed using video interview methods.

The data was edited into key video clip components for archive, and also edited into a single presentation for discussion purposes.

A final forum again brought together scientists, social scientists and community members to analyse and discuss the outputs and how to present them.

There was a key mixed media event where this project was presented to the public as a part of the Manchester Science festival, at an event entitled "CLIMATE JUSTICE, SCIENCE AND REFUGEES".  Showing films and incorporating multimedia and performance was an essential part of the central discussions which took place.  Attendance was excellent, the event selling out three weeks in advance, and feedback was overwhelmingly positive.