Refugee exhibition hosted by MU Access funded under Public Service Innovation Fund

Wednesday, May 12, 2021 - 13:00

An innovative exhibition of photographs by refugees to be co-hosted by Maynooth University Access is among 20 diverse projects to successfully secure funding from this year’s call for ideas under the Public Service Innovation Fund.

This year’s Public Sector Innovation Fund call saw a total of 279 project proposals received from organisations in all sectors of the Public Service - Civil Service, Defence Forces, Education Sector, Health Sector, Local Government, Justice Sector and Non-Commercial State Agencies.

Maynooth University Access Office in collaboration with Dublin City University, the Irish Refugee Council and Dublin Castle will create the ‘We are here, HEAR’ project, an outdoor and virtual exhibition of photographs taken by refugees to illustrate barriers they experienced accessing Higher Education, alongside accompanying descriptions.

All awardees were congratulated by competition organisers for ‘Our Public Service’, who stated that it was a significant achievement, as only 7.5% of projects received will be funded.

The ’We are here, HEAR project’ will be an open-air touring exhibition of 40 photographs and stories from refugees on the barriers they have experienced in relation to accessing Higher Education in Ireland.

The exhibition will launch in the grounds of Dublin Castle in June/July 2021, on the year before its centenary. It will highlight the dichotomy for people in the protection system in Ireland, who are often without citizenship, by occupying the iconic civic space. 

Dublin Castle’s community engagement expands beyond the walls of the Castle and reaches out into the community to work with groups who might not otherwise access the Castle’s public programme. This project will directly link to schools and community projects through Dublin Castle’s education programme. 

Following its launch in Dublin Castle, the exhibition will draw on its partner networks to tour the Higher Education Institutions in the MEND (Midlands East North Dublin region) as well as the following purposefully selected locations due to their proximity to Direct Provision centres; Maynooth University; Dublin City University; Athlone Institute of Technology; Dundalk Institute of Technology; Mosney Accommodation Centre; Rosslare Harbour; Dublin docklands.

Exhibition viewers will be able to log their reaction to the exhibition through a QR code, that that can be snapped with a mobile phone to collect responses to provide an ongoing evaluation of the project. Mi:Lab – the Maynooth University Innovation Lab will provide design thinking expertise to the project and we will utilise design thinking strategies, tools and techniques to support project activity, outputs and the evaluation of the exhibition.

The ‘We are here, HEAR project’ virtual exhibition will also be housed on a website outlining the background to the project, serving to increase public engagement with the project.

The Dublin Castle website will link to the project website, as will Maynooth University, DCU and the Irish Refugee Council websites. Mi: Lab will also provide their expertise in Design Thinking to map out and mine the deep learning of shared knowledge and co-generated insight that will constitute the core elements of the website to ensure user friendliness at all stages.

The ‘We are here, HEAR project’ will also incorporate a Continuous Professional Development Lecture Series for the partner organisations and delivered by refugees with third level qualifications.

Adopting an evidenced-based approach, the lectures will draw on recent MU and DCU research exploring the experiences of refugees and people seeking asylum in accessing Higher Education (Nwanze & Meaney, 2021 in press). This research was completed as part of the College Connect programme, a 3-year project funded by the Higher Education Authority under its Programme for Access to Higher Education – PATH 3.

College Connect, which is led by Maynooth University, supports access and widening participation of groups underrepresented in higher education in the MEND cluster (Midlands, East, and North Dublin region). The cluster is made up of Athlone Institute of Technology, Dublin City University, Dundalk Institute of Technology, and Maynooth University. 

The lecture series primarily aims to build staff capacity within Higher Education Institutions in terms of understanding and appreciating the experiences of students who are refugee or seeking asylum.

The goal of the lecture series is to improve the overall experience of the target group in their interactions with Higher Education Institutions and their experience in 3rd level, from pre-application to entry and graduation. The series will be piloted with MU employees in late spring 2021. It is anticipated that the content will be made available to other HEIs later in 2021.

The Public Sector Innovation Fund is based on ‘Our Public Service 2020’ reform strategy for development and innovation in the Public Service, and incorporates a competition designed to support innovative ideas from public service bodies to promote collaboration and new and better approaches to service delivery.