OPPORTUNITIES: the start

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The narrative of crisis, which has dominated both the public perception of refugees and the official rhetoric of migration management (European Agenda on Migration) since 2015, has not served Europe well: instead of uniting member states in an effort to overcome the great challenges through successful integration and migration management, the refugee crisis has turned into a crisis of the EU itself.

Our ambition is to put a more inclusive narrative on migration on the political and societal agenda which acknowledges that every crisis is also an opportunity: a chance to revisit foundational principles of the EU, to create new knowledge on the impact of narratives, and to initiate forward-looking narrative strategies which allow us to come to terms with a world in flux, resulting in a more inclusive, diverse, and gender-equal Europe. Grounded in an ethics of dialogue and a human rights approach, our OPPORTUNITIES project proposes a new narrative of successful integration which redirects attention to the benefits from migration, as suggested in the European Agenda for the Integration of Third-Country Nationals (2011), and moves towards a more successful integration of migrants.

OPPORTUNITIES, an international consortium

The consortium of OPPORTUNITIES brings together eight European partners from Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Romania, as well as three African partners from Ghana, Senegal, and Mauritania.

OPPORTUNITIES brings together scholars specialized in the fields of cross-disciplinary narrative research, intercultural studies, (social) media studies, statistics, as well as migration law and policies; NGOs experienced in migration action work; and a leading theatre company.

Thanks to the transnational collaboration between European and African partners, the project not only offers a broad geographical and transcultural perspective on migration, emigration, and immigration, but it also gives insights into different migration policies in terms of countries of origin (Ghana, Senegal), countries of transit (Italy, Mauritania, Romania), countries of arrival (France, Portugal), and main destinations of migration (Belgium, Germany, Austria).

OPPORTUNITIES, a participatory project

At the core of the OPPORTUNITIES project lies a programmatic metaphor: ‘the Level Telling Field.’ The concept takes its cue from an economic metaphor – the level playing field. In the context of the European single market, the level playing field stands for a set of common rules and standards that prevent businesses in one country from undercutting their rivals and gaining a competitive advantage over those operating in other countries. This is done in order to promote the free movement of people, goods, services, and money: the key idea is fair play.

The concept of the Level Telling Field allows us to turn our backs on crisis narratives and open our minds towards a structural understanding of migration. OPPORTUNITIES regards contemporary European societies as migration societies. As a consequence, we place strong emphasis on testimonials and life stories of migrants in both media representations and CrossT alk events, allowing migrant voices to function as ‘windows and mirrors’ which help us to reflect upon European societies and enable us to develop further innovative visions of a post-migrant society – that is a new social order and habitus which builds on successful integration of migrants as an integral part of a democratic society.

The OPPORTUNITIES project combines experimental storytelling activities (Cross Talk) with quantitative and qualitative research into narratives on migration. In its practical fieldwork, OPPORTUNITIES will conduct a series of Cross Talks which are aimed at creating fair dialogue zones for migrants, citizens, and stakeholders in both European member states (Austria, Belgium, France, Italy, Portugal, Romania) and African countries (Ghana, Mauritania, Senegal). In order to establish a more inclusive discourse on migration in local communities, we will implement the rules and conditions of what the project envisages as level telling fields in a wide range of contexts and scenarios.