Dear colleagues, we are back to you with the latest update from the research process which has been developing to the new stages during January and February 2020. First, we would like to start with important information from the meeting of the steering group. In the beginning of the year the steering group reviewed the process so far and did detailed overall planning of the research process in the forthcoming months and made plans for the autumn 2020. Below, in this edition of our monthly news bulletin you will find updates from the three research teams and detailed information on the next steps, but first, we have an important annoucnement!
Research Platform – Save the Date – 12th – 16th October 2020!
We are pleased to announce the date of our Research Conference and kindly ask you to save the date! The conference will be devoted to debriefing the findings from the three research processes and making future planning related to these and other topics. You can expect to receive the detailed information on the programme and venue of the event in March. With interdiac we are looking forward to coming together for face-to-face work on the research outcomes and for development of substantial and actionable recommendations on our research themes!
Youth on the Margins
Over the winter months Theme Coordinator Jouko Porkka has been developing the analysis of the data gathered in the 1st stage of the research conducted by the members of the international Research Group. The voices of the young people in the margins were viewed through the lenses of the aims of youth diaconal work and conviction of the church to support and raise young people by developing respective forms of Christian youth work. Since all countries-participants in the research are coming from the Post-Soviet totalitarian space, the data reveals a lot of features which are special to the evolving youth Christian work in these countries, considering the short period of its’ existence from the collapse of the Soviet system in the end of the last century. Through the attitudes and opinions of young people one can not only describe the present state of diaconal work in various contexts, but also get some insights about the perspectives and constituent elements which are needed for the development of youth diaconia. Simultaneously social conditions, psychological factors and living conditions of the young people help to outline the conceptual questions for assessment and discussion among professional youth workers. These questions will be formulated and developed for the next stage of the research process – focus-groups with professional youth workers and volunteers. Currently the members of the Research Group have been assisting Jouko in his work on development of the final research paper by providing him with detailed information about the work of their organisation and drawing profile of youth diaconia in their countries.
Ecclesiology and Theological Understanding of Diaconia
The deadline for the submission of the research papers from the desk-researchers in this research programme has been prolonged until the end of February for a variety of reasons. At the same time Theme Coordinator Herman Noordegraaf has been commenting on all the submitted papers and finalizing them for publication. The research papers draw various perspectives on diaconia from contexts of different countries and church orders. They raise questions which challenge our understanding and interpretation of Christian social practice with and among marginalized people and communities nowadays. The essays of the research group on Ecclesiology and the Theological Understanding of Diaconia are scheduled to be finalized and published with a commentary in spring 2020. Additionally we are glad to announce that Herman Noordegraaf has agreed to share his feedback on the joint work in the research in our next edition of interdiac “Talking Points” in June. For particular questions and comments on the content and methodology of the research process, please, contact the Theme Coordinator, Herman Noordegraaf at email: firstname.lastname@example.org
People on the Move
The issues of individual ‘survival’ strategies, precarious status, lack of social support and anxiety about the future mark the stories of those ‘people on the move’, who participated in individual interviews and focus-groups conducted by the Research Group in the autumn of 2019. In total, about 50 people were interviewed from Armenia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Ukraine and Serbia, most of them were refugees. The data was analyzed by using thematic analysis. The summary of the data analysis has already been produced in January, by Theme Coordinator Ulla Siirto. It has brought to the surface important information about work of FBO’s in this sphere and highlighted the challenges that arise on the way to providing long-term support to ‘people on the move’ in diverse country contexts. Alongside this, the data reveals insights into the processes of nowadays social change which societies in Eastern and Central Europe experience.
Such an analytic framework gives a perspective for further inquiry about the assessment of the role of churches and faith-based organizations (FBO’s) in work with uprooted people as social phenomenon in particular societies. Through this approach, such issues as the recognition and visibility of FBO’s to ‘people in need’ and their transparency as well as a perspective on their activities can be brought into focus for consideration. Looking into these themes has been planned as the next stage of the research process. Work with focus-groups of professionals and volunteers in churches and FBO’s will be conducted in the chosen localities over the coming months. The participants will reflect on the summary from the 1st phase of the research, evaluate and discuss the complexity of connections and relationships between people, organizations and mainstream societies. The contextual analysis and the responses to the humanitarian and development needs of uprooted people will be analyzed and put together in the final research paper by Ulla Siirto. The findings and outcomes will be discussed by researchers in the Research Conference, October 2020.