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Fusion and Univision Honor Three Journalism Projects Addressing the Refugee Crisis with Media Innovation Awards

Fusion and Univision Honor Three Journalism Projects Addressing the Refugee Crisis with Media Innovation Awards

A pop-up architectural installation that will house innovative news displays about the European migration crisis, along with two related journalism projects, shared the top award at The 19 Million Project in Rome this weekend.

The 19 Million Project, sponsored by Fusion and Univision, is a coalition of designers, journalists, developers, academics, government and human rights leaders who gathered in Rome, Italy earlier this month for a hackathon and journalism summit aimed at finding innovative ways to raise awareness about the refugee crisis. The two-week event brought together nearly 150 people representing 75 organizations from over 25 countries — including journalists from AJ+, BBC, Sunday Times of South Africa, New York Magazine, Financial Times, Vice Media, The Marshall Project, NPR, Clarín Newspaper, Perfil Newspaper, The Observer, and Chilevisión.

The focus of the event was a ten day design competition, during which 13 interdisciplinary teams competed to develop innovative journalism and storytelling projects addressing the refugee crisis. Experts from the Silicon Valley design firm IDEO coached participants in the field of “design thinking,” a brainstorming process that helps professionals break out of conventional thought patterns. The aim was to develop journalism projects that would engage audiences in entirely new ways—and create truly disruptive storytelling experiences.

The event was originally conceived of by Mariana Santos, Interactive Director at Fusion and founder of Chicas Poderosas, a non-profit organization dedicated to teaching women digital journalism skills, together withtogether with Giulio Frigieri, Creative Director at Coalizione Italiana Libertà e Diritti Civili. The 19 Million Project partners include Global Editors Network, BBC News Labs, Google Labs, Berkeley Advanced Media Institute, The Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard, International Women’s Media Foundation, Common Action Forum, among others.

Three teams shared the top prize in the competition, officially called The 19 Million Project Media Innovation Award and sponsored by Global Editors Network, with a grant from Google. The lead project, Ultimum Refugium, grew from a collaboration between South African architect Nadia Tromp and Costa Rican filmmaker Elda Brizuela.
They describe the project as a ‘living museum’ that will be filled with experiential storytelling installations related to the refugee crisis. The temporary, modular construction is designed to travel from city-to-city and occupy urban public spaces in regions impacted by the crisis. Ultimum Refugium aims to disrupt the urban landscape with an arresting structure that will invite passersby inside to interact with the narrative of the refugee crisis in ways that might include digital video, touchscreen interactive stories, and virtual reality experiences.

“We chose to honor this project because it completely reimagines how people engage with news and information,” says Mariana Santos, founder of The 19 Million Project and Interactive Director at Fusion. “The traveling museum proposal takes news and non-fiction storytelling out of the realm of newspapers, Websites and social platforms–and introduces it to urban public spaces. It’s a truly original idea that will keep the Mediterranean migration crisis on the global news agenda.”

The judges also named two additional winners that they felt could work in collaboration with the Ultimum Refugium team. A project called Migrant’s Voice proposed bringing video kiosks to public spaces like universities and bus stops. The creators said the project grew out of street interviews with Italians citizens, in which many expressed a sort of empathy fatigue over the refugee crisis in the wake of months of newspaper coverage and constant reports of rising death tolls.

The idea behind the kiosks was to replace the statistics with human faces, by filling the kiosks with digital video displays featuring refugees telling their stories. “The platform will be like an open microphone,” the team wrote. Members of the team behind Migrant’s Voice included Stella Bin, Anna Cordioli, Marco Giannini, Melissa García, Alexandra Lizcano Rodriguez and Andrés Lizcano Rodriguez.

The third winner, Moving Voices, involved on a mentorship program between refugees, migrants and journalists. The project “seeks to create a meaningful impact on Europe’s migration crisis by empowering migrants to tell their own stories in their own voices – direct, unfiltered and real,” wrote the organizers. Moving Voices project participants include Roberto Acuña, José Nogueira, Mayra Báez Jimeno, Damiano Usala, Andrés Snitcofsky, Ulysses De La Torre, Chloe Anna Harman and Teresita Goyeneche P.

The awards were announced Friday night in Rome by Santos at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni Museum as as part of the annual awards ceremony for Coalizione Italiana Libertà e Diritti Civili, a civil liberties organization. The three winning teams will share the $5,000 prize. One member of each team will also be invited by the Global Editors Network to travel and participate in a Vienna Hackathon during the GEN Summit in June 2016. This Hackathon will gather the 15 winning teams from the regional hackdays organized by GEN taking place from September 2015 to May 2016. The prize money can be used for project-related expenses such as finishing prototypes and fundraising costs associated with seeking sponsorship for the final project.

The contest was judged by a panel that included Evangeline de Bourgoing of Global Editors Network, Elisabetta Tola for Google News Lab, Vicki Hammarstedt of Berkeley Advanced Media Institute, independent filmmaker Michael Berkman, and Mariana Santos and Jane Spencer representing Fusion.

The three winning teams were chosen from proposals that also included phone-based gaming experience involving a fictional character traveling from Syria to Germany and a tracking tool to help unaccompanied minors travel safely, and a news platform aimed at connecting refugees with reliable information in their new cities. All the teams competing in The 19 Million Project competition will be invited to contribute ideas for the displays that will be housed inside Ultimum Refugium.

Additional information about the winners:

Elda Brizuela
Born in Costa Rica, Elda grew up influenced by her Cuban and Nicaraguan heritage, which nourished her spirit as a storyteller. With artistic and scientific training, she is an Emmy® award winning filmmaker/journalist, working with local and international networks as well as museums, universities, foundations and other organizations. After residing in the UK and the USA for more than fifteen years, Elda formed her own production company AGUA Media and dedicates much of her time to “Free Passage”, studying, documenting and protecting the migration of the bull shark from the Caribbean Sea into Lake Nicaragua, and the life of border communities. UNESCO awarded a medal for her conservation work, and she is often a guest speaker at events such as Windsor Energy Group (London), TEDx (Managua), and University of Wisconsin (Milwaukee).

Nadia Tromp
Nadia Tromp is the managing director of Ntsika Architects, an award winning design-based firm working out of Johannesburg. In less than a decade the firm has built up an enviable reputation for its innovative, people and environment-centered design that has seen the build and completion of more than two dozen projects. These include a number of cultural projects, including community centers, clinics and private homes. Nadia has also been the lead designer on Nelson Mandela ICON Museum, the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital design competition with Consultium Architects and Saunier Brunet Architects, Paris.

Statement by Nadia Tromp and Elda Brizuela about Ultimum Refugium, a Pop-up Living Museum

The idea for a living museum was conceived as a response to the question “how might we create empathy for refugees?” and the follow on question “how could we start telling different stories on the topic of the refugee crisis in order to change attitudes and create a new narrative?”

We feel that there needs to be a physical disruption of the urban landscape. We created the concept of a temporary, modular, locally fabricated piece of architecture that would transform an environment for a limited period of time and encourage engagement. It is imagined that this living museum would be placed in a historically meaningful urban space in a city, a contested space, to create a forced tension. Our test environment for the prototype is this city, Rome, directly in front of the Pantheon. The Pantheon, which is a structured, precisely designed piece of architecture, is juxtaposed with an almost alien-like structure of our museum. This is a reflection on a society that is orderly and well-structured, being juxtaposed to the perceived invasion of the refugees. It forces dialogue around issues that are uncomfortable and sometimes difficult to deal with.

The modular design means that the museum could be erected quickly and easily. It could be dismantled and loaded on a truck to be transported from one city to the next. The content in the museum could be generated in any number of different ways, including possibly developing projects that came out of The 19 Million Project. We are interested in bringing the human aspect back to the story and giving faces and names to those affected.

The physical transformation of the landscape is temporary, but the transformation of peoples’ attitudes that witness, contribute and experience the content of the museum, is permanent. Our aim is to create a space where the public can be immersed into the stories of the refugee and where the stories could be experienced through a number of mediums, including virtual reality.

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