It is impossible to be ethical always and in everything. Moreover, ethics differ vastly across cultures. What is possible, however, is having an honest consideration of ethics and their value in a rigorous practice. We contribute with the MIT Future Heritage Lab Code of Ethics, an ongoing project resulting from our research, practical experience, and discussions with our students, collaborating partners and affected communities.
When interested in working with refugees analyze the reasons and motivations behind your work. Would you still do this work, if no social or monetary benefits were involved?
Refugees are among the most fragile populations in the world. When working with such communities, recognize the power dynamics you bring to the table and be aware about your perspective from which you approach the subject matter.
Don’t assume that stateless people lack modern skills and education, or that the level of English proficiency can be a measure of one's intelligence. Refugees come from a wide array of cultures, educational backgrounds & skills.
When working with communities in threat, communicate clearly what is your role, how you will contribute and for how long. Discuss objectives and expectations. Be realistic, rather than aspirational.
The refugee crisis has both a positive and a negative impact on the host population. Consider how your project can improve the lives of both the host community and the refugees.
Emotional and cultural needs are equally critical for the health of refugees in their new environment, just as biological and practical needs.
We have a moral obligation to facilitate refugees, due to the urgency and uniqueness of their needs. Personal and institutional profit should not be an objective when working in this field and is not to be pursued.
Make sure that you have the knowledge, skills, capacity & funds to implement your project without burdening the already limited resources of the refugee camp. Be mindful of the limited capacities of the humanitarian aid organizations, the refugee camp infrastructure and funds.
Engage participatory and /or collaborative processes that allow for the co-creation, collaboration and knowledge exchange with participants and stakeholders of your project, program, or activity.
When working on art and design projects in the context of the refugee camp, recognize the value of processes and methods that bring people together to learn and heal within a safe environment.
Cultivate a connection of educational and cultural exchange. We can learn from the resilience and creativity of refugees. Communities in threat can teach us how to approach refugee camps not just as makeshift shelters, but as civic spaces where crucial social healing, education, creativity, and civic innovation takes place.
Your work with refugees is not for increasing your social appeal. Pictures of refugees and the refugee camp are not to be used to boost your social media profile.
Remember that storytelling can quickly turn into story writing!