Using Digital Tools to Challenge Xenophobia and Support International Development in South Africa


The project worked with groups of young people across the Gauteng province of South Africa to challenge the rising tide of xenophobia to be found in the country today, supporting the work of the international development NGO The Bishop Simeon Trust (BST) and and a number of Community Based Organisations (CBOs) it services in the region. 

Working in partnership with BST and the Johannesburg Holocaust & Genocide Centre (JHGC), the project used the exhibitions, archive and other resources of JHGC to create a set of digital educational materials that explored the lessons that can be learnt for South Africa today from the ethnic violence of the Holocaust and the Rwandan Genocide.  The project built on the research findings of Cooke's AHRC project 'Experiencing the Digital World: the Cultural Value of Digital Engagement with Heritage' on the ways in which the co-production of digital heritage assets can, when time and resources permit, genuinely connect grassroots communities with heritage institutions, effecting a fundamental shift in the relationship between the two. Over the course of the project, the group worked together to make a range of digital resources. These included short films, video and photographic essays. These resources were used as part of an programme to be rolled out across, and embedded within, the wider educational activities of all the CBOs.

In so doing, the project gave BST the opportunity to further strengthen the CBOs, as well as explore new means of building the confidence and resilience of the children and young people supported. It provided a safe space for the exploration of the highly sensitive issues around xenophobia and empower young people to consider root causes, consequences and means of resolution within their own communities.

Thus, the project responded to the 'Highlight Notice for International Development'. It sought to 'catalyse knowledge exchange, shared learning and capability development' between cultural organisations and diverse community groups and 'explore ways that arts and humanities research can inform approaches to inclusive participatory decision-making, community engagement, co-production, social innovation and user-led service design in an ODA recipient country', in order to make 'a significant contribution to the UN's 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development', specifically, Goal 16 to 'promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies', by 'challenging discrimination' and supporting 'participatory and representative decision-making at all levels.

Project website