The role of communicative acts in the Dream process: engaging Moroccan migrants in a community development initiative in urban Spain

The role of communicative acts in the Dream process: engaging Moroccan migrants in a community... Abstract The present article offers relevant insights into how the evidence-based community development initiative known as the Dream process has had a positive impact on the inclusion, participation and leadership of a marginalized community of Moroccan immigrants in urban Spain. More specifically, we analyse how the commitment to promote dialogic communicative acts and to reduce power communicative acts during the process has attenuated some of the race, gender and class barriers that hindered the community’s involvement in dialogic and decision-making spaces aimed at improving their living conditions. In this article, we first introduce the state of the art using studies that have examined the role of interaction and deliberation in community development processes in disadvantaged contexts. Then, we briefly refer to the deterioration of the living conditions of the Moroccan immigrant population in Spain. Finally, we present the main results obtained from the qualitative case study research carried out through the implementation of the communicative methodology. This case study provides both theoretical claims and practical orientations to examine how dialogic approaches can contribute to community development processes in contexts severely affected by racial segregation and poverty. In recent years, the field of community development has witnessed an increasing interest in the role of public deliberation and social interaction in solving local problems (Heller and Rao, 2015; Dai, 2016). This interest has arisen within an understanding of human development in which public debate and critical discussion among citizens are essential for identifying inequalities and for the collective construction of fairer realities (Sen, 1999). Within the framework of this field of study, the present article offers relevant insights into how the evidence-based community development initiative known as the Dream process has had a positive impact on the inclusion, participation and leadership of a marginalized community of Moroccan immigrants in the Montserrat neighbourhood (northeast Spain). The Dream process aims to overcome social problems in various social areas (e.g. social and political participation, labour, and education) through two key elements: (i) the identification of the dreams and necessities of the community members affected by these problems and (ii) the establishment of a dialogical process that brings together various social agents through the notion of the Dialogic Inclusion Contract (DIC). The DIC is based on an informal agreement through which end-users, researchers, policy-makers and other local agents recreate evidence-based successful actions in their context through the opening of dialogic spaces (e.g. assemblies and working committees) in which an egalitarian dialogue is promoted (Aubert, 2011; Flecha, Soler-Gallart and Sordé, 2015). Specifically, the present article raises two objectives: (i) to analyse which strategies have allowed the involvement of the Moroccan immigrant neighbours of Montserrat in each stage of the Dream and (ii) to identify the role of communicative acts in relation to the promotion of the participation and leadership of the Moroccan neighbours in this process. Social interaction in disadvantaged contexts This article draws on previous literature on social interaction in contexts of poverty and racial segregation mainly considering two perspectives: the theory of communicative acts and previous studies on the incidence of social inequalities in dialogical processes oriented to community development. On one hand, the theory of communicative acts contemplates language and dialogue as a medium through which social action is coordinated. It delves into the nature of people’s interactions (Searle and Soler, 2004), identifying two main types of communicative acts: (i) ‘dialogic communicative acts’, which seek consensus and understanding, and (ii) ‘power communicative acts’, which are based on power and coercion. Specifically, these studies are focused on the analysis of the type of communication that leads to dialogic relations in which – without denying the existence of pretensions of power – some or many power interactions are replaced by dialogical interactions aimed at obtaining consensus. This approach is also grounded in the concept of speech acts provided by Austin (1975) and Searle (1969) but extends the analysis of the factors involved in the interaction, considering both verbal and nonverbal language. In addition, it is based on Habermas’ conception of communicative acts (1985), which recognizes all individuals’ capacities for language and action. However, this theory differs in several aspects from Habermas’ approaches. For instance, the theory of communicative acts identifies the Habermasian reductionism that privileges the rational thinking and relegates the emotional dimension of human reality (Sordé and Ojala, 2010). On the other hand, we have considered previous analyses that have pointed out that factors such as social status, ethnicity, religion, race, gender and other characteristics may alienate the deliberation of an exchange between free and equal individuals (Mansbridge, 2003; Fung, 2009). Some of the pathologies of deliberation identified focus on the tendency of groups with more resources and power to impose their opinions or benefits on disadvantaged sectors of the population, on the impact of manipulation, and on processes and contextual elements that hinder the exchange of views on an equal basis, among others (Stokes, 1998). Furthermore, authors such as Young (1996, p.123) argue that ‘the norms of deliberation are culturally specific and often operate as forms of power that silence or devalue the speech of some people’. Despite the progress experienced in the field of deliberative studies with class and race perspectives, the study of the difficulties of immigrants’ deliberative engagement in their host countries is scarce, especially regarding the group studied in the present research: Moroccan immigrants in Europe. Relevant insights on the inclusion of migrant communities in decision-making processes and civic participation has been provided by studies conducted in the field of community development. One of the main limitations identified in these analyses are language barriers, as having a lower command of the local language makes communication free of coercion more difficult to achieve (Gele and Harsløf, 2012). Other factors that hinder their participation are a limited formal education, poor health conditions, and lack of information or mistrust regarding the available organizations or public services (La Kosic, 2013). Likewise, the economic and social marginalization of immigrants as well as their representation as ‘others’ or as a threat in the public debate makes participation in these spaces less appealing to immigrants (Vellenga, 2008). In the next section, we will take into account the barriers that affect the Moroccan immigrant community in Spain and that negatively influence their capacity to be involved in dialogic and deliberative processes oriented towards the development of their communities. Social exclusion of Moroccan immigrants in Spain Following the economic crash of 2008, Spain has seen a significant decline in per capita income and employment, which has resulted in severe material deprivation and increased risk of poverty among the population. These increasing inequalities have particularly affected vulnerable collectives such as Moroccan immigrant residents, the second most numerous migratory group in Spain (Ballester, Velazco and Rigall-i-Torrent, 2015). The crisis has emphasized the situation of discrimination towards immigrant Moroccan workers already present in the Spanish labour market, where Moroccan workers face more precarious conditions, such as low wages, lack of social benefits, and job instability, than Spaniards (Marrero, 2005). Moroccan immigrants also find themselves with very restricted professional opportunities usually limited to agriculture, construction and domestic service. Residential segregation, impermeable community services, and politically conservative receiving communities maintain asymmetric power relations between natives and immigrants (Paloma, García-Ramírez and Camacho, 2014). In this context, Moroccan immigrants and their descendants are particularly vulnerable because they are more prone to discrimination in Spain than immigrants from other nationalities (Agudelo-Suárez et al., 2009). Self-reported victimization is also higher among Moroccans (12%) than among other minority groups in Spain such as Latino immigrants (6.5%) (Colorado-Yohar et al. 2012). Furthermore, the isolation and exclusion of Moroccan immigrants in the neighbourhoods where they live is worse than that of other immigrant groups, a situation that is related to greater probabilities of suffering mental health issues (Pasquetti and Picker, 2017). Discrimination is maintained through essentialized racial and gender categories that present Moroccan men as dishonest, criminal, oppressive, and lazy (Rogozen-Soltar, 2012). Moroccan men are also considered less able to adapt to the Spanish culture than immigrants from other nationalities, and following the 11 M terrorist attacks of 2004, they are also depicted as a foreign threat (Marrero, 2005). In turn, Moroccan women are represented as oppressed and as victims (Rogozen-Soltar, 2012). In these controlling images, Europe is presented as a non-Muslim space and Islam is intensively racialized, which affects Moroccan immigrants’ forms of self-representation, precluding their access to community resources and their participation in dialogic spaces. The present article will address how the type of communication and the strategies implemented during the Dream process help to reduce some of these barriers that hamper the participation of Montserrat’s Moroccan immigrant neighbours in dialogic spaces. Introduction to the case study The present case study was conducted in Montserrat, a neighbourhood with high rates of poverty and racial segregation in the outskirts of the city of Terrassa (northeast Spain). The case study of the Montserrat neighbourhood has been previously studied in depth due to the successful educational and social inclusion of Moroccan immigrant neighbours achieved by the transformation of the local school into a learning community (Flecha, García and Rudd, 2011). These previous studies provide some preliminary evidence on how dialogic dynamics have been transferred from the school to the broader community. However, this is the first research to study the neighbourhood Dream process in depth. Montserrat was created as a public housing project in the 1960s to cater to the arrival of waves of immigrants from rural southern Spain and stop the construction of shanties. At the end of the 1990s and the early 2000s, Montserrat also started receiving a non-European immigrant population, mainly from North Africa. Demographic data shows that in 2013, six hundred and eighty-nine residents out of the 1654 residents of the neighbourhood were non-European immigrants, mostly low-qualified workers and in 2014 Moroccan immigrants represented 41.65% of non-native residents in the neighbourhood (Municipality of Terrassa, 2014). In this context, the relations among the Spanish neighbours and the Moroccan families had been characterized by tensions and racist attitudes towards the migrant group. Communication was also hampered by the lack of fluidity of most Moroccan families in the region’s official languages of Spanish and Catalan. Furthermore, racial tensions had been identified between Arab Moroccan residents and a minority group of Moroccan Berber neighbours.1 In the described context, the consequences of the economic crash of 2008 produced an unprecedented increase of unemployment and poverty among the Moroccan residents. For this reason, some immigrant neighbours, supported by local professionals and volunteers from the local school, came together in 2012 to seek solutions to the deterioration of their living conditions. This initial group sought advice on how to articulate a community process from CREA, a research group from the University of Barcelona. CREA researchers provided neighbours with the scientific knowledge to develop the Dream process, based on the successful experience of implementation of this process in two of the most deprived and racially concentrated neighbourhoods in Spain: La Estrella and La Milagrosa (Brown, Gómez and Munté, 2013). Method, data collection and analysis This study has adopted the communicative methodology (CM) (Gómez, Puigvert and Flecha, 2011), which advocates for an egalitarian dialogue between researchers and end-users by removing the interpretative and epistemological hierarchy that often favours academic researchers over research participants. In CM, new knowledge emerges from the intersection of scientific knowledge, provided by the researchers involved in the dialogue, with the knowledge of the life world provided by the subjects experiencing social inequalities. Thus, the CM goes beyond merely diagnosing situations of inequality and identifies successful actions that can overcome social problems. In view of its results, the CM has been recognized by the European Commission (2011) to have a significant social and political impact on European social systems. To create the adequate conditions necessary to achieve the intersubjective relationship required by the CM, the researchers took into account race- and gender-based power differentials in the fieldwork planning. For instance, interactions with Moroccan women were carried out by female researchers and in the presence of a female translator from the neighbourhood with whom the participants were acquainted. Data collection To carry out this study, three research techniques were used: communicative daily life stories (N = 6), communicative observations (N = 21) and a focus group. Six communicative daily life stories were collected in 2013 in partnership with key social agents in the Dream process. This technique consists of a reflective dialogue between the participant and the researcher about the participant’s daily life. It focuses on the present moment and on the interpretations that the narrator makes of his/her life, rather than on biographical aspects. Thus, the stories aimed to identify the relevance assigned by the participants to their involvement in the Dream process and the extent to which this participation was perceived as influencing the resolution of specific problems in the participants’ everyday lives. Apart from the stories, twenty-one communicative observations were made during each of three years: 2013 (N = 7), 2014 (N = 11) and 2015 (N = 3). In contrast to conventional observational techniques, communicative observation involves the researcher and the end-users engaging together in the interpretation of actions, meanings and nonverbal language during real situations of participation. Thus, the traditional interpretative and epistemological inequality between investigator and investigated person is compensated by obtaining consensual interpretations of the object of study (Gómez, Puigvert and Flecha, 2011). The observations were made in assemblies, meetings, working commissions, and training sessions related to the Dream process. Data collected were registered in proceedings, fieldwork notes, and – in some cases where participants gave their explicit consent – in audio recordings. Finally, a communicative focus group was conducted in the Neighbourhood Association’s headquarters. The aim of the focus group was to capture, in a real interaction, the perceptions of participants regarding the type and quality of the interactions that have emerged during the Dream process and to collect information on the communication established among the participants. In the communicative focus group, the researcher is integrated with an actual group of participants but maintains his/her role as a researcher and contributes to the discussion by providing scientific knowledge about the object of study. This knowledge is combined with the collective interpretations of the participants coming from their daily life experiences. To carry out this technique, a sample was intentionally selected based on the criteria of diversity of points of view. A total of five key informants were involved: two Moroccan neighbours, a school principal, the president of the Neighbourhood Association and the manager of a cooperative for job placement in the neighbourhood. Findings In what follows, we present the main findings obtained from the fieldwork. Specifically, we respond to the two research objectives posed above: (i) to analyse which strategies have allowed the involvement of the Moroccan immigrant neighbours of Montserrat in each of the stages of the Dream, and (ii) to identify the role of communicative acts in relation to the promotion of the participation and leadership of the Moroccan neighbours in this process. For this purpose, we have divided the results into two sections. In the first section we discuss, on the one hand, some of the barriers that have hindered the involvement of the Moroccan neighbours in community responses in the Montserrat neighbourhood and, on the other hand, we identify some of the preconditions that have facilitated the inclusion of Moroccan residents in the Dream process. In the second section, we focus specifically on the analysis of the role of communicative acts in the integration of Moroccan residents in the Dream. Furthermore, we highlight some of the impacts generated by this dialogic process on the Moroccan participants, such as the overcoming of isolation and the emergence of a dialogic model of leadership. Overcoming antidialogic barriers In this section, we first present the barriers identified in the case study that have hampered the involvement of Moroccan residents in initiatives and social interventions launched with the aim of improving their living conditions. Then, we discuss some of the preconditions and strategies that have facilitated the involvement of the Moroccan neighbours in the community process known as the Dream. During the life stories, several participants criticized the impersonal and merely service-focused way in which professionals from the State’s Social Services addressed Moroccan neighbours. In addition, the analysis of the results has determined that, on many occasions, the interactions established between social intervention professionals and immigrant residents relied on power communicative acts and that social plans in the neighbourhood have often followed top-down models. The following quotation from Javier, the president of the Neighbourhood Association, recreates a conversation between a social worker and a Moroccan woman from the neighbourhood. As shown in the quotation, the interactions between these two people are perceived as a bureaucratic process that is not oriented towards understanding or towards the joint search for solutions to this family’s social emergency. As a result, many Moroccan neighbours have perceived the social workers’ interventions as controlling and shaming, which in some cases has led them to take defensive positions against the intervention of the public administration. Well, when [Moroccan] neighbours go to the Social Services the interaction is: - ‘So-and-so, how is it going? Bring me the documents. How many children do you have? What is your situation?’ - ‘My husband doesn’t have a job, I don’t have a job, nobody is employed in our house.’ […] - ‘All right, take this for now and come back in two months-time’. - ‘But listen, I’ve got nothing to eat’. - ‘Listen, I can’t do anything about it.’ - And until two months later she won’t be received. (Javier, Neighbourhood Association’s president) Another exclusionary element identified during the life stories and the communicative observations as having hindered the articulation of community processes is communication problems between Moroccan and native residents and between migrant residents and native local professionals. The next quotation from the Councillor of the District refers to some factors that have contributed to the emergence and development of social conflicts in the neighbourhood. For example, the quotation highlights the communicative difficulties experienced by some immigrant families, as they do not speak fluent Spanish or Catalan (the official languages of the region), as well as racist prejudice against Moroccan neighbours. It is sometimes seen as a clash between cultures […]. It’s very difficult. [Moroccan] people who come from the countryside have not lived in communities of neighbours. They don’t know that if they throw a paper to the ground, it upsets other people. And these little things slowly generate more conflict, bad coexistence. Because part of the native population sees these acts as neglect of the others, as if they [Moroccan residents] didn’t want to collaborate. (Councillor of the District) As for transformative variables, the analysis of the communicative observations, the life stories and the focus group has made it possible to identify the key role of the interactions promoted in the local school and how they have facilitated the involvement of Moroccan neighbours, professionals and volunteers in the launch of the Dream process. Since the transformation of the public primary school into a learning community in 2001, the centre has launched specific programmes aimed at improving the communicative skills of the migrant community, such as free courses in Catalan and Spanish or Dialogic Literary Gatherings (Alvarez et al., 2016; Llopis et al., 2016; Tellado, 2017). Furthermore, the Moroccan neighbours have seen the school as a place of peaceful coexistence, dialogue and community involvement. Based on these previous developments, the school staff has used its influence not only to bring together a wide diversity of professionals, local entities and volunteers but also to compensate for interactions based on power or the inclination of some professionals to exercise excessive control over the community process. In the following quotation, Marta, the school’s principal, refers to the first actions implemented during the launch of the Dream process, which consisted of conducting various meetings at the school with the aim of creating spaces for dialogue, where interactions based on power and isolation were reversed through discussion and the inclusion of the voices of Moroccan community members. The topic of control is common among professionals, so going directly to the Dream caused them some insecurities. Thus, we had to have another meeting with the professionals to say: ‘Let’s organize how we will do the Dream,’ right? […] This concern, saying: ‘We’ll directly call an assembly at the square of the neighbourhood and make people dream’. They didn’t see that clearly, ok? They said: ‘No, we have to prepare it’, ‘No, we have to organize it…’, ‘No…’. And, well, it’s ok. If there are also these reservations, more explanations may be needed. Let’s give them! (Marta, school’s principal). The role of dialogic communicative acts in the Dream process In the following section, we focus on the role of communicative acts in relation to the inclusion and leadership of the Moroccan residents in some of the phases of the Dream process. First, we show how dialogic communicative acts contrast with interactions based on the low expectations and patronizing attitudes of local professionals during the launch and the process. Second, we identify strategies and mechanisms that have been specifically implemented to promote the emergence of dialogic spaces where the validity of arguments has prevailed over power claims. Furthermore, in this section we cite some of the benefits generated by the interactions established during the process, such as overcoming isolation and the emergence of a dialogic model of leadership that has promoted the inclusion of Moroccan residents in the community process. The Dream process started in 2012, when a promoter group organized two meetings through which they managed to involve a wide range of professionals and public service leaders to implement the process. The purpose of those meetings was to eliminate some of the resistance professionals had expressed towards the idea of launching this community process. Communicative observations in the meetings held during the first phase of the process focused on identifying how and when dialogic interactions prevailed over power interactions. On the one hand, during these first meetings we identified how some professionals’ desire of imposing themselves had promoted power relationships. Furthermore, interactions based on low expectations regarding the Moroccan neighbours’ ability to articulate responses to poverty had reinforced their insecurities and feelings of inferiority, making it difficult to promote community action. On the other hand, the data obtained from the communicative observations show that the determination of several attendees to develop a more dialogic and egalitarian climate enabled the emergence of dialogic interactions. To do this, participants such as the school’s principal and several volunteers fostered four aspects that had not previously been considered in social interventions in the neighbourhood. Firstly, they promoted the inclusion of Moroccan neighbours in the professionals’ meetings. Secondly, Moroccan neighbours were able to contribute their views on the decisions under discussion. Thirdly, priority was given to the validity of the arguments presented instead of to the status of the individuals exposing the arguments. Finally, it was specified that the objective of the meetings was to reach consensus about the best way to launch the Dream process. Below, we provide examples of the different types of communicative acts identified in the communicative observation made at the first meeting. The field notes indicate that the moment of maximum tension, identified by the type of verbal and corporal language of several attendees, occurred when one of the local social educator strongly questioned the capacities of the neighbours. He asserted, with a convincing tone of voice, that encouraging the Moroccan neighbours to dream and to make decisions in this respect was dangerous, as he considered that they would not be able to reach their goals and would, therefore, get frustrated. Instead of articulating a process like the Dream, this professional proposed the articulation of a slower process in which the professionals would take the lead because they ‘know the population they were working with better than anyone’ This communicative act of power, based on his authority as a professional and not on arguments that showed the inability of the neighbours, made some of those attending the meeting doubt the viability of the process. However, after this intervention, the school’s principal invited Faysal, an unemployed Moroccan neighbour, to share his point of view on the claims of the social worker. The field notes reveal that, thanks to the encouragement of the school’s principle and despite some initial uneasiness (evidenced in his verbal and corporal language), Faysal was able to respond to the social worker. He provided arguments that justified the suitability of the Dream process and stressed that the only way to achieve this was that they all work together. Faysal’s intervention constitutes a dialogical communicative act since the validity of the arguments prevailed over the status of the speaker and since it was oriented to build consensus among the participants in the meeting. This dialogical communicative act marked a turning point for several attendees at the meeting as it encouraged them to share their point of view and to reach a consensus on future actions instead of joining the pessimistic and patronizing forecasts of the social educator. The communicative observations and the focus group about the second phase of the process, popularly known as Montserrat’s Dream, allowed us to identify that dialogic communicative acts did not usually emerged spontaneously but had to be encouraged through the implementation of a variety of strategies. Montserrat’s Dream consisted of a general assembly held in the main square of the neighbourhood with the aim of broadening community participation and collecting the neighbours’ dreams – their most urgent needs–. The assembly was led by Moroccan and non-Moroccan local leaders, such as the school principal, the president of the Neighbourhood Association and the Imam of the mosque, and attendees were mostly Moroccan neighbours. To ensure that the Moroccan residents could understand the debates, all the interventions were translated to Amazigh, the mother tongue of a large proportion of Moroccan residents. Apart from our communicative observation, several participants in the life stories highlighted the way dialogue was articulated in Montserrat’s Dream. Firstly, the leaders provided the attendees with a general explanation of the initiative. Then, small groups were created to collect the dreams of the participants. Each group had a trained volunteer whose role was to promote communicative equality among participants – especially regarding those traditionally excluded, such as Moroccan women, the elderly and children – and to generate a dialogical climate in which the validity of arguments prevailed regardless of the hierarchical positions of the speakers. To facilitate this, volunteers collected the dreams as the participants formulated them, without making interpretations or interfering in their demands. Promoting this dialogic climate allowed Moroccan neighbours to identify their community’s most pressing challenges. Likewise, the data obtained from the life stories and the focus group suggest that the creation of this dialogical climate contributed to overcoming the social isolation of several Moroccan women. As indicated in the following quotation from Fatima, thanks to her participation in Montserrat’s Dream, she had new opportunities to establish personal bonds with other women in the neighbourhood with whom she had not interacted before. Before participating [in Montserrat’s Dream] I knew some women, just their faces. But since the day I participated, I know them by name. We greet each other, we talk. (Fatima, Moroccan woman) In the third and the fourth phase of the process – the Dream commission and the meetings to set the community’s priorities – we also identified efforts to create dialogic and inclusive spaces. After the collection of the neighbours’ demands and necessities, a commission was created to classify these dreams by social area: education, housing, labour, and environment, among others. The commission included two Moroccan neighbours, the school’s principal, the president of the Neighbourhood Association and two volunteers. The members of the commission created posters including the dreams, which were hung on a wall of the school so residents could identify the community’s expectations. In addition, the commission was responsible for explaining the dreams orally to the non-literate neighbours. The fourth phase of the process consisted of two assemblies carried out on February 2013 with the aim of identifying the most requested ‘dreams’ and deciding the main actions to be undertaken in order to achieve them. During the meetings, participants sought to achieve a consensus on which dreams to prioritize. Although the participants presented different points of view, they decided to prioritize dreams that they all agreed on: generating employment opportunities and getting specific training in this area to compensate for their low educational levels. To give response to this community’s demands, a group of researchers provided the neighbours of Montserrat with scientific training on successful cooperative actions (Flecha and Ngai, 2014). During the communicative observation of this training we identified the role played by the dialogic communicative acts in overcoming feelings such as lack of self-confidence or distrust. Trainers not only provided scientific knowledge but also involved participants in discussions on how to recreate the actions in their own context. Although some participants were initially intimidated by the presence of trainers, their mistrust and lack of self-confidence diminished as they realized that they did not evaluate nor judge the participants’ observations but just provided quality information that allowed residents to make better proposals. Thus, the promotion of dialogic interactions and the scientific advice obtained helped overcome feelings that had paralyzed collective action, such as insecurity, fear and distrust. As a result of these discussions, the participants – most of them Moroccan men and women – decided to open two lines of action: creating an organic community garden and a women’s sewing cooperative. One of the benefits obtained from the development of the phases mentioned above is the emergence of a dialogic model of leadership. Dialogic leadership (Redondo-Sama, 2016) is the process through which the leadership practices of the different members of a community – including professionals, community members, school staff and other stakeholders – are created, developed, and consolidated. Dialogic leaders work with the different people present in the community, especially supporting and promoting actions that contribute to transform the context. For instance, the data from the focus group and the life stories has allowed us to identify in Montserrat, native people previously identified as leaders – such as the Neighbourhood Association’s president or the school’s principal – worked side by side and in equality with Moroccan community members. These leaders also fostered the empowerment of Moroccan neighbours so that they could also adopt leadership roles. One of the most significant examples of dialogic leadership during the Dream process refers to several illiterate Moroccan women, who had been involved in literacy courses for adults offered at the school. Their process of empowerment and leadership started as they become aware that, for several members of the school staff, their participation in decision-making spaces was essential. They also learnt that professionals actually included their views when making decisions. In this regard, it is worth mentioning that the empowerment process of these women was slow and difficult and did not affect all of them with the same intensity. Furthermore, during life stories and communicative observations, several participants identified the positive impact of the dialogic model of leadership in terms of perceived reduction of racial tensions and the improvement of the coexistence between Moroccan and native residents and between Arabic Moroccan and Berber Moroccan neighbours. The positive impact of dialogic leadership was particularly visible on the Moroccan women who had suffered the most from isolation and exclusion within the immigrant community: Berber female housekeepers. These women had never before taken part in community initiatives, neither in Morocco nor in Spain. The dialogic leadership position adopted by some Moroccan women contributed to improving their perception in the neighbourhood, from being perceived as passive subjects secluded in the domestic space to being perceived as active agents capable of promoting the participation of the most powerless members of the community. In addition, these women contributed to the emergence of new relationships between Arabic and Berber neighbours, who left behind historic confrontations to work together with the goal of achieving the community’s dreams. These elements are highlighted in the following quotation from Marta, the school’s principal. We have a peaceful coexistence because neighbours have worked on it with the leadership of the people involved in the Neighbourhood Association and with other leaders who are more invisible […]. For instance, those women who participate a lot in the school and who know some mothers who are Berber. Thus, we explain things to these mothers so they can transmit the information to these other group of women, right? It’s word of mouth, but taking into account who are the individuals who can lead the others and, therefore, make the others participate. (Marta, school’s principal) As a result of the Dream process, at the end of 2013, Montserrat’s residents succeeded in obtaining permission by the City Council of Terrassa to use a plot for the creation of an organic community garden. In 2016, five unemployed Moroccan neighbours managed the garden, which provides job skills for the participants and free organic food to many families in the neighbourhood. Regarding the second line of action – a women’s sewing cooperative – in 2014 a group of Moroccan women obtained their own space within the school’s facilities, where they offer free training in sewing to other unemployed Moroccan women. Conclusions and discussion The case study of Montserrat’s Dream process has allowed us to respond to some of the main questions raised in studies on interpersonal interaction and deliberation as ways of generating solutions to severe local problems (Mansbridge, 2003). Through the case of the Montserrat neighbourhood, we have provided specific guidance on how to create spaces that encourage the emergence of dialogic communicative acts even in disadvantaged contexts in which the participants are strongly conditioned by race, gender and class inequalities. In addition, this case study has exemplified how studies that move beyond the theoretical claims to examine the impact of these dialogic approaches can contribute to community development processes in imperfect contexts where racial segregation and poverty are present. Firstly, the present study has provided a successful example of inclusion of Moroccan immigrants to a community development process in a marginalized neighbourhood of Spain, highlighting the role of communicative acts in this process. The community process was achieved by moving beyond previous approaches in community interventions based on top-down models, power, racial prejudice or low expectations towards Moroccan neighbours. This change was possible thanks to the commitment of the different agents involved in the neighbourhood (e.g. professionals, Moroccan neighbours, school staff and volunteers) who made dialogic communicative acts – which seek consensus and understanding – prevail over power communicative acts – which are based on power and coercion–. Furthermore, the Dream process allowed Spanish professionals and collaborators to identify communicative inequalities (Stokes, 1998) suffered by Moroccan residents and to implement mechanisms to compensate for them. In this article, we have analysed these strategies that create more egalitarian dialogic contexts such as guaranteeing the presence of the Moroccan neighbours in decision-making instances, encouraging their participation or involving them in language courses to compensate for linguistic barriers, among others. In addition, in the Dream process, scientific advice allowed Spaniards and Moroccan migrant residents to build interactions based on thorough knowledge. Through an egalitarian dialogue, residents were able to contrast this knowledge with their reality and to identify opportunities that had not been previously contemplated. Secondly, the analysis of communicative acts in the different phases of the Dream has also allowed us to identify the benefits of this process, among them: the reduction of racial tensions, the increase of participation and the generation of in-the-community job training opportunities. In addition, we have identified that the Dream process promoted the emergence of a dialogic model of leadership (Redondo-Sama, 2016), which enhanced the leadership abilities of the most invisible members of the community, such as illiterate Moroccan women. Finally, we have identified how the emergence of more dialogic relationships during this community process has result in both cognitive and emotional changes in participants. This has helped them overcome feelings that restrained their collective action, such as insecurity, fear or distrust. Thus, although the Dream is an ongoing process, in this article we have provided relevant insights into how it has helped Moroccan residents to move from extreme situations to find effective ways of collaborating to advance towards the untested feasible (Freire, 1993). Footnotes 1 The Berbers are an ethnic group from North Africa who have suffered serious marginalization and exclusion in different countries, including Morocco. 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( 2015) Social impact: Europe must fund social sciences, Nature , 528 ( 7581), 193– 193. Doi:10.1038/528193d. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS PubMed  Freire, P. ( 1993) Pedagogy of Hope: Reliving Pedagogy of the Oppressed , Continuum, New York. Fung, A. ( 2009) Empowered Participation: Reinventing Urban Democracy , Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey. Gele, A. A. and Harsløf, I. ( 2012) Barriers and facilitators to civic engagement among elderly African immigrants in Oslo, Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health , 14 ( 1), 166– 174. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS PubMed  Gómez, A., Puigvert, L. and Flecha, R. ( 2011) Critical communicative methodology: informing real social transformation through research, Qualitative Inquiry , 17 ( 3), 235– 245. Doi:10.1177/1077800410397802. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   Habermas, J. ( 1985) The Theory of Communicative Action. Reason and the Rationalization of Society , Vol. 1, Beacon Press, Boston. Heller, P. and Rao, V., eds ( 2015) Deliberation and Development: Rethinking the Role of Voice and Collective Action in Unequal Societies , World Bank Publications, Washington, DC. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   La Kosic, A. ( 2013) Migrants’ civic participation: the European scenario, Studi Emigrazione , 50 ( 189), 82– 102. Llopis, A., Villarejo, B., Soler, M., et al.   ( 2016) (Im)Politeness and interactions in dialogic literary gatherings, Journal of Pragmatics , 94, 1– 11. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   Mansbridge, J. ( 2003) Practice-thought-practice, in Fung A. and Wright E. O., eds, Deepening Democracy: Institutional Innovations in Empowered Participatory Governance , New Left Books, London, pp. 175– 199. Marrero, I. ( 2005) The implications of Spanish-Moroccan governmental relations for Moroccan immigrants in Spain. Spanish-Moroccan governmental relations and Moroccan immigrants, European Journal of Migration and Law , 7, 413– 434. 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( 2012) Managing muslim visibility: conversion, immigration, and Spanish imaginaries of Islam, American Anthropologist , 114 ( 4), 611– 623. DOI:10.1111/j.1548-1433.2012.01518.x. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   Searle, J. R. ( 1969) Speech Acts: an Essay in the Philosophy of Language , Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   Searle, J. and Soler, M. ( 2004) Lenguaje y Ciencias Socials: Diálogo entre John Searle y CREA [Language and social sciences: Dialogue between John Searle and CREA], El Roure, Barcelona, Spain. Sen, A. ( 1999) Development as Freedom , Oxford Paperbacks, Oxford, United Kingdom. Sordé, T. and Ojala, M. ( 2010) Actos comunicativos dialógicos y actos comunicativos de poder en la investigación [Dialogic communicative acts and power communicative acts in research], Revista Signos , 43, 377– 391. Doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.4067/S0718-09342010000400008. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   Stokes, S. ( 1998) Pathologies of deliberation, in Elster J., ed., Deliberative Democracy , Vol. 1, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom. Tellado, I. ( 2017) Bridges between individuals and communities: dialogic participation fueling meaningful social engagement, Research on Ageing and Social Policy , 5 ( 1), 8– 31. Doi:10.4471/rasp.2017.2389. Vellenga, S. ( 2008) The Dutch and British public debate on Islam: responses to the killing of Theo van Gogh and the London bombings compared, Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations , 19 ( 4), 449– 471. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   Young, I. M. ( 1996) Communication and the other: beyond deliberative democracy, in Benhabib S., ed., Democracy and Difference , Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, pp. 120– 135. Author notes Anna Carrillo is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Sociology of the University of Missouri-Columbia, United States. Sandra Girbés-Peco, PhD is a Lecturer professor at the Department of Pedagogy of the University Rovira i Virgili, Spain. Lena De Botton is a Lecturer professor at the Department of Sociological Theory of the University of Barcelona, Spain. Rosa Valls-Carol is a Professor at the Department of Theory and History of Education of the University of Barcelona, Spain. © Oxford University Press and Community Development Journal. 2017 All rights reserved. For permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Community Development Journal Oxford University Press

The role of communicative acts in the Dream process: engaging Moroccan migrants in a community development initiative in urban Spain

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Abstract

Abstract The present article offers relevant insights into how the evidence-based community development initiative known as the Dream process has had a positive impact on the inclusion, participation and leadership of a marginalized community of Moroccan immigrants in urban Spain. More specifically, we analyse how the commitment to promote dialogic communicative acts and to reduce power communicative acts during the process has attenuated some of the race, gender and class barriers that hindered the community’s involvement in dialogic and decision-making spaces aimed at improving their living conditions. In this article, we first introduce the state of the art using studies that have examined the role of interaction and deliberation in community development processes in disadvantaged contexts. Then, we briefly refer to the deterioration of the living conditions of the Moroccan immigrant population in Spain. Finally, we present the main results obtained from the qualitative case study research carried out through the implementation of the communicative methodology. This case study provides both theoretical claims and practical orientations to examine how dialogic approaches can contribute to community development processes in contexts severely affected by racial segregation and poverty. In recent years, the field of community development has witnessed an increasing interest in the role of public deliberation and social interaction in solving local problems (Heller and Rao, 2015; Dai, 2016). This interest has arisen within an understanding of human development in which public debate and critical discussion among citizens are essential for identifying inequalities and for the collective construction of fairer realities (Sen, 1999). Within the framework of this field of study, the present article offers relevant insights into how the evidence-based community development initiative known as the Dream process has had a positive impact on the inclusion, participation and leadership of a marginalized community of Moroccan immigrants in the Montserrat neighbourhood (northeast Spain). The Dream process aims to overcome social problems in various social areas (e.g. social and political participation, labour, and education) through two key elements: (i) the identification of the dreams and necessities of the community members affected by these problems and (ii) the establishment of a dialogical process that brings together various social agents through the notion of the Dialogic Inclusion Contract (DIC). The DIC is based on an informal agreement through which end-users, researchers, policy-makers and other local agents recreate evidence-based successful actions in their context through the opening of dialogic spaces (e.g. assemblies and working committees) in which an egalitarian dialogue is promoted (Aubert, 2011; Flecha, Soler-Gallart and Sordé, 2015). Specifically, the present article raises two objectives: (i) to analyse which strategies have allowed the involvement of the Moroccan immigrant neighbours of Montserrat in each stage of the Dream and (ii) to identify the role of communicative acts in relation to the promotion of the participation and leadership of the Moroccan neighbours in this process. Social interaction in disadvantaged contexts This article draws on previous literature on social interaction in contexts of poverty and racial segregation mainly considering two perspectives: the theory of communicative acts and previous studies on the incidence of social inequalities in dialogical processes oriented to community development. On one hand, the theory of communicative acts contemplates language and dialogue as a medium through which social action is coordinated. It delves into the nature of people’s interactions (Searle and Soler, 2004), identifying two main types of communicative acts: (i) ‘dialogic communicative acts’, which seek consensus and understanding, and (ii) ‘power communicative acts’, which are based on power and coercion. Specifically, these studies are focused on the analysis of the type of communication that leads to dialogic relations in which – without denying the existence of pretensions of power – some or many power interactions are replaced by dialogical interactions aimed at obtaining consensus. This approach is also grounded in the concept of speech acts provided by Austin (1975) and Searle (1969) but extends the analysis of the factors involved in the interaction, considering both verbal and nonverbal language. In addition, it is based on Habermas’ conception of communicative acts (1985), which recognizes all individuals’ capacities for language and action. However, this theory differs in several aspects from Habermas’ approaches. For instance, the theory of communicative acts identifies the Habermasian reductionism that privileges the rational thinking and relegates the emotional dimension of human reality (Sordé and Ojala, 2010). On the other hand, we have considered previous analyses that have pointed out that factors such as social status, ethnicity, religion, race, gender and other characteristics may alienate the deliberation of an exchange between free and equal individuals (Mansbridge, 2003; Fung, 2009). Some of the pathologies of deliberation identified focus on the tendency of groups with more resources and power to impose their opinions or benefits on disadvantaged sectors of the population, on the impact of manipulation, and on processes and contextual elements that hinder the exchange of views on an equal basis, among others (Stokes, 1998). Furthermore, authors such as Young (1996, p.123) argue that ‘the norms of deliberation are culturally specific and often operate as forms of power that silence or devalue the speech of some people’. Despite the progress experienced in the field of deliberative studies with class and race perspectives, the study of the difficulties of immigrants’ deliberative engagement in their host countries is scarce, especially regarding the group studied in the present research: Moroccan immigrants in Europe. Relevant insights on the inclusion of migrant communities in decision-making processes and civic participation has been provided by studies conducted in the field of community development. One of the main limitations identified in these analyses are language barriers, as having a lower command of the local language makes communication free of coercion more difficult to achieve (Gele and Harsløf, 2012). Other factors that hinder their participation are a limited formal education, poor health conditions, and lack of information or mistrust regarding the available organizations or public services (La Kosic, 2013). Likewise, the economic and social marginalization of immigrants as well as their representation as ‘others’ or as a threat in the public debate makes participation in these spaces less appealing to immigrants (Vellenga, 2008). In the next section, we will take into account the barriers that affect the Moroccan immigrant community in Spain and that negatively influence their capacity to be involved in dialogic and deliberative processes oriented towards the development of their communities. Social exclusion of Moroccan immigrants in Spain Following the economic crash of 2008, Spain has seen a significant decline in per capita income and employment, which has resulted in severe material deprivation and increased risk of poverty among the population. These increasing inequalities have particularly affected vulnerable collectives such as Moroccan immigrant residents, the second most numerous migratory group in Spain (Ballester, Velazco and Rigall-i-Torrent, 2015). The crisis has emphasized the situation of discrimination towards immigrant Moroccan workers already present in the Spanish labour market, where Moroccan workers face more precarious conditions, such as low wages, lack of social benefits, and job instability, than Spaniards (Marrero, 2005). Moroccan immigrants also find themselves with very restricted professional opportunities usually limited to agriculture, construction and domestic service. Residential segregation, impermeable community services, and politically conservative receiving communities maintain asymmetric power relations between natives and immigrants (Paloma, García-Ramírez and Camacho, 2014). In this context, Moroccan immigrants and their descendants are particularly vulnerable because they are more prone to discrimination in Spain than immigrants from other nationalities (Agudelo-Suárez et al., 2009). Self-reported victimization is also higher among Moroccans (12%) than among other minority groups in Spain such as Latino immigrants (6.5%) (Colorado-Yohar et al. 2012). Furthermore, the isolation and exclusion of Moroccan immigrants in the neighbourhoods where they live is worse than that of other immigrant groups, a situation that is related to greater probabilities of suffering mental health issues (Pasquetti and Picker, 2017). Discrimination is maintained through essentialized racial and gender categories that present Moroccan men as dishonest, criminal, oppressive, and lazy (Rogozen-Soltar, 2012). Moroccan men are also considered less able to adapt to the Spanish culture than immigrants from other nationalities, and following the 11 M terrorist attacks of 2004, they are also depicted as a foreign threat (Marrero, 2005). In turn, Moroccan women are represented as oppressed and as victims (Rogozen-Soltar, 2012). In these controlling images, Europe is presented as a non-Muslim space and Islam is intensively racialized, which affects Moroccan immigrants’ forms of self-representation, precluding their access to community resources and their participation in dialogic spaces. The present article will address how the type of communication and the strategies implemented during the Dream process help to reduce some of these barriers that hamper the participation of Montserrat’s Moroccan immigrant neighbours in dialogic spaces. Introduction to the case study The present case study was conducted in Montserrat, a neighbourhood with high rates of poverty and racial segregation in the outskirts of the city of Terrassa (northeast Spain). The case study of the Montserrat neighbourhood has been previously studied in depth due to the successful educational and social inclusion of Moroccan immigrant neighbours achieved by the transformation of the local school into a learning community (Flecha, García and Rudd, 2011). These previous studies provide some preliminary evidence on how dialogic dynamics have been transferred from the school to the broader community. However, this is the first research to study the neighbourhood Dream process in depth. Montserrat was created as a public housing project in the 1960s to cater to the arrival of waves of immigrants from rural southern Spain and stop the construction of shanties. At the end of the 1990s and the early 2000s, Montserrat also started receiving a non-European immigrant population, mainly from North Africa. Demographic data shows that in 2013, six hundred and eighty-nine residents out of the 1654 residents of the neighbourhood were non-European immigrants, mostly low-qualified workers and in 2014 Moroccan immigrants represented 41.65% of non-native residents in the neighbourhood (Municipality of Terrassa, 2014). In this context, the relations among the Spanish neighbours and the Moroccan families had been characterized by tensions and racist attitudes towards the migrant group. Communication was also hampered by the lack of fluidity of most Moroccan families in the region’s official languages of Spanish and Catalan. Furthermore, racial tensions had been identified between Arab Moroccan residents and a minority group of Moroccan Berber neighbours.1 In the described context, the consequences of the economic crash of 2008 produced an unprecedented increase of unemployment and poverty among the Moroccan residents. For this reason, some immigrant neighbours, supported by local professionals and volunteers from the local school, came together in 2012 to seek solutions to the deterioration of their living conditions. This initial group sought advice on how to articulate a community process from CREA, a research group from the University of Barcelona. CREA researchers provided neighbours with the scientific knowledge to develop the Dream process, based on the successful experience of implementation of this process in two of the most deprived and racially concentrated neighbourhoods in Spain: La Estrella and La Milagrosa (Brown, Gómez and Munté, 2013). Method, data collection and analysis This study has adopted the communicative methodology (CM) (Gómez, Puigvert and Flecha, 2011), which advocates for an egalitarian dialogue between researchers and end-users by removing the interpretative and epistemological hierarchy that often favours academic researchers over research participants. In CM, new knowledge emerges from the intersection of scientific knowledge, provided by the researchers involved in the dialogue, with the knowledge of the life world provided by the subjects experiencing social inequalities. Thus, the CM goes beyond merely diagnosing situations of inequality and identifies successful actions that can overcome social problems. In view of its results, the CM has been recognized by the European Commission (2011) to have a significant social and political impact on European social systems. To create the adequate conditions necessary to achieve the intersubjective relationship required by the CM, the researchers took into account race- and gender-based power differentials in the fieldwork planning. For instance, interactions with Moroccan women were carried out by female researchers and in the presence of a female translator from the neighbourhood with whom the participants were acquainted. Data collection To carry out this study, three research techniques were used: communicative daily life stories (N = 6), communicative observations (N = 21) and a focus group. Six communicative daily life stories were collected in 2013 in partnership with key social agents in the Dream process. This technique consists of a reflective dialogue between the participant and the researcher about the participant’s daily life. It focuses on the present moment and on the interpretations that the narrator makes of his/her life, rather than on biographical aspects. Thus, the stories aimed to identify the relevance assigned by the participants to their involvement in the Dream process and the extent to which this participation was perceived as influencing the resolution of specific problems in the participants’ everyday lives. Apart from the stories, twenty-one communicative observations were made during each of three years: 2013 (N = 7), 2014 (N = 11) and 2015 (N = 3). In contrast to conventional observational techniques, communicative observation involves the researcher and the end-users engaging together in the interpretation of actions, meanings and nonverbal language during real situations of participation. Thus, the traditional interpretative and epistemological inequality between investigator and investigated person is compensated by obtaining consensual interpretations of the object of study (Gómez, Puigvert and Flecha, 2011). The observations were made in assemblies, meetings, working commissions, and training sessions related to the Dream process. Data collected were registered in proceedings, fieldwork notes, and – in some cases where participants gave their explicit consent – in audio recordings. Finally, a communicative focus group was conducted in the Neighbourhood Association’s headquarters. The aim of the focus group was to capture, in a real interaction, the perceptions of participants regarding the type and quality of the interactions that have emerged during the Dream process and to collect information on the communication established among the participants. In the communicative focus group, the researcher is integrated with an actual group of participants but maintains his/her role as a researcher and contributes to the discussion by providing scientific knowledge about the object of study. This knowledge is combined with the collective interpretations of the participants coming from their daily life experiences. To carry out this technique, a sample was intentionally selected based on the criteria of diversity of points of view. A total of five key informants were involved: two Moroccan neighbours, a school principal, the president of the Neighbourhood Association and the manager of a cooperative for job placement in the neighbourhood. Findings In what follows, we present the main findings obtained from the fieldwork. Specifically, we respond to the two research objectives posed above: (i) to analyse which strategies have allowed the involvement of the Moroccan immigrant neighbours of Montserrat in each of the stages of the Dream, and (ii) to identify the role of communicative acts in relation to the promotion of the participation and leadership of the Moroccan neighbours in this process. For this purpose, we have divided the results into two sections. In the first section we discuss, on the one hand, some of the barriers that have hindered the involvement of the Moroccan neighbours in community responses in the Montserrat neighbourhood and, on the other hand, we identify some of the preconditions that have facilitated the inclusion of Moroccan residents in the Dream process. In the second section, we focus specifically on the analysis of the role of communicative acts in the integration of Moroccan residents in the Dream. Furthermore, we highlight some of the impacts generated by this dialogic process on the Moroccan participants, such as the overcoming of isolation and the emergence of a dialogic model of leadership. Overcoming antidialogic barriers In this section, we first present the barriers identified in the case study that have hampered the involvement of Moroccan residents in initiatives and social interventions launched with the aim of improving their living conditions. Then, we discuss some of the preconditions and strategies that have facilitated the involvement of the Moroccan neighbours in the community process known as the Dream. During the life stories, several participants criticized the impersonal and merely service-focused way in which professionals from the State’s Social Services addressed Moroccan neighbours. In addition, the analysis of the results has determined that, on many occasions, the interactions established between social intervention professionals and immigrant residents relied on power communicative acts and that social plans in the neighbourhood have often followed top-down models. The following quotation from Javier, the president of the Neighbourhood Association, recreates a conversation between a social worker and a Moroccan woman from the neighbourhood. As shown in the quotation, the interactions between these two people are perceived as a bureaucratic process that is not oriented towards understanding or towards the joint search for solutions to this family’s social emergency. As a result, many Moroccan neighbours have perceived the social workers’ interventions as controlling and shaming, which in some cases has led them to take defensive positions against the intervention of the public administration. Well, when [Moroccan] neighbours go to the Social Services the interaction is: - ‘So-and-so, how is it going? Bring me the documents. How many children do you have? What is your situation?’ - ‘My husband doesn’t have a job, I don’t have a job, nobody is employed in our house.’ […] - ‘All right, take this for now and come back in two months-time’. - ‘But listen, I’ve got nothing to eat’. - ‘Listen, I can’t do anything about it.’ - And until two months later she won’t be received. (Javier, Neighbourhood Association’s president) Another exclusionary element identified during the life stories and the communicative observations as having hindered the articulation of community processes is communication problems between Moroccan and native residents and between migrant residents and native local professionals. The next quotation from the Councillor of the District refers to some factors that have contributed to the emergence and development of social conflicts in the neighbourhood. For example, the quotation highlights the communicative difficulties experienced by some immigrant families, as they do not speak fluent Spanish or Catalan (the official languages of the region), as well as racist prejudice against Moroccan neighbours. It is sometimes seen as a clash between cultures […]. It’s very difficult. [Moroccan] people who come from the countryside have not lived in communities of neighbours. They don’t know that if they throw a paper to the ground, it upsets other people. And these little things slowly generate more conflict, bad coexistence. Because part of the native population sees these acts as neglect of the others, as if they [Moroccan residents] didn’t want to collaborate. (Councillor of the District) As for transformative variables, the analysis of the communicative observations, the life stories and the focus group has made it possible to identify the key role of the interactions promoted in the local school and how they have facilitated the involvement of Moroccan neighbours, professionals and volunteers in the launch of the Dream process. Since the transformation of the public primary school into a learning community in 2001, the centre has launched specific programmes aimed at improving the communicative skills of the migrant community, such as free courses in Catalan and Spanish or Dialogic Literary Gatherings (Alvarez et al., 2016; Llopis et al., 2016; Tellado, 2017). Furthermore, the Moroccan neighbours have seen the school as a place of peaceful coexistence, dialogue and community involvement. Based on these previous developments, the school staff has used its influence not only to bring together a wide diversity of professionals, local entities and volunteers but also to compensate for interactions based on power or the inclination of some professionals to exercise excessive control over the community process. In the following quotation, Marta, the school’s principal, refers to the first actions implemented during the launch of the Dream process, which consisted of conducting various meetings at the school with the aim of creating spaces for dialogue, where interactions based on power and isolation were reversed through discussion and the inclusion of the voices of Moroccan community members. The topic of control is common among professionals, so going directly to the Dream caused them some insecurities. Thus, we had to have another meeting with the professionals to say: ‘Let’s organize how we will do the Dream,’ right? […] This concern, saying: ‘We’ll directly call an assembly at the square of the neighbourhood and make people dream’. They didn’t see that clearly, ok? They said: ‘No, we have to prepare it’, ‘No, we have to organize it…’, ‘No…’. And, well, it’s ok. If there are also these reservations, more explanations may be needed. Let’s give them! (Marta, school’s principal). The role of dialogic communicative acts in the Dream process In the following section, we focus on the role of communicative acts in relation to the inclusion and leadership of the Moroccan residents in some of the phases of the Dream process. First, we show how dialogic communicative acts contrast with interactions based on the low expectations and patronizing attitudes of local professionals during the launch and the process. Second, we identify strategies and mechanisms that have been specifically implemented to promote the emergence of dialogic spaces where the validity of arguments has prevailed over power claims. Furthermore, in this section we cite some of the benefits generated by the interactions established during the process, such as overcoming isolation and the emergence of a dialogic model of leadership that has promoted the inclusion of Moroccan residents in the community process. The Dream process started in 2012, when a promoter group organized two meetings through which they managed to involve a wide range of professionals and public service leaders to implement the process. The purpose of those meetings was to eliminate some of the resistance professionals had expressed towards the idea of launching this community process. Communicative observations in the meetings held during the first phase of the process focused on identifying how and when dialogic interactions prevailed over power interactions. On the one hand, during these first meetings we identified how some professionals’ desire of imposing themselves had promoted power relationships. Furthermore, interactions based on low expectations regarding the Moroccan neighbours’ ability to articulate responses to poverty had reinforced their insecurities and feelings of inferiority, making it difficult to promote community action. On the other hand, the data obtained from the communicative observations show that the determination of several attendees to develop a more dialogic and egalitarian climate enabled the emergence of dialogic interactions. To do this, participants such as the school’s principal and several volunteers fostered four aspects that had not previously been considered in social interventions in the neighbourhood. Firstly, they promoted the inclusion of Moroccan neighbours in the professionals’ meetings. Secondly, Moroccan neighbours were able to contribute their views on the decisions under discussion. Thirdly, priority was given to the validity of the arguments presented instead of to the status of the individuals exposing the arguments. Finally, it was specified that the objective of the meetings was to reach consensus about the best way to launch the Dream process. Below, we provide examples of the different types of communicative acts identified in the communicative observation made at the first meeting. The field notes indicate that the moment of maximum tension, identified by the type of verbal and corporal language of several attendees, occurred when one of the local social educator strongly questioned the capacities of the neighbours. He asserted, with a convincing tone of voice, that encouraging the Moroccan neighbours to dream and to make decisions in this respect was dangerous, as he considered that they would not be able to reach their goals and would, therefore, get frustrated. Instead of articulating a process like the Dream, this professional proposed the articulation of a slower process in which the professionals would take the lead because they ‘know the population they were working with better than anyone’ This communicative act of power, based on his authority as a professional and not on arguments that showed the inability of the neighbours, made some of those attending the meeting doubt the viability of the process. However, after this intervention, the school’s principal invited Faysal, an unemployed Moroccan neighbour, to share his point of view on the claims of the social worker. The field notes reveal that, thanks to the encouragement of the school’s principle and despite some initial uneasiness (evidenced in his verbal and corporal language), Faysal was able to respond to the social worker. He provided arguments that justified the suitability of the Dream process and stressed that the only way to achieve this was that they all work together. Faysal’s intervention constitutes a dialogical communicative act since the validity of the arguments prevailed over the status of the speaker and since it was oriented to build consensus among the participants in the meeting. This dialogical communicative act marked a turning point for several attendees at the meeting as it encouraged them to share their point of view and to reach a consensus on future actions instead of joining the pessimistic and patronizing forecasts of the social educator. The communicative observations and the focus group about the second phase of the process, popularly known as Montserrat’s Dream, allowed us to identify that dialogic communicative acts did not usually emerged spontaneously but had to be encouraged through the implementation of a variety of strategies. Montserrat’s Dream consisted of a general assembly held in the main square of the neighbourhood with the aim of broadening community participation and collecting the neighbours’ dreams – their most urgent needs–. The assembly was led by Moroccan and non-Moroccan local leaders, such as the school principal, the president of the Neighbourhood Association and the Imam of the mosque, and attendees were mostly Moroccan neighbours. To ensure that the Moroccan residents could understand the debates, all the interventions were translated to Amazigh, the mother tongue of a large proportion of Moroccan residents. Apart from our communicative observation, several participants in the life stories highlighted the way dialogue was articulated in Montserrat’s Dream. Firstly, the leaders provided the attendees with a general explanation of the initiative. Then, small groups were created to collect the dreams of the participants. Each group had a trained volunteer whose role was to promote communicative equality among participants – especially regarding those traditionally excluded, such as Moroccan women, the elderly and children – and to generate a dialogical climate in which the validity of arguments prevailed regardless of the hierarchical positions of the speakers. To facilitate this, volunteers collected the dreams as the participants formulated them, without making interpretations or interfering in their demands. Promoting this dialogic climate allowed Moroccan neighbours to identify their community’s most pressing challenges. Likewise, the data obtained from the life stories and the focus group suggest that the creation of this dialogical climate contributed to overcoming the social isolation of several Moroccan women. As indicated in the following quotation from Fatima, thanks to her participation in Montserrat’s Dream, she had new opportunities to establish personal bonds with other women in the neighbourhood with whom she had not interacted before. Before participating [in Montserrat’s Dream] I knew some women, just their faces. But since the day I participated, I know them by name. We greet each other, we talk. (Fatima, Moroccan woman) In the third and the fourth phase of the process – the Dream commission and the meetings to set the community’s priorities – we also identified efforts to create dialogic and inclusive spaces. After the collection of the neighbours’ demands and necessities, a commission was created to classify these dreams by social area: education, housing, labour, and environment, among others. The commission included two Moroccan neighbours, the school’s principal, the president of the Neighbourhood Association and two volunteers. The members of the commission created posters including the dreams, which were hung on a wall of the school so residents could identify the community’s expectations. In addition, the commission was responsible for explaining the dreams orally to the non-literate neighbours. The fourth phase of the process consisted of two assemblies carried out on February 2013 with the aim of identifying the most requested ‘dreams’ and deciding the main actions to be undertaken in order to achieve them. During the meetings, participants sought to achieve a consensus on which dreams to prioritize. Although the participants presented different points of view, they decided to prioritize dreams that they all agreed on: generating employment opportunities and getting specific training in this area to compensate for their low educational levels. To give response to this community’s demands, a group of researchers provided the neighbours of Montserrat with scientific training on successful cooperative actions (Flecha and Ngai, 2014). During the communicative observation of this training we identified the role played by the dialogic communicative acts in overcoming feelings such as lack of self-confidence or distrust. Trainers not only provided scientific knowledge but also involved participants in discussions on how to recreate the actions in their own context. Although some participants were initially intimidated by the presence of trainers, their mistrust and lack of self-confidence diminished as they realized that they did not evaluate nor judge the participants’ observations but just provided quality information that allowed residents to make better proposals. Thus, the promotion of dialogic interactions and the scientific advice obtained helped overcome feelings that had paralyzed collective action, such as insecurity, fear and distrust. As a result of these discussions, the participants – most of them Moroccan men and women – decided to open two lines of action: creating an organic community garden and a women’s sewing cooperative. One of the benefits obtained from the development of the phases mentioned above is the emergence of a dialogic model of leadership. Dialogic leadership (Redondo-Sama, 2016) is the process through which the leadership practices of the different members of a community – including professionals, community members, school staff and other stakeholders – are created, developed, and consolidated. Dialogic leaders work with the different people present in the community, especially supporting and promoting actions that contribute to transform the context. For instance, the data from the focus group and the life stories has allowed us to identify in Montserrat, native people previously identified as leaders – such as the Neighbourhood Association’s president or the school’s principal – worked side by side and in equality with Moroccan community members. These leaders also fostered the empowerment of Moroccan neighbours so that they could also adopt leadership roles. One of the most significant examples of dialogic leadership during the Dream process refers to several illiterate Moroccan women, who had been involved in literacy courses for adults offered at the school. Their process of empowerment and leadership started as they become aware that, for several members of the school staff, their participation in decision-making spaces was essential. They also learnt that professionals actually included their views when making decisions. In this regard, it is worth mentioning that the empowerment process of these women was slow and difficult and did not affect all of them with the same intensity. Furthermore, during life stories and communicative observations, several participants identified the positive impact of the dialogic model of leadership in terms of perceived reduction of racial tensions and the improvement of the coexistence between Moroccan and native residents and between Arabic Moroccan and Berber Moroccan neighbours. The positive impact of dialogic leadership was particularly visible on the Moroccan women who had suffered the most from isolation and exclusion within the immigrant community: Berber female housekeepers. These women had never before taken part in community initiatives, neither in Morocco nor in Spain. The dialogic leadership position adopted by some Moroccan women contributed to improving their perception in the neighbourhood, from being perceived as passive subjects secluded in the domestic space to being perceived as active agents capable of promoting the participation of the most powerless members of the community. In addition, these women contributed to the emergence of new relationships between Arabic and Berber neighbours, who left behind historic confrontations to work together with the goal of achieving the community’s dreams. These elements are highlighted in the following quotation from Marta, the school’s principal. We have a peaceful coexistence because neighbours have worked on it with the leadership of the people involved in the Neighbourhood Association and with other leaders who are more invisible […]. For instance, those women who participate a lot in the school and who know some mothers who are Berber. Thus, we explain things to these mothers so they can transmit the information to these other group of women, right? It’s word of mouth, but taking into account who are the individuals who can lead the others and, therefore, make the others participate. (Marta, school’s principal) As a result of the Dream process, at the end of 2013, Montserrat’s residents succeeded in obtaining permission by the City Council of Terrassa to use a plot for the creation of an organic community garden. In 2016, five unemployed Moroccan neighbours managed the garden, which provides job skills for the participants and free organic food to many families in the neighbourhood. Regarding the second line of action – a women’s sewing cooperative – in 2014 a group of Moroccan women obtained their own space within the school’s facilities, where they offer free training in sewing to other unemployed Moroccan women. Conclusions and discussion The case study of Montserrat’s Dream process has allowed us to respond to some of the main questions raised in studies on interpersonal interaction and deliberation as ways of generating solutions to severe local problems (Mansbridge, 2003). Through the case of the Montserrat neighbourhood, we have provided specific guidance on how to create spaces that encourage the emergence of dialogic communicative acts even in disadvantaged contexts in which the participants are strongly conditioned by race, gender and class inequalities. In addition, this case study has exemplified how studies that move beyond the theoretical claims to examine the impact of these dialogic approaches can contribute to community development processes in imperfect contexts where racial segregation and poverty are present. Firstly, the present study has provided a successful example of inclusion of Moroccan immigrants to a community development process in a marginalized neighbourhood of Spain, highlighting the role of communicative acts in this process. The community process was achieved by moving beyond previous approaches in community interventions based on top-down models, power, racial prejudice or low expectations towards Moroccan neighbours. This change was possible thanks to the commitment of the different agents involved in the neighbourhood (e.g. professionals, Moroccan neighbours, school staff and volunteers) who made dialogic communicative acts – which seek consensus and understanding – prevail over power communicative acts – which are based on power and coercion–. Furthermore, the Dream process allowed Spanish professionals and collaborators to identify communicative inequalities (Stokes, 1998) suffered by Moroccan residents and to implement mechanisms to compensate for them. In this article, we have analysed these strategies that create more egalitarian dialogic contexts such as guaranteeing the presence of the Moroccan neighbours in decision-making instances, encouraging their participation or involving them in language courses to compensate for linguistic barriers, among others. In addition, in the Dream process, scientific advice allowed Spaniards and Moroccan migrant residents to build interactions based on thorough knowledge. Through an egalitarian dialogue, residents were able to contrast this knowledge with their reality and to identify opportunities that had not been previously contemplated. Secondly, the analysis of communicative acts in the different phases of the Dream has also allowed us to identify the benefits of this process, among them: the reduction of racial tensions, the increase of participation and the generation of in-the-community job training opportunities. In addition, we have identified that the Dream process promoted the emergence of a dialogic model of leadership (Redondo-Sama, 2016), which enhanced the leadership abilities of the most invisible members of the community, such as illiterate Moroccan women. Finally, we have identified how the emergence of more dialogic relationships during this community process has result in both cognitive and emotional changes in participants. This has helped them overcome feelings that restrained their collective action, such as insecurity, fear or distrust. Thus, although the Dream is an ongoing process, in this article we have provided relevant insights into how it has helped Moroccan residents to move from extreme situations to find effective ways of collaborating to advance towards the untested feasible (Freire, 1993). Footnotes 1 The Berbers are an ethnic group from North Africa who have suffered serious marginalization and exclusion in different countries, including Morocco. 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Sandra Girbés-Peco, PhD is a Lecturer professor at the Department of Pedagogy of the University Rovira i Virgili, Spain. Lena De Botton is a Lecturer professor at the Department of Sociological Theory of the University of Barcelona, Spain. Rosa Valls-Carol is a Professor at the Department of Theory and History of Education of the University of Barcelona, Spain. © Oxford University Press and Community Development Journal. 2017 All rights reserved. For permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com

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Community Development JournalOxford University Press

Published: Oct 24, 2017

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