#RDgrantee World Recipe Exchange: "All continents bar Antarctica!"

photo by World Recipe Exchange

photo by World Recipe Exchange

In a series of interviews with R&D grantees of the Idea Camp 'Moving Communities' we speak to Marta Slawinska of World Recipe Exchange.

1. What is your idea about?
World Recipe Exchange is a project based in Ormston House, a cultural resource centre in Limerick, Ireland. The idea of this project was born from a need for space where people who now live in our city but come from all over the world can come together to meet each other and celebrate the intercultural diversity of our city. We have found that when it comes to culinary traditions for most people boundaries disappear and enthusiasm to share and try new things takes over. Therefore, we build our project around the idea of food and recipe sharing.

2. How did your participation in the Idea Camp help you transform your idea into an effective project?
Being selected to participate in the Idea Camp and having the time and the support to really think through what is important in our project and what we can do to make it happen was extremely beneficial for the development of World Recipe Exchange. The insights from experts who worked with us at the Idea Camp helped to identify and consider the best approach to some of the most important aspects of the project, such as connecting with communities, working in partnerships, considering local and international contexts and situating our project within them. Equally important was meeting other idea makers - people with incredible energy and amazing ideas. I was very inspired and learned a lot from talking about their projects and experiences.

3. What difficulties do you face in implementing your project? What do you see as the main obstacles?
The biggest obstacle is that a day has only 24 hours! The support for the project has been great so far but most of the work is done on voluntary basis which limits the amount of time that people can dedicate to work on it.

The process of community engagement is also challenging as we want to make sure that we reach out with an invitation to participate to groups and individuals that may not yet be aware of our organisation or engaged in the cultural life of the city. This means that our regular channels of communication are not enough to use and we need to develop new relationships and culturally activate new types of participants. This is a slow process but also very rewarding as we already see positive results.

4. You have now run a few events: could you share something on the preparations, the collaborations and the outcomes?
In the Research and Development phase supported by ECF and Limerick City and County Council, we are testing different formats of events to find out what works, what doesn't, how we can make it work better and what aspects of the project are most important to the participants to develop further. So far we held two events in public spaces, a workshop with English language learners (in collaboration with Fiona Quinn, Integration through Arts programme at Friar's Gate Theatre), co-design workshop developed in collaboration with Laura Pana from Migrationlab, and a cooking event as part of Celebrating Traditions Festival at Hunt Museum.

In preparation for each cooking event, together with the project participants we decide what recipes we will cook for a given event. We usually pick about 5 recipes from the parts of the world that participants come from and we prepare the food to share it with the public during the event. We print copies of these recipes to share with the public along with food samples. We also print blank recipe cards to encourage people to share their own recipes with us. The idea of exchange is very important here as it fosters the sense of generosity and community, we receive and we give. The format is simple but people really take to it. For example, at our first public event this past September, 42 recipes from 26 countries (all continents bar Antarctica!) were spontaneously contributed to our World Recipe Exchange collection by the visitors to our event. It's an amazing and tangible testimony to the diversity of our city and really shows that people are proud of their traditions and eager to share them.

The co-design workshop developed and delivered in collaboration with Laura Pana (of Migrationlab, who is a R&D grantee of ECF's 2015 Idea Camp) had a different format as it aimed at bringing together those who actively participated in the project or collaborated with us. We gathered with an aim to reflect on the meaning and potential of the project to individuals and society as a whole, how people would like to see it develop further, and how they would like to be involved in this development.

5. After these initial activities, how do you see the further development of your idea in the future?
Response to the project is very positive, both amongst participants and organisations that we have worked with so far. This is encouraging and clearly the format of World Recipe Exchange has developed into a useful tool that we can adapt to not only celebrate our culinary traditions but also to address more profound issues related to migration, visibility of diverse cultures in the public realm or mental well-being, just to name a few. The ideas are there and the scope for development is great.