The research supported by the French Red Cross Foundation aims to bring real added value to those who help the most vulnerable groups on a daily basis. But analysing a problem, understanding a context, making a diagnosis and even imagining solutions is useless if the main stakeholders, the operational actors, do not appropriate these tools. The Foundation has undertaken several initiatives to facilitate the dissemination of its research and to increase its impact in the field.

Bénévo’Lab, based on the questions that arise in the field

The Bénévo’Lab programme, which is emblematic of the will to put research at the service of operational actors, allows employees or volunteers of the Red Cross who are faced with difficulties, or who wish to explore new paths, to request the help of a researcher. It falls to the Foundation’s teams to transform the concrete problems encountered in the field into scientific questions. For example, a volunteer from Montauban was considering setting up a Beauty Truck project [1]. This idea gave rise to the call for projects entitled Body-mind mediation for homeless people via socio-aesthetics. To give another example, an employee in the Rhône region was distressed to find that some families living in informal camps refused to accept relocation proposals. His question has been transformed into a piece of research, now led by the anthropologist Chiara Brocco, which focuses on ‘factors of acceptance of shelter solutions and support for autonomous housing”. 

Going further in the joint construction of tangible solutions

Within the framework of Bénévo’Lab, the volunteers and employees who conduct the research exchange with the researchers during their studies, attend the restitution of the results and help to disseminate the observations and the conclusions of the research. The Foundation wishes to extend this logic of joint construction of solutions to other research: firstly by organising workshops where researchers and operational staff collaboratively examine the research to reflect on their operationality; then, by setting up a mechanism for the monitoring of change. The aim is to move from the stage of scientific results and recommendations to that of tangible solutions which are applicable in the field. The pilot project is taking place in the Sahel and has already given rise to promising collaboration between Aïssa Diarra, a doctor and anthropology researcher, and Sophie Caussanel, the coordinator of the PROGRESS [2] programme of the French Red Cross.

Adapting publications and events for actors in the field

These ambitious projects create real bridges between the academic and operational worlds. But even outside of these innovative schemes, the Foundation is constantly working to make new knowledge accessible to those who can make the best use of it. This is the clear objective of Pratiques et Humanités, a new publication by the Foundation which, over four pages and in a synthetic style, extracts the essential elements of each new piece of research so that the actors in the field can easily find answers. Similarly, the end of the restrictions linked to the Covid-19 pandemic has enabled the resumption of events, meetings and seminars. Next event: the Rencontres de la Fondation in October 2022, with this year’s theme ‘Humanitarian action and social cohesion: re-linking in order to help better.’ Six researchers will present the findings of their work, before comparing their analyses with the experiences of professionals in round-table discussions that promise to be fascinating. Always with the same goal in mind: to debate research in order to move action forward for the benefit of the most vulnerable groups.

[1] Mobile set-up designed to provide aesthetic care for the feet, hands and faces of homeless people.

[2] PROGRESS = Programme Régional Genre Santé Sahel (Gender and Health Sahel Regional Programme)

Top photo: @Christophe Hargoues