Methodology makes a difference

Athanasia Ioannou participated in the Migration Laboratory and was one of its most skeptical critics in the beginning. Coming from a governmental background in her home country Greece, she did not see the added value of a dialogue process like this or its distinguishing feature compared to other conferences or workshops. During an interactive session as part of the GFMD ad-hoc working group in summer 2018, Athanasia Ioannou talked about her change of perspective and the Lab’s current and future impact.

“When I am thinking of my experience of the Migration Lab and I try to find the right term to describe it, I come up with a rather heretic term: subversive. I would like to elaborate on it to avoid misunderstanding.

In nearly all the conferences, workshops or summit meetings, the procedures are well known to the initiated professionals. Both the methodology and very often even the outcome are quite predictable if not known in advance. The participants are aware of the rules of the game and they might be either interveners, simple listeners, participants delivering pre-prepared statements, conveying the positioning of their governments, or lobbyists striving to lead the process. In general, the less personal engagement and interaction with the other participants one has, the more politically correct he/she is.

In the Lab we quickly realized that we had to start from scratch. The array of techniques, approaches, and tools we routinely applied proved to be useless. We had to take off our “professional hats”, get to know each other as persons, mutually understand our points of view and reflections on the issues dealt with. We had to express our feelings and thoughts, trusting each other and consequently overcoming our fears about our image, level of knowledge or about being judged for our ideas, stances, and reactions.

The main objectives were unblocking ourselves, creating a climate of trust and collaboration, where listening was equally important to speaking, exploring ways of co-decision, of innovative and adequate proposals, policies and actions of specific interest to certain participants (subgroups). The Lab was all about creating the spirit of a group of people working together, side by side to achieve a common vision: How to make migration work better for both migrants and societies through networking among representatives of all stakeholders.

Developing personal and professional relations while reflecting and interacting on the subjects we have chosen to deal with, going beyond the usual methods, using thoughtful conversation and dialogue, moving in the space and time always in contact, sharing texts, articles, papers, photos and videos of different activities, caring about happy and sad private moments in our lives – that is what I call the exclusiveness of the Lab and its subversive character relating to the way of working, thinking and acting in this framework.

The Migration Lab has worked miracles in my personal approach to collective work and the same holds true for the results. It was based on real and honest dialogue, that is to say on democratic process promoting bottom-up decisions, equality and brotherhood.

I would like to thank sincerely the organizers of the Lab, our extraordinary coaches, all the participants and I would also like to plead for the follow up of the Lab, possibly as an advisory board to the GFMD or as a reflection group (think tank) to the IOM or to some other UN institution. The momentum should not be lost. The contribution of the Lab to the GCM is a sound evidence of what its role might be in positively influencing a triple win migration policy at the international level.”


Athanasia Ioannou has several years of working experience in the Greek government. Moreover, she is a member of the European Integration Network and the European Social Fund Thematic Network on Migrants with a background in journalism. Currently heading the Ministry of Migration Policy’s Social Integration Division, she has previously been working in the Greek Ministries of Interior, Justice and Foreign Affairs.

“The Migration Lab has worked miracles in my personal approach to collective work.”

Athanasia Ioannou