Relational wellbeing in the lives of refugee young people in Finland, Norway and Scotland

Over time, despite the difficulties, some are successful in being given permission to settle in these countries. As they settle, many public authorities fade from their lives and social networks are built, with hopes for a good future. Ordinary life emerges once again, as they develop sustaining relationships with other people, and add to the life of their new country.

Our proposal focuses on this new life after permission to settle. In each country, we examine how young refugees draw and describe their networks and relationships. Over a period of three years we accompany them in Finland, Norway, and the UK. We also interview people who they nominate as their value person from their social networks. We consider how Finns, Norwegians and the British make room for them in their countries. We focus on mutuality. We focus on hospitality and reciprocity. Overall, we gather stories about building peace and prosperity for each other as an expression of relational wellbeing. The stories are gathered on a regular basis, to see how young people and their social networks flow and evolve over time.

We look at what these settled refugees say about things going well, even when they have needs, worries and difficulties in life. But our project is not just about words. It’s also about art. We work with art therapists and visual artists to help young refugees create objects and images about relational wellbeing. We do this in three ways – first, by asking them to show us what relational wellbeing looks like in their day to day life with others in the present. Then we ask them to imagine how it might look in the future.

Finally, we ask them to remember it in their lives before they left their country of origin. Then we put their stories, images and objects together to see how relational wellbeing in the past, present and future is similar or different over time. The journey from volatility to vitality is often a long one for refugee youth. We hope to show pictures and stories of how life flows after the drama of asylum, in the quiet, unremarkable moments when they and others are drawn together and as they become part of a nation’s diversity and wealth over time.


Thomas Jacobsson

Thomas Jacobsson


Bethina Strandberg-Jensen