Field Note: Using a Participatory Approach to Create SEL Programming: The Case of Ahlan Simsim

This paper highlights the use of a participatory, trauma-informed approach in the creation of Ahlan Simsim, a Sesame Street television program for the Middle East, and asserts the importance of using a participatory approach to designing culturally relevant SEL content. Ahlan Simsim is a component of a larger initiative of the same name, which was created by Sesame Workshop and the International Rescue Committee and funded by the MacArthur and LEGO foundations. This program brings early learning and nurturing care to children and families affected by the Syrian crisis through a combination of mass media and direct service programming. In this article, we present a review of the research and consultations Sesame Workshop conducted with local communities and local child-development experts in Iraq, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon from August to November 2018. Sesame Workshop’s aim was to identify and refine the television program’s focus area and to create locally relevant, trauma-informed content that draws from social and emotional learning strategies that resonate most and have the greatest impact with audiences in the Syrian response region. We argue that, for SEL programming to achieve maximum impact, it is critical that program designers develop social-emotional frameworks for children from the ground up by working with local caregivers and practitioners.


The authors discuss their work in the Behind the Pages podcast episode embedded below:

Resource Info

Resource Type

Journal Article


Published by

Journal on Education in Emergencies (JEiE)

Authored by

Shanna Kohn, Kim Foulds, Charlotte Cole, Mackenzie Matthews, and Laila Hussein


Adolescents and Youth
Community Participation
Research and Evidence
Social and Emotional Learning

Geographic Focus

Region: Middle East