Kicking refugees was just the beginning: The European Refugees Crisis


How the Open Society Foundation used qualitative social media research in defense of human rights

Open Society Foundation (OSF), a global philanthropic organization with a focus on human rights and its founder, George Soros are actively engaged in shaping NGOs’, Governmental and international organisation’s answer to the European refugee crisis towards an outcome in line with OSF’s values. The case discussed in this article is a research project conducted in Hungary during the height of the refuge crisis in August – September 2015.

Hungary’s role in the European refugee crisis was pivotal, as the country was the entry point of several hundred thousands of refugees who arrived via the ‘ Western Balkan Route’ into the European Union (EU).

This research illuminates the development of the online public discourse on refugees in Hungary before and during the height of the refugee crisis – exploring the impact of a government sponsored anti-refugee campaign on the public discourse. The article highlights that the employed qualitative methodology for open web analysis, delivers a grounded, real and actionable breed of insight.


The government of Hungary ran an anti-refugee campaign in the run up to the 2015 autumn refugee crisis. Open Society Foundation needed timely insight into the impact of the government’s campaign on the Hungarian public’s discourse.

Primary objective

  • Identify if the government anti-refugee campaign tapped into existing xenophobic sentiment, or did the campaign create it.
  • Explore the formation of opinions across the observed time period to find out why a culture with no previous experience of mass-migration rejected refugees and migrants.


Bakamo.Social conducted a qualitative social listening study. Bakamo’s Deep.Scape methodology is a proprietary mixture of technology and human analysis to discover what and why people discuss in public social media. The approach was customised to the research objectives within the scope of the study and the reporting of the findings. The study used a very broad semantic keyword grid to capture all conversations touching on the migrant/refugee crisis, its handling and impact. The reporting was customised to satisfy the client’s need for granular information.

The qualitative findings – such as the contextual thematic spaces of the conversation, have been quantified to highlight the themes most contentious and relevant for people. Bakamo aimed to provide an interpretative framework for the client to situate and put to work the study’s findings.

Research Results

The study provided OSF with an understanding of people’s opinions and grounded understanding how and to what extend the campaign changed people’s views. Insights from the research were used for strategic programing of OSF, helped OSF-supported organisations to respond to the changed landscape.

The research brought to light the brutal reality of public discourse – it delivered on the study’s objectives and helped the client to appreciate a genuine people’s perspective.

The Hungarian refugee study was the first qualitative social listening exercise for OSF – an approach that has since become established in the organisation’s approach. It is used as an initial discovery tool for a breath of topics.

Relevance for society and NGOs

The moment an NGO wants to be relevant – know what people think about a given topic – qualitative social listening is a key methodology in providing this insight. In Bakamo’s experience, finding out what people think, feel and do without asking them leads to a new breed of understanding – often revealing unexpected, but highly relevant insights. It is this proposition that has lead Greenpeace, Amnesty International and a range of lesser known non-governmental organisations to work with Bakamo.


This research showing the added value of market research for our society, was conducted by Bakamo.Social a global social media intelligence company.