The European Council of Refugees and Exiles (ECRE), in partnership with the Council of Europe and its network of Intercultural Cities, the US Mission to the EU, the Mission of Canada to the EU and the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), organized a seminar on social innovation for the integration and inclusion of refugees. Neil (Director) and Antonella (Programmes Officer) participated in the seminar.
The seminar, held in Brussels on 12 and 13 September 2016, aimed to look at innovative methods to foster the participation of asylum-seekers and refugees in societies from arrival to the granting of citizenship or other long-term solution, with a special focus on participatory mechanisms, strategies and tools in order to prepare communities and cities for more inclusiveness.
The two-day seminar hosted speakers ranged from refugee groups to civil society organisations, cities, tech companies, start-ups, and private sector representatives from around Europe. We shared experiences, inspiring tools and successful policies for social integration of refugees. In our discussions, we explored how the challenge lies not only in responding to the most pressing reception needs, such as registration and accommodation, but also in finding new solutions for the effective and sustainable inclusion of refugees in a complex political, social and economic.
Interestingly, the use of technology emerged as one of the most innovative approaches to social change – housing, access to higher education, friendship and inclusion, language barriers, anti-discrimination tool, info provider – with the added value of putting solutions in the hands of refugees and practitioners.
Refugees’ access to higher education and the recognition of their qualifications was a major of discussion, together with strategies that align transformative change efforts made by policymakers and social actors such as NGOs, health services, researchers, foundations, diaspora communities, etc.
“Innovation culture, social innovators, tech approach, fast mobilisation, innovative and entrepreneurial strategies…quite an intense brainstorming! The field of humanitarian innovation presents several transformational challenges relating to refugee inclusion in Europe.
I am looking forward to talking more about this innovation in a number of fields: health & care, education, work integration, sports, microcredit & insurance, housing and digital inclusion.” (Antonella Sgobbo, Programmes Officer)