How can refugees improve their daily lives and public space in Ruhr region in Germany?
The project raises the questions on the current situation and the future of life of refugees in the Ruhr Area and compares it with best-practice models from other European urban agglomerations.
Oberhausen, Germany, Helsinki, Finland, Ljubljana, Slovenia
The MAIN VALUE
- Refugees contribute to a more inclusive public space and better integration in a society on the long run.
- It may function as gateway to the job market, as the welcoming communities get to know the skills that the refugees have.
- This is a general and highly transferrable Europe-wide topic
THE MAIN DIFFERENCE of the project
- It enhances the co-creation as well as fosters partnership.
- While many projects deal with public space (asking: “to whom belongs the city,”) we want to actively involve the refugees
- Areas with abundant vacant buildings (like the Ruhr Region) have a potential for creative interventions that unite social aims with physical space improvements
- It can be used in other countries (Italy, Spain, Greece etc.) and sectors (homeless).
WE AIM TO:
- Involve the refugees in the revitalisation of empty spaces in Oberhausen by incorporating the European-wide good practices.
- Establish the network of various professionals and organisations dealing with refugees and public space
- make a database of refugee integration examples from all over Europe.
CHANGES WILL BE:
- the catalogue with refugee initiatives will be made and will be ready to use
- The model of collaboration with refugees will be tested on a concrete project in Oberhausen.
WHAT BENEFICIARIES will tell:
- Refugees will appreciate the possibility to be a part of a society, decision-making and improving the physical environment.
- NGOs will get further ideas and examples on how to include refugees into concrete projects in cities.
2nd half 2015
- Establish an informal network
- A transnational group of urbanists, architects, artists and activists makes a list of refugee engagement examples in EU, focusing on the Ruhr area.
- Creation of an online database of such examples.
1st half 2016
- 2 workshop visits within the network.
- Organising a congress “New Ideas for old buildings” in Oberhausen under the title “Refugees for co-creative cities”. It is a part of EU Programme “Europe for Citizens”. 7 medium sized EU towns from the Baltic to the Balkans are facing the economic and social decline and are motivated to find efficient and democratic solutions for revitalisation.
2nd half 2016
- Implementation of the pilot project in Oberhausen and matching activities in other cities of Ruhr.
- Evaluation and disseminat
Funding requested from Advocate Europe
We wish to receive: - a comment on how the project could develop further - an advice on how to disseminate results of the project - hints about the refugee integration good practices, especially in connection to the spatial development.
In our project, the ‘welcoming of refugees’ & the positive attitude of the different countries was never a given fact. It was an inspiring moment when, during our conference for refugees’ integration, in Ljubljana, the state secretary stated that ‘Slovenia is willing to improve the refugees’ integration policy’. This gave us hope that our efforts inspired thinking on the system level, in a country with big controversy on this topic.
Another inspiring moment, in Germany this time, was when two leaders of private housing market expressed their interest to cooperate with us in order to find solutions for refugees accommodation & integration using their built capital. Also, our concept for improving urban environment together with refugees attracted the attention of 2 municipalities.
One of our project’s goal was to collect cases of refugees’ integration projects, from different countries. For this, we circulated a short survey to social media & contacted formal & informal organisations with a relevant activity. However, the vast majority of people reached didn’t respond. We overcame this problem by asking personally people we knew from different countries. It was our partners after all who managed to provide us with examples, & our own research. Our list is now populated enough, but we seek for more diversity country-wise.
What we found out later & learnt from this process was that successful initiatives were too overloaded with their ongoing work, to respond to e-mails. Also our demands (cases meeting certain criteria) were not simple enough for citizens to respond. For the future we propose more targeted contacting and max use of our personal networks!
Project philosophy could be one category, too, right? We have drawn from the idea of “inter-culture” and the willingness to see diversity as a resource instead of a burden. It invited us to rethink refugee accommodation and to see refugees as skillful and interested individuals who can contribute to new forms accommodating themselves in their new domiciles – also in the sense of making themselves feel comfortable and welcome. Instead of seeing the newcomers as burdens of the system that labels people based on their country of origin and often holds them in an agonizingly long state of waiting, the project has wished to see models where everybody can take part in shaping urban living. The challenge is not limited to working for and with refugees, but as we felt the urgency to react to the global refugee streams, we simply needed to start to act from here.
There are a number of sources on interculture, but our main source of inspiration has been the book ‘Interkultur’ by Mark Terkessidis. The book was published in 2010 but it remains highly topical. It is a clear-sighted diagnosis of the various institutional efforts – mainly unsuccessful despite of the often good intentions – to cope with the increasingly multicultural life in Germany. What Terkessidis proposes as a solution, or at least a direction to follow, is to conceive ‘Interkultur’ as absence of barriers (Barrierefreiheit). Giving up an illusion of a “normal” user and concentrating on providing equal access to e.g. urban spaces to all users should be the base line.
For wisdom about refugee integration practices, we had decided to turn to the crowds and spread the message. After all we managed to collect a considerably big database of very interesting cases from all over Europe. However, there was still a long way from there towards the final publication and we saw the need of contacting each project team or organization for more material, with a separate mail, preferably in their mother tongue.
We started by asking the highly successful and interesting practices in Germany – Über den Tellerrand kochen, Cucula and GrandHotel Cosmopolis, for instance – and the response was very interesting. Although the mails came with considerable delay, people were happy to hear about our documentation project and would have really liked to contribute. However, they had very important engagements in full swing – they simply could not devote any time for “extra” work such as writing about what they are doing. They were busy making Europe a better place for refugees – or anybody in principle – and this is also why we had no problems in accepting the brief and very sympathetic responses from their side. Keep up the spirit! Cool work! was the mutual conclusion.
However, it is not too late to add your case! We can always add it to the database even if it came too late for the printed publication. It is neither too late to send in text and picture material about cool initiatives! Just get in touch!
On march the 11th we held successfully the conference "Refugees in Culture" at the accommodations of kitev in Oberhausen. Several representatives from the local and municipal level of the city of Oberhausen, all municipal cultural institutions, local artists, teachers and refugees profoundly discussed suggestions to enable a better cultural integration. In addition will now follow the event "Integration of refugees - best practice from Italy and Germany" on april the 12th in Ljubljana, Slovenia. This half-day event will be targeting public officials from the Slovene ministries and representatives from cities and municipalities, as well as other stakeholders at the local, regional and national level. This will be one of the first opportunities to have a comprehensive overview of good practices from around Europe on such a high level in Slovenia. Please have a look at http://ipop.si/en/2016/04/03/accomodation-of-asylum-seekers-and-integration-of-refugees-in-municipalities-good-practices-from-italy-and-germany/
Refugees for Co-creative Cities responds to the need for a new ‘culture of welcome’ for refugees in Europe through an exciting mixture of local intervention and cross-European exchange. Co-creating the urban environment - in this case, restoring and reshaping abandoned buildings alongside refugees - is an unconventional approach with great potential. Accompanied by research and fostering links to political decision making, the project serves as a prototype for similar endeavors.