Social innovation for refugee inclusion: maintaining momentum and creating lasting change

The event followed up on the Social Innovation for Refugee Inclusion seminar that took place in September 2016. Following the arrival of large amounts of migrants from 2015 onwards, a large amount of non-traditional actors has initiated innovative ways to foster the inclusion of newcomers. Yet, this movement has struggled to bring on structural change. The event aimed to reflect on how this field can mature in partnership with other stakeholders, with a particular focus on labour market inclusion.

‘Diversity is a fact but inclusion is a choice’

The first panel started with Daniel J. Costello’s statement that diversity is a fact but inclusion is a choice, where in his country (Canada), this is a reality. In this respect, the Canadian Ambassador to the European Union also stressed that there should be a more positive narrative of diversity to our economy, culture and society. Of noted importance was also Yara Al Adib’s intervention, who came up with the idea of empowering Syrian housewives and allowed them to easily integrate in society by proudly cooking their authentic dishes and sharing their culture. In her speech, she stressed that treating refugees as the problem is the real problem.

Eric Young, founder of The Social Projects Studio, also contributed to the debate, suggesting that massive social change is possible and so is transformation in human affairs. In so doing, real innovation, which happens in the heart of human beings, is the key instrument: the means to create new values. In addition, Young focused on how to bring about systemic change, which implies not only investing heavily in the clarification of high purposes, but also being able to face challenges in order to work on capacity.

After Young’s speech, the floor was given to Mireia Nadal, Head of Community Development at ReDI School of Digital Integration, who introduced the term of co-creation, which means getting people together sitting as equals and coming up with solutions. For instance, Nadal focused on how to come up with educational programmes, which, in her organization, must be a win-win situation for companies, volunteers and students. In this case, it is not about working for refugees, but working with refugees. Last but not least, the first panel concluded with Luisa Seiler’s speech, who touched upon several instruments to help newcomers integrate into the society. In fact, this relates to our LikeHome project, whose main objective is to foster the inclusion of newly arrived migrants and refugees to the host country education and training system, to the local economy and to the society in general. Just take a look here.

Businesses play a role in refugee inclusion

The second panel specifically focused on the extent to which businesses play a role in refugee inclusion. The major thesis to be discussed was whether businesses were interested in hiring refugees. This panel started with Pastora Valero’s explanation for the functioning of her organization, Cisco Systems Inc., and two issues were discussed: education and healthcare. For instance, the organization has started to give refugees access to online courses in the form of local initiatives. Likewise, in terms of healthcare, the organization has created containers to help refugees in Germany communicate with doctors in their own language through online translators.

Finally, Kavita Brahmbhatt is the co-founder of Action Emploi Réfugiés, an organization that aims to use social networks to help people get jobs. The main problem, however, lies in some people’s inability to access technology and the essential part of having human contact.

Reported by Danel Ocio