The Integration & Society Knowledge Platform investigated how initiatives can be inclusive for citizens with a migrant background, and spoke with four citizens’ initiatives: the Huis van Bartels in Amersfoort, Mudanthe in Apeldoorn,
Up the street
The key word for reaching residents with a migration background is low threshold. For Het Huis van Bartels, a community center run by and for residents with a beautiful garden, that means: having an eye for everyone’s needs and possibilities. Initiator Riekje Hoffman: ‘If people want to do something, try to hit what they are happy about. If someone wants to prune, don’t tell them to dig in the garden. ” In addition, certain activities such as music, food and crafts work in a connecting and circumventing language differences. A volunteer at the Benches Collective, which facilitates meeting by putting benches on the sidewalk, gives an example: ‘There are universal languages. At our knitting bench, a Moroccan man has been knitting for an hour and a half. He doesn’t speak Dutch but had a big smile on his face. “
Also outreach work is important. Roberta Haki Della Rovere is the initiator of Oké Nu, a residents’ initiative that organizes activities for residents of the disadvantaged neighborhood of Utrecht Overvecht. Roberta is actively approaching people: ‘Don’t sit at your desk, take to the streets. Ring the bell, go to the people. Anyone can put a letter in the mailbox but that doesn’t work. The language barrier is often forgotten. ” Demand-driven work is also a must, Roberta adds: ‘By talking to people, you get to know things and you can coordinate your offer. We always work in a demand-driven way, residents contribute ideas themselves.
School activities and an open attitude
If citizens’ initiatives want to (be able to) appeal to everyone, then they must seek cooperation, for example with key figures who are close to the residents and who speak the same language literally and figuratively. This not only bridges linguistic and cultural differences but also creates trust, says Roberta Haki Della Rovere, initiator of Oké Nu: “Because I myself am also foreign, the residents have more confidence.”
Cooperation with schools also works well, says Paul Liklikuwata, board member at Het Huis van Bartels: ‘There are many mixed schools in the neighborhood and that is where immigrant and native children interact. You can also reach the parents through the school and the children. ‘
Finally, Mudanthe, an initiative where meeting through music, dance and food is central, has a tip for all who really want to be inclusive: have an open attitude, treat everyone with respect, especially those who do not act inclusive. As an example, the initiator Charles Dickson mentions that one of Mudanthe’s New Year receptions a group of extreme right-wing youth from the neighborhood came by. Although the young people were negative about Mudanthe, they were received with respect. They now make music at Mudanthe and have nice contact with young people from all kinds of cultures. Charles: ‘If you know each other, there is more understanding and it is easier to take each other into account. That can prevent many problems. “
Achieving inclusion is not easy, it is hard work. What the citizen initiatives teach us is that there must be the will to connect and to appeal to a diverse group of local residents. Previous research already thought that if connecting is not given priority in advance, people do not start it on their own. Really inclusive requires endurance and an active attitude. In short, this does not happen automatically.
1. Take the streets! Approach people through informal, personal contact. Talk to people, visit them.
2. Organize easily accessible activities: cheap / free and without mandatory registration.
3.Activities, such as crafts, making music and connecting food and breaking through the language barrier.
4. Work together with key figures (and local organizations) in the neighborhood who know the residents and speak the same language.
5.Work demand-driven; tailor your activities to the needs of the different groups in the neighborhood.
6. Set the standard that everyone is welcome from the start and keep it that way. Be open to everyone, including people who are different or have different views.
7. Work together with schools, so you not only reach children but also their parents.
8. Start small, go for small successes. Make sure that you do not lose confidence and build up your network slowly.
9. Deliver customization, to everyone, and show people their value. Ensure that people can do what they want to do and can do well.
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