Democracy doesn’t just start with the right to vote - it also requires at least some participation and contribution. It begins with communication between refugees, encouraging them to take responsibility for tasks and duties in their accommodation. It continues with participation in parental committees in kindergartens and schools, culminating with establishing an organised lobby for refugees in local politics. Taking part and experiencing what you can achieve can, on the one hand, strengthen a refugee’s identification with the society in which they live. On the other, it can change how society perceives refugees – from a somewhat passive mentality, into active citizens.
In communal collective accommodation, the self-determined cooperation of refugees is attempted and the typical problems of such accommodation are tackled. Regular communication between the occupants, for example in recognising and resolving potential conflicts, is central. Furthermore, continuing dialogue between refugees and the accommodation management, institutions and social workers creates non-bureaucratic solutions for real-world challenges. At the level of the accommodation unit and beyond, the selection of delegates results in ‘grassroots’ groups that network and organise with other refugees in the parish.
The ‘Mitteilen’ (‘Inform’) project extension should help refugees develop into disseminators, through school, seminars and information trips. They will learn handling skills that allow them to impact their community in a targeted way, and persuade convincingly of the benefits of democratic solutions. This results in knowledge transfer, with refugees supporting other refugees on an equal footing.
The MITWIRKEN – Mitbestimmung und Eigenverantwortung der Geflüchteten (‘GET INVOLVED – Participation and Responsibility of Refugees’) pilot project will expire by the end of December 2019. Take a look at its webpage.
Otto Benecke Stiftung e.V.
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