Agency, entrepreneurship and employment: Learning from each other, about and from migrants

By José Ricardo Martins

As part of the Welcoming Spaces project of bringing together experts, policy makers, migrants, community leaders and members to talk about the various issues surrounding migration, development and other processes in different municipalities and regions in Europe, a roundtable in  Saalfeld, Thuringia, Germany was held on September 22, 2022. It was an opportunity to gather and talk about policies and experiences related to the emplacement of migrants. It was an enlightening experience, and we want to share some of the highlights with you.

Bringing everyone to the table

  • We brought together migrants, policymakers, practitioners, citizens, and academics to discuss and learn from each other about positive welcoming initiatives and the challenges that migrants, policymakers, and practitioners face
  • We discussed topics such as migrants’ agency, entrepreneurial capacity, and employment hardships
  • It was great to hear about different cases of long-term residents working together in socio-entrepreneurship activities, like in Altenburg and Saalfeld

Sustainability challenges

  • One thing we noticed is that a lot of welcoming initiatives have sustainability issues, not just those run by civil society but also those led by the government
  • In terms of governance and policy, we discussed issues such as discontinuity in funding, difficulties fitting new demands into old systems, and lack of stable structures and financing for integration work
  • Additionally, we talked about challenges related to mobility in rural areas, housing shortages, and labour market integration, including racism and discrimination

Our recommendations

Based on these discussions, we came up with some recommendations for improving the emplacement of migrants:

  • Project funding should be transferred into regular public funding structures and, therefore, new integration laws are needed to rule the money distribution from the top–down
  • There is a need for a participation law to mitigate the top-down ruling
  • Crowdfunding is recommended to avoid the bureaucratic distribution of money
  • Make jobs more attractive to find personal
  • Arrange regular and visible offers for advice (done by local governments and other organizations in place, nearby by the people)
  • Multiply the announcements by majors to all inhabitants (“Bürgerbrief”) in ad-hoc situations
  • Make more use of technical tools, such as video translations
  • Run the welcoming programs with regular public funding, such as the education budget
  • As places for social gatherings are very important for inclusion, these should also be funded on a structural basis too
  • Promote public debates on discrimination in employment and schools
  • Communication does not only function via traditional forms but many other channels can be used, such as art, music, theatre, etc
  • Keep in mind that welcoming spaces are “making creative spaces”

We hope you found this summary of our roundtable event informative and thought-provoking. We believe that by working together and implementing these recommendations, we can create a more inclusive and welcoming society for everyone. To know more about the Saalfeld Roundtable, please access the full report here.

“We at civi kune RLP are thrilled about our partnership with the “Welcoming Spaces” research project. It’s vital that our on-the-ground experiences inform the research and that questions arising from our work are examined in a scientific context. The Saalfeld conference provided a great platform for exchange. Our 15-person delegation, comprising project staff, migrants, and committed individuals from various districts in Rhineland-Palatinate and Thuringia, offered a variety of opportunities for exchange and interesting encounters. This helps improve our work at the state level and on the ground in “welcoming places” such as local initiatives and meeting cafes. Especially the participation of migrants, which is crucial, makes our work sustainable.” – Okka Senst of civi kune RLP from Rheinland-Palatinate (Germany)