End-of-year seminar WELCOMING SPACES
At the end of December, the Welcoming Spaces team organised a seminar to discuss the direction of the Welcoming Spaces research, and to exchange the most important insights and findings of our first year. All members of the consortium were present, as well as the advisory board members and representatives of fellow H2020 programmes MATILDE and MIMY.
In the first part of the seminar, the researchers pitched their first findings. Over the summer, the researchers developed an overview of welcoming initiatives and their characteristics in the shrinking regions of their countries. This led to various interesting insights coming from the different country contexts.
The German team highlighted that policy initiatives for shrinking areas are strongly influenced by the sustainable development goals. During the discussion with the advisory board that followed this point was raised as well: the transformation of shrinking regions as a result of the sustainability transition. This subject will play an important role in the further research in all countries.
The presentation of the Spanish team highlighted the importance of community-led initiatives in the creation of welcoming spaces. The team also wrote an interesting blog about two initiatives in Burela and Celanova, in the region of Galicia, that can be found here.
Of course, also the role of the Covid-19 crisis played a role in our research in the last months. The Italian team found that the communities in the shrinking regions of Italy showed to be very resilient, and also adapted to the Covid-19 situation. For example, a hotel in Brescia opened their doors for nurses and doctors working in a nearby hospital.
In the Netherlands, the Dutch team found similar instances. There are numerous bottom-up initiatives in shrinking areas that are specifically aimed at the welcoming of migrant newcomers. They often simultaneously cater to migrants’ needs and tackle issues related to shrinkage by providing essential services and fostering social cohesion. Welcoming initiatives are led by individual residents with and without migration background, from businesses, municipalities to civil society and religious organisations.
In Poland, the Polish team found that certain regions bordering Belarus and Ukraine attract high numbers of migrants. The first findings show this is related to the mobility flows from these countries in combination to the presence of reception centres for asylum seekers in these shrinking regions.
Broader network and community of practice
As part of our Welcoming Spaces programme, we aim to create a broad network of stakeholders, a community of practice. Here, the focus is on local actors in the field, including local policy makers, those involved in the welcoming initiatives, and both newcomers and long-term residents, and broader, more overarching projects related to welcoming initiatives for newcomers and processes of revitalisation in shrinking region. As part of the end of years meeting, IOM presented the Share Network. This network is part of the European Resettlement Network, and promotes partnerships for refugee inclusion in local communities across Europe. It is a large network with over 3000 participating stakeholders which participate in the platform to exchange good practices and create training toolkits. In addition, the two fellow H2020 programmes MATILDE and MIMY showed many commonalities with our Welcoming Spaces programme, on migration assessment in rural regions and integration processes respectively. In the near future, we will connect more often to exchange research findings, methodology and events with our broader network.