Empowerment is the key to successful integration
Since the beginning of the CORE project in 2016, a variety of offers and measures was designed and implemented. Existing programmes and activities for integration were optimized, oriented more closely to the requirements of refugees in Vienna and were also extended by innovative approaches. By doing this, previous gaps in the integration process were closed and visible impulses for further development in the area of integration in Vienna were set. Through a participatory approach, it was ensured right from the beginning that refugees could actively participate in the project. Amongst those, who were actively involved, was also Mika, a talented refugee, who supported the CORE project with his creative talent and also designed the illustration for the invitation to the final event, which depicts the great variety of the CORE activities (see above).
At the middle of October, the project partners, stakeholders and more than 100 invitees came together at the final CORE event in order to celebrate the fruitful implementation of the project. City Councillor Jürgen Czernohorszky opened the evening by recalling the situation of autumn 2015, when tens of thousands of refugees arrived in Vienna and were provided with the most necessary. The City of Vienna realized the challenges of this exceptional situation and implemented the concept of “Integration from day 1”. Today, four years later, the situation of refugees is quite different – nevertheless many “stories” are paving the way of successful integration of refugees. One of these success-stories is the CORE project. The City Councillor highlighted the excellent co-operation of institutions and organisations, the support of numerous stakeholders, the valuable exchange with NGOs and civil society initiatives and - most important - the active involvement of refugees in the CORE project.
Following the opening words, the attendants took a look back at the diverse and successful CORE activities: 5 “CORE and the City”-events, 5 “Meet your neighbours” and 5 “Open House”-events brought people together, focused on important topics regarding refugees’ integration and supported initiatives in showing their priceless work to the interested public. During 5 “Future Talks” and “Foresight Processes”, international experts and the local professional public discussed future challenges in the fields of asylum and integration. In 16 series of trade specific workshops in the fields of bakery/confectionery, gastronomy, hairdressing, carpentry, tailoring and IT, refugees were provided with the most important theoretical and commercial knowledge on starting up a company. A support programme for refugee doctors accompanied 60 refugees on their way to getting their qualifications as medical doctors recognized. In 2 certificate courses teachers with refugee background were provided with knowledge they need to be authorized to teach in Austria. Asylum seekers with prior teaching experience were engaged at 25 Viennese schools as part of a non-profit/public service employment. In 3 modular training units for professional qualification in the field of accounting & personnel accounting, care assistance and metal processing, participants received specific language trainings in order to bridge the gap to professions with good job perspectives. Furthermore, following the approach to actively involve a broad variety of stakeholders in the implementation of CORE, 54 projects by NGOs, civil society initiatives and volunteers were provided with funding for the implementation of their integration offers. With these best practice examples, the CORE project has demonstrated on a small scale which solutions are needed on a larger scale.
Even though the CORE project finished at the end of October, numerous activities will be continued by the project partners. The certificate course for refugee teachers will again be organized by the University of Vienna, the trained Peer Mentors will continue offering city walks and school workshops, and activities like the information modules, workshops, charter talks and discussion rounds - of which 1076 events were organized during the last 3 years - will be further developed and implemented. The CORE Centre, which was the visible heart of the project and was used by 86 organisers of 117 different kinds of activities, will be continued after the end of the CORE project. Also in the future, the CORE Centre offers space and organisational support so that civil society initiatives and refugees themselves can implement activities promoting refugees’ integration. It offers dedicated people numerous opportunities to use their talents, knowledge and skills in order to implement a great variety of integration offers and thereby shape integration in Vienna.
Thus, as Mrs. Ursula Struppe, head of Municipal Department “Integration and Diversity” and CORE lead partner, emphasized at the final event, the lessons learned will for sure last far beyond the CORE project. Christoph Reinprecht, UIA expert for the CORE project, stressed that CORE put a complex strategy of multi-level governance in practice, while at the same time focussing on a participatory approach and the active involvement of the beneficiaries and civil society.
This participatory approach and its focus on empowerment was an essential key success factor for the whole CORE project. For Ursula Struppe this approach turned out to be the project’s greatest asset. “Empowerment is the key to successful integration”, she resumed.