IncluCities Transfer Workshop

Schaerbeek - Jelgava

IncluCities Transfer Workshop 10 December 2021 | Jelgava (LV) - Schaerbeek (BE) |

Improving formal and informal opportunities for language learning for newcomers and established minorities

The transfer workshops are the project's internal sessions, where individual mentoring pairs share the state of play and their concrete action plans with other partners. It's a valuable opportunity to learn from each other and exchange knowledge and experience by taking stock of the work done so far. This cross-over exercise enables the IncluCities cohort to act as a team. In addition, participants get insights and inspiration from the associations and all eight cities in a supportive and collaborative way.

The Latvian colleagues provided some introduction to the context and explained the challenges regarding specific topics linked to migrants and refugees integration into Latvian society.

Linda Vovere (Social Department, Jelgava): «Jelgava is a multicultural city with several language minorities (Russian and Belarussian) and now newcomers, refugees and economic migrants (from Eastern Europe countries and Asia)» 

Elita Kresse, from the Latvian Associations of Local and Regional Governments (LALRG) introduced the current state of the crisis with border crossings from Belarus, which led to a saturation of accommodation structures in Latvia and the declaration of an emergency situation in August 2021. 

Voldemars Bariss (professor at Jelgava University) and member of the Local Support Group in Jelgava, talked about the involvement of the University and how its role is important with regard to students coming from Third Countries. «The Latvian language is mandatory for students, they study it but then they are not able to practice it. That’s why they started a pilot test of informal language courses and exchange. We would like to implement this in the Action Plan » 

Discussing the mentoring visits that happened so far, mentor and mentee city representatives showed the inspiration that the cooperation between civil society and city council in Schaerbeek can be for Jelgava. 

«It was illuminating because we understand that the civil society organisations are the backbone for the inclusion and integration instead of, as in Latvian case, the municipality who is in charge of the same thing» (prof. Bariss) 

Many questions were also raised by the other participants on the functioning of the BAPA in Schaerbeek. The language program was a point of interest for several organizations (Greece in particular) as well as the possibility to receive subsidies for the activities implemented in the inclusion program 

Michele Keukeleire, from BAPA Via, highlighted the importance of the implementation of a  co-creating design process to define the needs of the target audience (migrants and refugees in this case). CAMIM is an example of how the collaboration between the BAPA services and the university can bring new inputs and improve the existing services. However, it is important to mention how CAMIM is deeply rooted in the volunteering activity that is a cultural peculiarity of the Belgian context.

With a Scrumblr whiteboard (see above) exercise all the participants marked their questions about the challenges they encountered in their own mentoring schemes, to be able to briefly discuss the potential common points. The brainstorming showed that the local support groups that have been created in all IncluCities cities are perceived as very positive. They are creating new links between city councils and civil society, with a perspective creating links that will last beyond the IncluCities lifetime. Regarding the mentoring visits, partners highlighted that the possibility to conduct in-person meetings have greatly contributed to the potential of the mentoring visits. Finally, the brainstorming showed that the direct participation of migrants and CSO in the needs analysis could still be improved.

Linda Vovere explained the beginning of the process that brought them to have the first draft. After the first virtual visit, they had a brainstorming on the actions they deemed interesting for the city, internal consultation on the more appropriate actions followed, according to the Local Support Group as well as the municipality. After another internal workshop with the mentor city and association, they decided to divide the action plan in short, medium and long term objectives.

Formal language activities usually cost a lot that’s why informal language lessons (done by the municipality) are given for free even though they do not provide a certification. Users are generally satisfied with those as they give the basic knowledge required in everyday exchanges, at least at the very beginning of the inclusion process.

Another major question was raised about the political support for the Action Plan. Prof. Bariss said that as for the university they don’t need it as the board of the university is independent and the activities are linked with the study curriculum. As for the municipality, the political support is strong and new actions are much needed in Jelgava.