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DSI in the field of migration and integration developed in a unique way: in direct response to the arrival of hundreds of thousands of refugees in 2015, scores of DSI projects aiming to support refugees emerged at the same time, with offers ranging from language support to orientation, housing and general Q&A platforms. By summer 2017 we at betterplace lab counted 120 projects in Germany alone.
Since 2015, as the needs have shifted from emergency assistance to long-term integration, so have the projects’ focus, with a large number of projects ending up being discontinued. Yet there is no doubt that finding adequate integration and inclusion strategies in the face of mass forced migration will be one of the defining challenges for Europe this century. It will require coming up with new innovative solutions and including the broadest possible range of actors as part of a holistic, interlocking integration process. Looking at what DSI has to offer in this field is therefore not only very interesting but also politically extremely relevant.
Where we’re headed
The aim for our cluster is to grow the impact of DSI, particularly in the field of labour market integration, represented through online job matching platforms but also coding schools where newcomers acquire IT skills highly relevant to the current labour market. Furthermore, we want to create space for knowledge sharing and cooperation among European projects.
So far, most of the DSI for integration activities have been focused in Germany. Our database of DSI projects we know in this area shows a strong concentration of around 60 projects in Berlin, around 60 in the rest of Germany combined, and about 60 in the rest of the world.
The main challenges for the projects in Germany have been to generate sustainable funding and to foster cooperation with established actors in order to stabiliae their efforts and and reach a wider audience. Our focus in Germany is therefore to lobby for lower barriers and less bureaucracy when it comes to funding opportunities. We also want to create space for constructive dialogue and mutual understanding between DSI projects, established charities and the public sector in order to increase cooperation.
Many of the advances made and lessons learned in Germany are applicable to other contexts. And after over two years since the “explosion period” of new projects emerging almost daily, it feels like the right moment to promote international diffusion and collaboration.
We aim to achieve our goals by following three parallel tracks of work: We’re reaching out to our existing network for a follow-up on the event we hosted last summer, the digital refugee summit. The aim is to talk about successes, failures and new challenges since then, in order to inform our approach to the transnational peer learning events.
In terms of peer learning, we will be focusing on fostering exchange between different coding schools. Therefore we are organising one peer learning event specifically for European “refugee coding schools” and a second event addressed to a broader audience including policy makers working on labour market integration. The aim is to discuss how these programmes fit into existing policy around labour market integration, and make recommendations for improvement. We have already completed an analysis of this kind for the German context, which will serve as our basis to look at other national contexts, as well as EU level policy and programmes.
The third topic we’re focusing on is promoting diversity within the DSI community, specifically greater representation of those with migrant backgrounds. So far there are only few examples of newcomer-lead innovation, such as the app buraucrazy, and we’re exploring different ways of promoting diversity in tech in a webinar held at the end of this year.
We are curious to find out what DSI can add to existing efforts of migrant integration on a European level as well as to helping create more open and welcoming societies. As migration is a transnational rather than a national issue we want to find ways to connect people across Europe working on similar topics and grappling with similar challenges. We will deepen transnational cooperation with the help of existing networks like Techfugees, the Helpers Alliance and Refugees Welcome International.
At betterplace lab we are a team of two working on the topic of DSI for Migration and Integration, Lavinia Schwedersky (email@example.com) and Ben Mason (firstname.lastname@example.org ). Get in touch with us if you have ideas you would like to share, a project that is relevant to our cluster or just want to have a chat!