Kerpen, Germany

Integration Workshops for Inclusive Cities

Bertelsmann Stiftung

June 25, 2009

Developing integration strategies with migrants, not for migrants.

Integrationworkshop, Kerpen

Integrationworkshop, Kerpen

How do we go about creating communities that are cohesive and responsive to the reality of increased immigration? In the city of Kerpen, a group of city managers and community representatives came together to brainstorm that question over a two-day workshop hosted by the Bertelsmann Foundation. Three months later, the city had a comprehensive integration strategy based on Kerpen’s particular population, history and the will of its people.

“It was an open, friendly experience resulting in a great sense of community,” says Annette Seiche, Integration Officer for the City of Kerpen. ” It also smoothed the way for further political activity, helped spread accurate information, conveyed a constructive sense of the importance of the work and improved the willingness of politicians to fund it.”

With more than 15 million non-Germans making Germany their home and one in every three school children having non-German roots, turning this perceived challenge into an opportunity to engage a variety of stakeholders and make a difference was seen as essential to Bertelsmann Stiftung, a German-based foundation committed to serving the common good.

With a business mindset and results-based approach, Bertelsmann responded to this challenge with a series of actions that included an innovative integration workshop program designed to help local government and community stakeholders work together to develop strategies that accelerate the integration of immigrants into their new communities.

As Claudia Walther, Program Manager, Integration and Communities, at Bertelsmann Stiftung explains, “It became more and more clear [to us] how important it is to develop strategies and activities together, with migrants, not for migrants.”

Developing a culturally responsive structure
Bertelsman’s Integration Workshop program was developed in response to the overwhelming level of interest generated by an earlier national competition entitled “Successful integration is no coincidence – Strategies for community policy” that was launched by the Bertelsmann Foundation and the German Ministry of the Interior in 2005.

107 cities made submissions, and three winners were selected: the cities of Stuttgart (large), Solingen (medium) and the district of Hersfeld-Rotenburg (small). Winning communities were able to address integration challenges constructively while recognizing the potential of immigration to contribute to city success. Their integration policies were developed and implemented using an inclusive, participatory process that recognized all stakeholders and promised sustainable outcomes.

The competition resulted in the creation of the practical Demographie-Konkret website, a collection of “best practices” based on successful integration practice and policy in 27 German cities -to which a further 10 international practices have since been added. It also produced a guide to integration policy with “10 recommendations for success,” including the importance of establishing political commitment, securing and activating citizen participation and recognizing cities as employers requiring well-administered HR policies on diversity.

According to Claudia Walther, checking the pulse of the nation was essential “because it showed us that the issue of integration cannot be treated as an isolated matter that only concerns the newcomer. Instead, it must be addressed in a manner that takes all stakeholders into account, including immigrants, civil society organizations, educational institutions and politicians at all levels and in various departments.”

Further analysis determined that practical local solutions were needed for the successful integration of immigrants into German society. The model chosen by Bertelsmann: integration workshops held in local communities, especially those heavily populated by immigrants. Bertelsmann wisely decided that local leadership was also needed of the workshops were to be successful. The participation, and not just the commitment, of the local mayor or deputy mayor in the workshop was made a condition of city eligibility.

As Klaus Herzog, Mayor of Aschaffenburg, one of the pilot sites for the workshops, confirmed: “The first step always is that there needs to be mental changes – the consciousness of people needs to change. You need to define fields of action, and you have to develop concrete activities.” Then, Herzog continues, ” It is important to have sustainability…and to always evaluate the process. Where are we now, what were we able to reach, what has still to be done.”

Integration Workshops in action
The two-day Integration Workshop program was launched in 2007 with the assistance of three experienced moderators, and then tested in two cities before being offered to local managers and representatives from the following target groups: community-level policymakers in decision-making positions; public administrators at all relevant levels; immigrants and members of immigrant-serving organizations.

On the first day, participants are asked to evaluate the community’s current situation through activities ranging from an assessment of prevailing attitudes towards integration to an evaluation of existing projects and analysis of local data. Questions addressed included: “What does ‘integration” mean in our community?” and “What do current facts and figures imply regarding population trends, economics and social affairs?”

On the second day, participants were asked to think about the current situation in their city with questions such as, “What is the untapped potential that immigrants have to offer?” and “What might on-the-ground community project management and networking efforts look like? ”

Hard-hitting questions and group brainstorming resulted in greater insight and awareness of the situation in Kerpen, one that is informed by the various perspectives of each and every participant.  Summing up her workshop experience in Kerpen, Annette Seiche feels that the workshops have helped to break down barriers and as a result, are very effective.

“They brought people and institutions closer together, helped to clear up prejudices and made it possible to see what Kerpen in particular needs to make its integration strategy a success. ” In short, the integration workshop was…” an entirely positive experience for everyone.”

For more information on the Bertelsmann Integration Workshop program, visit the Bertelsmann website.

Making it Work for You:

  • Leadership at high levels is essential for investments in social policy. Find out who your friends are in your local city administration.
  • Participatory decision-making results in better, sustainable long-term solutions. It is worth the extra time and effort.
  • Take the time to map out all community stakeholders. This will ensure you have an accurate and representative mix of community groups.
  • It may sound like a good idea, but testing new programs and evaluating outcomes is necessary to create effective service delivery and meaningful results.

For this Good Idea contact:

Claudia Walther
Project Manager, Integration and Communities
Bertelsmann Stiftung
Gütersloh, Germany,
49 5241 81 81360