Module 1: Building Bridges: Migrant Social and Cultural Integration, and Community Building

Learning outcomes

The learning outcomes of Module 1 are:

Finding new ways of connecting migrants and host society


Discovering possible areas for implementing methods of intercultural exchange


Getting acquainted with new practices and directions in the area of community building


This module is focused on the importance of community integration and exploring paths and ways of how to connect migrants and a majority society. Several areas of implementing methods of intercultural exchange and activation of migrants are suggested. Focus is on how to implement activities connecting migrants and major society on a local community level. We share and comment on successful know-how practises and explore new possible directions and pathways of creating ties and networks between communities.

As the current world is becoming increasingly diverse, education’s role in building inclusive societies and helping people move beyond tolerance and learn to live together is rising. The Migration, Displacement and Education: Building Bridges, not Walls report sees education of both youths and adults as a main tool to manage migration and reception of the hosting population. Immigrants and refugees are subject to stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination, and also our initial field research proved that there is not always a positive disposition towards migrants and refugees by the host populations.

The basis of integration is not only on the individual, personal level, but also engagement in an intercultural two-way dialogue is an important element. Integration is a bilateral process and involves both refugees’ willingness for integration and the host countries’ desire to adopt integration (Strang & Ager, 2010). It is agreed integration is not only a way to make migrants members of the society in their new home country. Fostering exchange in local communities is a long-term process, and here we explore how to successfully facilitate intercultural exchange and “help people live together, not just be tolerant”.

As stated in the current Action plan on Integration and Inclusion, integration embraces all individuals of society:

“The European way of life is an inclusive one. Integration and inclusion are key for people coming to Europe, for local communities, and for the long-term well-being of our societies and the stability of our economies. If we want to help our societies and economies thrive, we need to support everyone who is part of society, with integration being both a right and a duty for all.”

Integration is not Assimilation

Experience of migration is an ongoing process of identity change, but integration does not imply assimilation or a loss of the original identity. Feelings of alienation and obstacles migrants are facing during adaptation and building their new life are part of negotiating their new place in the world.  In contemporary multicultural diverse societies, the newcomer´s identities are respected and valued by local people. Migrants may have multiple, sometimes complementary types of belonging. Successful integration involves knowing the new country, its values and systems autonomously. To master the local language is a basic premise to acquire this.


Social inclusion goes hand in hand with active participation. As our project is focused on stressing migrant’s empowerment, its aim is to not only integrate but also empower migrants in their life. To activate migrants, support them being independent individuals and using their agency, making decisions, creating their own life plan and gaining a personal fulfilment is the overall purpose of the Citizen of the World project. This has a special importance for the disadvantaged, low-skilled and educated newcomers. As the European Commission’s Action Plan on Integration and Inclusion stresses, it is important to prevent underachievement of migrants and to allow them to fulfil their potential. Supporting migrants and refugees can often have traces of victimisation, so we consider it important to stress migrant’s empowerment – not setting them further in victims and “others” roles but seeing them as independent and active human beings having their own agency. The motif of our project is not only migrants’ participation in cultural life, but also the receiving population´s reception and fighting discrimination. This, in the long run, leads to empowering migrants to autonomously contribute to their new communities. Strang and Ager (2010) argue that for building bridges there need to be opportunities for people to meet and have a mutually beneficial exchange. Example of this can be migrant businesses that support social exchange, help to build mutual understanding, and reciprocity.


Community work and social integration is a long, ongoing process. This module should be a possible source of inspiration for community and social workers with migrants and refugees, helping to settle them in a new country, build their social capital and capacities.

Ager and Strang (2008) consider social connection as a key drive in the process of integration at a local level. Thus practitioners and workers with migrants should contribute to trying to engage migrants in their local communities. And not only by initiating and organising their own events and activities of exchange, but also acquaint migrants with other options and possibilities of involvement in the local community space. It is important not to restrict migrants to activities of one given organisation, but to guide them to other resources and places. It is important to keep migrants informed about up-to-date local happenings and collective events. That is a way to build migrants’ integration and belonging, through positive interactions with others.

Disinformation and prejudice

With higher income of migrants and refugees in European countries, many of them are nowadays challenged by a rise of racism and xenophobia among members of the host societies. Creating spaces for exchange, where migrants and locals can meet and actively integrate is an urgent current task for public entities, officials and workers on various levels. The Citizen of the World project argues that intensive personal experience proves to be a key solution to facing and fighting disinformation and prejudice and helps all to realize that migrants are contributing to and enriching our societies. But at the same time as we stated, integration is a two-way process where the host society needs to take action and actively be involved and participate in this truly relational reality people are experiencing nowadays, in which mutual awareness, communication and connection has to play a role

About the COTW approach

According to a UNESCO Recommendation on Adult Learning and Education, there are three key areas of importance concerning adult learning:

i. Literacy and basic education
ii. Continuing education and professional development (vocational skills)
iii. Liberal, popular and community education (active citizenship skills)

As indicators of what constitutes successful migrant integration are often limited to concepts such as employment, medical status, housing and acquisition of a citizenship, methodologically we focus on features that are more difficult to capture in quantitative analytical statistics. Social and community life participation is difficult to measure and can be depicted through individual migrants’ reflections in qualitative surveys and case studies, such as the OECD report.

Developing a comprehensive orientation programme for newly arrived migrants, which covers all the information relevant to their needs, as well as information which will help to ensure their safety and enable better integration is often suggested as an effective solution. Recently, there have been structural initiatives of introducing compulsory introductory courses for migrants in several European countries. In Sweden, an introduction course on Swedish society is now compulsory for all asylum seekers. In the Czech Republic, integration courses “Welcome to the Czech Republic”, organised by the Ministry of Interior, were imposed to help third country nationals to start a new life in a new country, to quickly orientate in Czech society, getting to know their rights and obligations. These courses also focus on getting acquainted with the “basic values and culture of the society”, ”life in Sweden, Swedish norms and values”.

This module introduces that migration experience is strongly shaped by gender and age as they play a key role in one’s migration experience, thus they are the themes we are putting on the top.


Linguistic Integration

Them and Us: Meet and Greet Together

Women in Action

You Are What You Eat

Beyond Cultures and Ages: Connecting Migrants with Seniors