German-U.S. Exchange Program to Focus on Integrating Migrant and Refugee Populations
Integration practitioners to share best practices and develop concrete efforts to establish welcoming infrastructures in local U.S. and German communities: hbs North America, in partnership with Welcoming America and Cultural Vistas, is pleased to announce the Welcoming Communities Transatlantic Exchange, an exchange program between Germany and the United States aimed at immigration practitioners and municipal officials who are tasked with integrating refugees. Through hands-on workshops and consultations, the exchange will assist professionals in applying best practices in their communities.
It will focus on fostering a “welcoming infrastructure” in smaller communities in both countries that are seeking to further integrate immigrants and refugees, helping them understand how to capitalize on the economic and social benefits of creating welcoming policies.
"In many ways, the refugee crisis is the new shared challenge of the transatlantic relationship, requiring dialogue and cooperation between the U.S. and Germany,” said William Maier, director of Cultural Vistas’ European Office. "As the two leading powers in this crisis, the example set by the U.S. and Germany in rising to the occasion will impact the approaches towards inclusion by other countries in their respective regions."
The Welcoming Communities Transatlantic Exchange will see 25 Germans and 16 Americans annually visit each other's countries for an expected duration of three years (2016–2018). Participants will include individuals working across sectors, including government, business, refugee resettlement, community-based organizations, and others active in the integration space.
Beginning this April, the German participants will travel in three cohorts for programming in Boise, Idaho; St. Louis, Missouri; and Columbus, Ohio. The 12-day visit will also include opening and closing activities that will bring the entire group together in Atlanta, Georgia and Washington, D.C., respectively. In September, a contingent of American professionals will visit Germany for similar activities that will take place across five different German communities.
The program will include a new set of communities in each year. Communities in each country will be selected based on shared characteristics, such as level of economic growth, key industries, age and social demographics, and challenges in integrating refugee and immigrant populations.
Communities that have had challenges with significant and unexpected migrant influxes, as opposed to traditional centers of immigration, like larger cities, will be given priority, as well as those communities that may have unique and successful approaches to addressing integration.
"This is a critical moment for transatlantic exchange. Especially in Germany, the integration process is only just beginning. It will require new ways of thinking for both the ‘old’ and the ‘new’ Germans. Our hope is that this program will inspire both German and U.S. participants to approach integration in new ways and to begin building a sustainable integration infrastructure in their local communities," said Hannah Winnick, program director at the Heinrich Böll Stiftung North America.
The visits in the United States and Germany will focus on communities that can benefit from developing a stronger culture of welcoming immigrants and learning from those that have already made advances in areas such as housing, education, job integration, language barriers, and messaging campaigns within the local communities. Site visits, workshops, and hands-on consultations will take place in each country, focusing on the preparation of communities for the long-term integration of immigrants.
"Communities thrive when they create a welcoming culture to people of different backgrounds – including refugees," said David Lubell, executive director of Welcoming America. "We have found that welcoming communities in the United States help local economies, counteract population decline, and catalyze growth and innovation. We hope to help communities address any fears they may have that their established way of life is somehow threatened by refugees from difference religious or cultural backgrounds. In fact, a welcoming community is one that also thrives socially because everyone feels that they belong. We are thrilled to bring our learning models and network of U.S. communities to this important initiative."
The Welcoming Communities Transatlantic Exchange has been funded by the Transatlantic Program of the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany through funds of the European Recovery Program (ERP) of the Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy (BMWi), as well as by the U.S. Department of State, the Robert Bosch Stiftung, the Heinrich Böll Stiftung North America and BMW Group.
About Cultural Vistas
Founded in 1963, Cultural Vistas is a nonprofit exchange organization promoting global understanding and collaboration among individuals and institutions. It develops international professional experiences that create more informed, skilled, and engaged citizens. Cultural Vistas programs empower people to drive positive change in themselves, their organizations, and society. Cultural Vistas is headquartered in New York with regional offices in Washington, D.C. and Berlin. — Learn more at culturalvistas.org.
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About Welcoming America
Welcoming America is a U.S.-based organization that helps nonprofit and government leaders transform their communities into more welcoming places where all people can contribute to their greatest potential. Through a network of over 100 municipal and nonprofit partners, Welcoming America promotes local policies and practices that help immigrants participate in civic life and create economically and socially vibrant communities. Since its launch in 2009, Welcoming America has become a recognized national leader on immigrant inclusion and welcome, honored by the UN Alliance of Civilizations and BMW Group through the 2014 Intercultural Innovation Award, and as a “Champion of Change” by the White House. — Learn more at welcomingamerica.org.
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About the Heinrich Böll Stiftung North America
The Heinrich Böll Stiftung North America is a 501(c)(3) organization based in Washington, DC and part of the German non-profit political foundation affiliated with the German Green Party. The Transatlantic Dialogue Program on Democracy and Social Policy of the Heinrich Böll Foundation North America brings together policymakers and civil society organizations from Europe and the U.S. to discuss developments that challenge our democracies and to develop solutions that promote a strong transatlantic partnership founded on inclusive democratic societies. — Learn more at us.boell.org.
Follow @boell_us on Twitter