WELCOMING COMMITTEES TO BUILD COMMUNITY RELATIONSHIPS WITH MIGRANTS
THE HUMAN IMPACT: They envision a world in which every community actively welcomes immigrants and refugees, and sees newcomers as essential assets and participants in their society.
THE NUMBERS: Welcoming International, established in 2009 (as Welcoming America), works in over 160 cities and towns across the United States, supporting nonprofits and local governments to transform their communities into inclusive places where everyone thrives. Welcoming America connects a network of nonprofit and local government members (currently in 85 US communities) including the US White House, and provides these members with in-tensive support as they develop plans, programs, and policies to transform their communities into inclusive places. They are now spreading to Germany and other countries around the world.
HOW DOES IT WORK? Welcoming International helps local communities adjust to – and seize as an opportunity – demographic change. They are one of the world’s premiere experts in the area of host community engagement, a proven approach that reduces anxiety and increases empathy among long-term residents in communities experiencing rapid growth in their immigrant/refugee populations. After finding significant success in the US, Welcoming International is now scaling their approach to other countries, helping communities go beyond the typical “seed-focused” approach, and direct significant attention to engaging the native-born population – the soil – in communities where refugees and migrants settle.
WHO LEADS IT? David Lubell is the Founder & Senior Director of Welcoming International, a burgeoning immigrant welcoming movement that is expanding across the globe. As a social entrepreneur, David inspires people to build a different kind of community — one that embraces immigrants and fosters opportunity for all. The White House honored David and ten of his leaders as White House Welcoming America Champions of Change for their innovations in immigrant integration. In 2014 the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) and BMW Group distinguished Welcoming America as a recipient of their Intercultural Innovation Award.
HOW HELLO EUROPE IS HELPING: Inevitably, anxiety among local populations is emerging about rising numbers of refugees. As European communities begin facilitating the integration of an unprecedented number of refugees, the temptation will be to focus resources entirely on the needs of the newcomers. Ironically, investing solely in items like language classes and job training would ultimately be a mistake. Hello Europe helped Welcoming International develop a partnership with Bertlesmann foundation that produced “Ankommen in Deutschland” (Arriving in Deutschland) to support municipalities in Germany to handle integration challenges with refugees. They are currently developing new indicators and self-assessment tools for cities as well as an EU-wide certification for welcoming cities. Already, over 20 cities and 130 key stakeholders in Germany have engaged in the program. Hello Europe is also providing spaces for Welcoming International to engage and help influence EU level policy to facilitate more welcoming communities for migrants and refugees in the years to come.
WHAT THEY NEED NOW: Partners and pilot experiences to consolidate EU-wide certifications and best practices to spread throughout the continent, especially in places where great numbers of refugees and migrants are arriving. This will require the involvement of many more actors from prominent foundations, NGOs, corporations, and public actors.