The program provides training and qualifications for unemployed people to work as mediators who facilitate the integration of new arrivals in local neighbourhoods.
Newly arrived families living in disadvantaged circumstances often have little or no contact with the public agencies who can provide services to assist them in their daily lives. The program established in Neukölln aims to reach migrant parents through home visits by integration facilitators who are mainly women. The facilitators make contact with families by reaching out to mothers at schools, playgrounds, doctors, mosques, and shops. The facilitators provide information on topics relevant to issues such as migration, German language skills, work, law, and raising children.
The integration facilitators come from migrant backgrounds or are immigrants themselves. They speak both the language of the family they visit and German. Most integration facilitators and beneficiaries of the programme are Turkish or Arabic migrants and a small number are Polish, Russian, and Eastern European.
The program objective is not to intervene in the family, but to support families in raising their children and finding their way in German society.
Many social integration projects in disadvantaged neighbourhoods fail due to a lack of communication and trust between public agencies and citizens. Learning from the city of Utrecht in the Netherlands, in 2004, the Berlin district of Neukölln provided training for 28 women to undertake the role of Integration Facilitators (formerly called “neighbourhood mothers”). Facilitators act as a contact and resource point primarily for women and their families. For example, facilitators can accompany people to public administrative offices and doctors.
From 2004 to 2009, the programme focused on families with young children six years and younger and facilitators visited approximately 4,200 families. After the success of the programme, the age was extended to families with children twelve years or younger.
In October 2013, a decade after the program started, the Berlin Senate Department for Work, Integration and Women launched the Regional Framework Programme for Integration Facilitators to ensure the high-quality and professional deployment of integration facilitators.
By the end of 2014, the program was expanded to include 11 facilitators dedicated to work with refugees and in 2018 the program commenced operating in other districts in Berlin.
The objectives of the project are:
- 'open doors’ for integration,
- strengthen parents,
- encourage new language skills by motivating individuals to attend courses in German, provide information on child raising, education and health by visiting day-care centres and arrange specific support for families.
The state framework programme includes a comprehensive range of support and training courses for Integration Facilitators:
- The work of the integration facilitators is founded on a basic qualification of at least 100 hours. This is continually supplemented through additional qualifications. The training educates the facilitators in physical and mental child development, the German education system, healthy nutrition for children, and parenting skills.
- All integration facilitators have the opportunity to participate in coaching and supervision sessions.
- There are regular networking events for the project managers and the integration facilitators of all projects.
Once the training is complete, the facilitators go into their respective neighbourhoods and spread their knowledge with other families. In this way the programme has empowered migrant women to take on active roles in their communities. In their three-year term as integration facilitators, they are also endeavoured to encourage other interested migrant women to take active roles in the programme.
The integration facilitators visit families and provide education in ten fields:
- Day-care centres and school systems
- Healthy food / health care
- Children´s rights / non-violent rearing
- Bilingual education
- Dealing with media
- Development of fine motor function
- Physical development
- Sexual development / gender roles
- Drug prevention
- Prevention of accidents.
The education takes place over a period of 10 family visits. Each visit is one and a half to two hours long. The facilitators are given informational material from the training to help them, and provide reading material for the families to go over and discuss with one another after. The facilitators team also meet weekly with one another to exchange information, strategies, and discuss problems they encounter.
The integration facilitators are able to open doors for families that have withdrawn into their own communities and hence have little or no access to local childcare or the education system and cannot be reached in other ways. Close cooperation with the local childcare centres, ‘parent cafes’, school based youth centres and teachers are essential for the success of their work. Close cooperation with early education professionals and teachers facilitates cooperation with the parents.
Funding for the programme has come from local and regional government levels. The Berlin Senate Department for Work, Integration and Women is the lead agency for the project
The funds for the promotion of integration pilots operating in all Berlin districts, are allocated according to socio-spatial criteria in consultation with the district administrations.
The implementation of the state framework programme is coordinated by a specialist unit. In addition, an advisory board has been set up to provide technical support, comprising Senate administrations, districts, the Job Center and the Berlin-Brandenburg Regional Directorate of the Federal Employment Agency.
The Management Authority sits within SPI Consult GmbH and is the intersection point between the specialist administration and those implementing the programme. It serves as a liaison office, advises on both the allocation procedures and the specialist engagement of the Integration Facilitators, organises the specialist supervision and qualification offering for the Integration Facilitators, and supports publicity work. The Management Authority is the central point of contact for the work of the integration facilitators, bringing together, coordinating and networking all regional activities.
After several evaluation reports, the programme has achieved great success and interest from the community has rapidly grown. Many women (and men) apply to receive training to become integration facilitators, and more families enjoy the benefits and education provided by the program. Children are enrolled in early education programmes and mothers are educated about the importance of early childhood development. Mothers receive training on games to play with their children to foster positive growth. The program has expanded to include Roma families.
The programme has helped change attitudes towards local government and increased cultural understanding and language abilities of groups that traditionally have no communication with public agencies.
The programme has been successful in empowering women. Both neighbourhood facilitators and women who join the programme benefit in terms of confidence building and positive social interaction. The facilitators also benefit by receiving an income.
The programme has been successful in building trust between local government and immigrant communities and has contributed to the overall integration of new arrival families into Berlin.
In February 2018 the program involved 202 integration facilitators who are generally employed by independent agencies and active in 18 different programs at district level.
The integration facilitators programme has faced many challenges. Although Facilitators were mainly influential women in their communities, finding citizens to sign up for the programme was difficult initially. The programmes aim to sign up large families and families with children yet enrolled in school, however, these families have little to do with the city administration and distrusted the programme.
The programme has demonstrated it can be successfully transferred to other cities. The program idea originated in the Netherlands and the initial program in Neukölln has now been implemented in other districts of the city.
-Integrationslotsinnen und Integrationslotsen: https://www.berlin.de/lb/intmig/themen/integrationslots-innen/
- Stadtteilmütter: Approaching Integration Through Education in Berlin-Neukölln, Ally Brantley, Michelle Cho and Ruth Langer in Humanity in Action
- Neighbourhood Mothers Leading the Way in Neukölln, article in "Citiies of Migration", 17.04.2013
- Vom Modellprojekt „Stadtteilmütter in Neukölln“ - gestartet durch das Programm „Soziale Stadt“ – zu einem erfolgreichen Berufsbild, Franziska Wozny, Quartiermanagement Berlin (german)
- Integrated Urban Governance Manual
(see links below)