Conflict-sensitive refugee work: accompanying, qualifying and encouraging volunteers

In view of the increasing number of refugees in Germany many people are socially and voluntarily engaged in the field of refugee work. This engagement must not only be valued, but systematically encouraged, accompanied and qualified. For long-term oriented refugee work that is reflected and conflict-sensitive it is of great significance that volunteers are able to constructively deal with conflicts in intercultural contexts.

The project offers the possibility to acquire the necessary basic skills and the knowledge during one-day workshops for groups of volunteers in refugee work in Baden-Württemberg. Furthermore, the participating groups develop indicators of successful refugee work, choose project examples accordingly and present them within the scope of an inspiring poster exhibition to the public. Regular meetings of all participants at the Georg Zundel House of the Berghof Foundation in Tübingen serve as a platform for networking, sharing experiences and mutual encouragement and supportamong participants to continue their commitment for refugees and asylum seekers.

The project is funded by the Baden-Württemberg Foundation and targets persons who are actively volunteering in refugee work in Baden-Württemberg.

Timeframe

2015 - 2017

Flyer Conflict-sensitive refugee work

Flyer Workshop Conflict-sensitive refugee work

In Germany the readiness of civil society for social and voluntary action on behalf of refugees and asylum seekers is huge. According to a study of the Berlin Institute of Integration and Migration Research in 2014, the commitment for refugees and asylum seekers lies above the average of general voluntary engagement. Thus, there is a high willingness among volunteers to get involved spontaneously and without major support. Thereby, volunteers often take up essential tasks that result from deficiencies. These deficiencies contribute substantially to misunderstandings and tensions on various levels; between refugees and full-time employees, between refugees and volunteers, but also among refugees. In consequence, volunteers frequently find themselves in the role of ad-hoc mediators trying to overcome misunderstandings, reduce tensions and prevent conflict escalation.

Moreover, the remarkable willingness to help by large parts of society will be put to a test now, but especially on the middle and long run. In particular, since many new arrivals, in the long term, might not be able or willing to return to their home countries. It remains to be seen whether a consolidation of the spontaneously grown structures will take place in a way that allows for the future manageability of the recently established projects and organisations by the volunteers. Overall, the project aims at offering professional support to the volunteers. Lastly, it contributes to the management of conflicts in a good time, to mutual support and to making the cooperation visible together with the refugees.

Since the definitions of the terms voluntary, civic and social engagement or action largely overlap they are used interchangeably within the context of this project.

Approach

The project promotes the volunteers' ability to constructively manage conflicts in intercultural settings using methods of peace education. Participants specifically train their basic knowledge as well as their conflict management skills in participatory and dialog-oriented workshops.

Moreover, the project encourages the visualization and documentation of successful examples of refuge work in Baden Württemberg based on concepts of biographical learning. As the participating groups portrait their project activities on posters and jointly develop exhibition concepts, they experience inspiration and encouragement.

Aims & Outcomes

The project aims at professionally accompanying, qualifying and encouraging persons' voluntarily active in refugee work. In 40 one-day qualification courses the participants acquire skills and knowledge on constructive conflict management in intercultural contexts, strengthen their abilities for dialogue and understand the significance of conflict-sensitive refugee work.

Furthermore, they experience appreciation for their commitment as they make successful examples of their refugee work visible to the public in a poster exhibition. In joint meetings at the Georg Zundel house of the Berghof Foundation in Tübingen, the participants share their experiences, establish a network and encourage each other to continue their work for refugees and asylum seekers.

A workshop on constructive conflict management that specifically addresses the needs of the target group is currently unique. The respective demand by the target group is therefore, already at the very start of the project rather high.

Key actors

The project's key actors are groups of volunteers active in refugee work in Baden-Württemberg whose members are of different age, origin and profession. Among the participants are also voluntarily engaged refugees and asylum seekers.

Regions

For now, the scope of the project is limited to the federal state of Baden-Württemberg. However, it could be extended in the future and then, offered to voluntary actors in refugee work beyond Baden Württemberg, depending on their interests.

Partner

Our local partner is the Tübingen center asylum seekers, Asylzentrum Tübingen e.V.

Sponsor

The project is funded by the Baden-Württemberg Foundation in cooperation with the Ministry of Integration Baden-Württemberg within the framework of the programme "Willkommen in Baden Württemberg! Engagiert für Flüchtlinge und Asylsuchende".

April 2016 - Workshop offer for volunteers

Should Paul, an integration assistant, give money to his Syrian friend Halim, so that Halim could bring his family to Germany? The answers to these and other challenging and controversial issues were discussed in several one-day workshops on conflict-sensitive refugee assistance.

The workshop concept was first tested in Stuttgart and Tübingen in April 2016. Amongst the groups of participants were refugees, volunteers engaged in refugee work and staff members of Diakonie Baden-Württemberg. In various modules they jointly developed options for constructively dealing with conflicts, reflected on their personal attitude and exchanged their experiences on practical issues related to refugee assistance. A participant states: "Personally, I could take home a lot of helpful ideas and food for thought regarding my role in the group of volunteers."

Starting from June 2016, the Berghof Foundation's programme Peace Education & Global Learning offers the one-day workshop to people voluntarily engaged in refugee assistance in Baden-Württemberg upon request.

January 2016 - Launch of the project „Conflict-sensitive refugee work“

On 19 January 2016 representatives of organisations engaged in refugee work from the district of Tübingen participated in the launch of the project "Conflict-sensitive refugee work: Accompanying, qualifying, and encouraging volunteers" at the Georg Zundel house of the Berghof Foundation.

First, the project was presented by Uli Jäger, Programme Director "Peace Education and Global Learning" at the Berghof Foundation and Dagmar Nolden, Project Manager in the Programme. Subsequently, all participants discussed the draft concept of a workshop on "conflict-sensitive refugee work" for volunteers engaged in refugee work. Thereby, they debated challenges in professional and voluntary refugee work, identified contentious topics, and exchanged their experiences. Moreover, they pronounced themselves for promoting the perception of refugee work as peace work. Finally, learning media that had been produced by Berghof Foundation on the topic of war and refugee were presented.

The participants perceived the meeting as enriching, and hence agreed on reconvening once more in 2016 at the Georg Zundel house.