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.
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.
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.
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.