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HELSEVEL-Gode og effektive helse-, omsorgs- og velferdstjenester

Establishing a national learning and action network for refugees: Promoting inclusion, access to information, and successful transition

Alternative title: Etablering av et nasjonalt lærings -og handlingsnettverk for flyktninger: Fremme inkludering, tilgang til informasjon og vellykket overgang

Awarded: NOK 0.38 mill.

Millions of young people have fled war or instability to find refuge in Europe. Although most countries provide assistance and services to help refugees settle, they still face many challenges. This project aimed to develop a national and international learning and action network to promote the successful transition and inclusion of young refugees into host societies. The development of this network had two key objectives: 1) Information: to improve the flow of knowledge and information between those that work with refugees during the settlement process; and to increase interdisciplinary and cross-sectoral collaboration between academics, practitioners, service providers, immigrant organizations and policymakers in Norway and in selected European countries with similar populations with refugee backgrounds. 2) Learning: to improve collaboration between the different actors working with people with a refugee background and enable an exchange of experiences, expertise, and knowledge. The network aimed to enable members to exchange ideas on the best ways to promote refugee inclusion and improve their access to information and assistance during settlement. The network included young former refugees as members, as this was a key component of the action aspect of the network. This enabled access to first-hand information about the challenges they face and possible solutions. Other action elements included evaluating a mobile phone app that refugees can use to obtain information. Over the three years, PIISTON recruited international partners from the Netherlands, Germany, Scotland, the USA, and Canada into the network. In the first year, the project held two workshops, one with national partners and another with international partners. The partners were involved in the development of two NFR research-funding applications. Moreover, six young adults with refugee backgrounds joined the network. This advisory group, as we called them, contributed to an NFR research application. In autumn 2020, two members of the advisory group facilitated a workshop in Bergen, together with the project manager, at a national migration conference on health and work in the new country. In spring 2020, PIISTON members (both academic and practice partners) from Bergen were supposed to visit the international partners in the Netherlands, Germany, and Scotland. However, due to Covid-19 restrictions, we only managed to visit our partners in the Netherlands. This was a fruitful visit where there was an exchange of experiences. The Norway team met the civil society and public sector actors who, through a study and work scheme, help refugees obtain the qualifications they need to gain employment. In November 2020, covid restrictions again prevented the network partners from meeting physically, so we held a 2-day digital workshop that was attended by international and national partners, and advisory group members. The workshop was opened by Katrine Nødvedt, leader of the Culture, Diversity and Equality department in the Bergen city council. This meeting was the first time all the network members met and resulted in some fruitful discussions. One result was a joint NFR collaborative research application together with three of the international partners and three practitioner partners. Network partners at UiB also received University funding for a small pilot project to test the use of Pictotheater, a visual data collection method, with the user group together with one of the public sector partners. Funding was also received from the Grieg Foundation for the academic network members from the University of Bergen, to evaluate Papillon, a non-governmental organization that is also a network member. In June 2022, both national and international partners along with the advisory group met up in Voss, for an end-of-project conference. This was a vibrant meeting where there was sharing of ideas and experiences and where the advisory group was at the center of all discussions. A commitment to continuing the PIISTON network beyond the funding period was agreed on by all members, and we will work together on a publication about the network and the importance of representation, and the value of putting those with lived experience of being a refugee at the center of such a network. Although the project was affected by the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, we nevertheless managed to achieve some of our objectives, and build a vibrant network that includes those with a refugee background, academics, and practitioners from the public, private and civil society sectors.

The main outcome of this project was the creation of a learning and action network that included academics, practitioners from civil society organisations, public and privates sectors, and young adults with refugee backgrounds from Norway, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Scotland and the USA. The outcomes from this network were three joint research funding applications, one conference presentation, two research funding awards (from other organisations), three workshops, one partner visit to the Netherlands and a conference. The impact was the opportunity for the academics and practitioners to meet with and collaborate with young people who had lived experience of being refugees and for these young people to influence the direction and focus of our research. Another potantial impact was that the young people' sharing of their experiences helped the practitioners to see other ways of conducting their work that are more inclusive. For example, after the conference, the German partner from the Munich municipality said he had learnt so much about the importance of including those with a refugee background in planning of programmes that he would take that knowledge back to his work and implement it. The network provided a forum where academics, practitioners and the user group could connect, share experiences and try to find solutions together. It showed the value of intersectoral collaboration.

The PIISTON network is a learning and action network that aims to facilitate ongoing research and development efforts of the Refugee Resilience Project, established by the HEMIL-center in 2016, by improving the mutual knowledge transfer between researchers and users. Refugees face many challenges, including access to information and health care, when adapting to life in Europe.The mission of PIISTON is to promote refugees’ inclusion, access to information and successful transition into Norwegian society by consolidating knowledge across disciplines, increasing collaboration, and strengthening service provision across sectors. The network will include scientists from the disciplines of health promotion, social and child welfare, psychology, development studies, anthropology and geography, working together with practitioners, NGOs and refugees. Network activities include recruiting international partners, workshops with national and international partners, visiting international partners and visits from international partners, development and testing of a mobile phone app, funding proposal development, website development and a dissemination conference. The network will enable its participants to gain a deeper understanding of what promotes young refugees’ productive participation in society and what facilitates their independence. This knowledge will be channeled into welfare, service and policy sectors. To maximize its outcomes PIISTON's dissemination plan will include both traditional (website) and interactive (app) media. PIISTON will strive to reach out to other European programs to build on synergies, share knowledge and learn from their experiences of working with refugee populations. The outcomes of the network will have far reaching consequences for future research designs in the areas of information to help refugees on their journey, arrival and settlement in new countries; and on the social inclusion of refugees both in a national and international context.

Funding scheme:

HELSEVEL-Gode og effektive helse-, omsorgs- og velferdstjenester