Building a sense of home was the central theme of the annual conference on Social Innovation for Refugee Inclusion (SI4RI), hosted by the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) in Brussels last week.
It aimed to explore social innovation for refugee inclusion with a strong focus on housing, community engagement and mentoring. The fruitful event was organized by the Migration Policy Institute Europe (MPI Europe), the United States Mission to the European Union, the Mission of Canada to the European Union and the European Economic and Social Committee.
Housing Europe together with its members, De Key, Ashley community housing as well as colleagues from the DESINC project, (in which Housing Europe is partner) participated actively in the discussion from the housing and urban design perspective.
Our message was clear and widely supported; beyond housing provision “social, cooperative and public housing organisations already invest a lot in social innovation in form of employment services, health services, digital inclusion, which together - improve the quality of life of millions of residents.
Housing Europe Secretary General, Sorcha Edwards, the only representative of the Civil Society, highlighted in the final SI4RI session the de facto exclusionary housing reality in our cities, leaving vulnerable groups, key workers and migrants behind. She called for a change of narrative regarding public, cooperative and social housing that is indeed an investment with great return, a real springboard out of exclusion. Examples like Startblok Riekerhaven provide with solid proof and inspiration, she added. Sorcha said that "real social innovation now comes increasingly in forms of new partnerships between authorities and civil society. A paradigm shift in leadership of housing providers is also key and constant development of their skillset necessary". She closed her intervention with a quote that our Migration and Integration Policy Assistant, Abderrahim Khairi keeps repeating, namely that "We should always talk to each other and not about each other", receiving warm applause.