When people emigrate, they mostly go through an integration process that comprises a phase where they experience a decline in self-confidence (which sometimes causes identity crisis), mainly due to differences in socio-economic conditions, access to information, lack of knowledge of the local language, fear of the unknown and often also differences in civil rights (e.g. refugees). Moreover, they frequently “suffer” from common misconceptions and stereotypes leading to a more difficult access to the labor market. All this provokes greater isolation and the creation of closed communities with whom they identify themselves and where they can attain that home feeling every human being seeks (sometimes unconsciously). In its turn, this leads to the segmentation of the population and the creation of factions and the polarization of our society (you are either one of ours or one of them).
From the life-long experience as emigrants of some of the members of RuralCool’s community, this is a bilateral process which can only be reverted with a bilateral approach, which, arguably, has barely been done in most Central and Northern European countries. Since the first big emigration waves, the approach has mostly been: “you come here, you adapt to our rules, cultures, customs and laws”, which is obviously not unreasonable to ask. However, from a cultural point of view, emigrants from Southerner countries might see this approach as inhospitable, unwelcoming and arrogant.
In the context of the SDG House of KIT Royal Tropical Institute, as the profile of the most engaged people falls into Caucasian, educated, middle-class, it discourages people from other cultural backgrounds to get involved, due to all the arguments stated above. In order to revert this and being able to connect with local minorities and newcomers, it is essential to level the playing field, by focusing on elements that connect people and are universal to every human being: food, humor, friendship, music and dance. Our proposal involves the organization of monthly events that incorporate all these elements. By bringing people from different backgrounds and cultures together and focus on what they have in common, we will be providing groups with an emotionally safe environment and will therefore allow them to build trust and show vulnerability. This will help facilitating meaningful intercultural discussions, debate and discussion and consequently reducing misconceptions and promote awareness of common history and values.
These events will allow SDG House’s stakeholders to connect and get involved with its target audience and to disseminate its mission, goals and strategy.