Social integration is a process in which individual values interact when cultures meet, and retain their original characteristics in the system of new values that emerge. This, together with other core values such as diversity, acceptance and openness, and equal opportunities, underpin our work on Roma inclusion.
How can social inclusion be achieved?
- We believe in building communities where everyone can live out their different identities, and where cultural, religious, ethnic, age, etc. diversity is seen as a value and built upon by the community - be it a settlement, a school, a class.
- It is an important principle of our work that we work directly in local communities and our primary goal is to build and develop local cooperation, which strengthens the Roma community, achieves results and successes and thus takes small steps towards local integration.
What do we do for social inclusion at Partners Hungary Foundation?
One of the cornerstones of Partners' work has always been the active involvement of the local Roma community, working with a local team that:
- represents the community within certain boundaries and limits
- and is actively involved in local cooperation.
The model works if there are one or two leaders who manage and organise the local group and take a leading role in the cooperation (they can be informal leaders, key members of the community, but also active public figures, professionals, politicians, NGO leaders who have already achieved significant results at local or even national level).Training and empowering the team and leaders improves the effectiveness of the cooperation and can give hope for longer-term sustainability.
We believe that everything that the Roma community does, together with each other and with others, according to their own needs and interests, strengthens the process of local integration. Their work can result in improving their quality of life in certain areas and in experiencing the potential of working together, which can give them the strength to continue working together. We support this process with our methods and programmes, in the hope of creating sustainable local structures in the long term.
What is intercultural mediation?
Partners Hungary Foundation joined the ROMED programme of the Council of Europe in 2010. Currently, we are combining our own experience and ROMED's toolkit to carry out our integration work in the framework of a unified methodology, intercultural mediation, mainly in the fields of education, health and local community needs.
Intercultural mediation is a participatory method, a community work that builds bridges between community members living in settlements and the institutions and decision-makers operating in the settlements, in order to promote and positively change the situation of communities in need. In our country, the method has been localised by our Foundation.
The local mediation activities used in the method are coordinated by intercultural mediators.
How do intercultural mediators work?
- Mediators receive intercultural mediator training, which includes the Code of Ethics for Mediators and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The training includes the basics of intercultural mediation, communication and negotiation techniques, conflict management and collaborative planning. They will learn methods that can be used in their everyday work. Intercultural mediators are currently working effectively in the fields of education, health and community building.
- The intercultural mediators - the only one in Hungary, held by Partners - organise a local community action group (KACS) after the training, according to the characteristics and aspects they have learned, and also take into account the application of the principle of democratic participation. In the organisation of local groups, mediators have a crucial role to play, as they are the ones who know the members of their own community best and understand the local cultural and social context.
- At the same time, they will contact (or with our help) the local government and local public institutions. In this way, they prepare the ground for dialogue between community members and local institutions in the form of round tables.
- In the process, the intercultural mediator is a neutral actor, not taking a position, but conveying demands and information. His/her constant task is to maintain constant contact with the community and public institutions, to transmit information and to prepare local meetings and discussions based on the mapping of needs. Facilitated community planning takes place in the round tables, building on the needs expressed by KACS and the needs of the institutions. The final outcome of the community planning is a local mini-project, which is implemented with the participation of actors from both sides. The local planning process is facilitated and supported by the intercultural mediator in close cooperation with the institutional contact person.
The neutral intercultural mediator works in a balanced way with both public institutions and the community, facilitating communication and cooperation between the two sides, helping to overcome cultural and status differences. In the course of his or her work, the mediator, together with the group, strives to achieve a balance between the parties, where everyone's interests are equally legitimate.
Both parties are expected to take responsibility and engage in a mutually agreed change process. The parties should agree that this is the primary role of the mediator.
An effective mediator has the following core competences:
- intercultural communication competences
- mediation and conflict management competences
- knowledge of the socio-cultural and historical background of the communities they support
- planning, monitoring and (self-)evaluation competences
- case management competences.
How does intercultural mediation differ from "regular" mediation?
It is important not to confuse intercultural mediation with mediation between conflicting parties (relationship mediation, divorce mediation, family mediation, business mediation, neighbourhood mediation).
- What they have in common is that mediation takes place, supported by a third, neutral actor, the mediator, with the aim of better understanding each other. In intercultural mediation, we work on social issues, problems that affect the minority group, the majority of the minority group, and the aim is to solve the problem in cooperation with the institutions, offices and municipalities that are called upon and involved in the case. The emphasis is on the articulation of interests and the development of a form of cooperation.
- While a traditional mediation is completed on average in one or more 3-hour sessions, intercultural mediation fulfils its function when dialogue and problem-solving between a minority group and institutions is integrated into the functioning of a settlement. In traditional mediation, the aim is to resolve an existing conflict; in intercultural mediation, the emphasis is on conflict prevention and the institutionalisation of dialogue.
- The selection of intercultural mediators will take into account previous experience of working in the community. It is important that the mediator is a respected member of the local community, and it is very advantageous if you are of Roma origin and known by both the community and the public institutions. They are usually selected on the basis of previous experience, usually with a local recommendation, but anyone interested can apply for the training.
We are not alone in our work. We consider as natural allies all those (individuals or organisations) who are also working for inclusion, in similar or even completely different ways, and whose activities do not conflict with our core values.
There are those with whom we occasionally build partnerships in the course of our programmes and everyday work, and there are others with whom we support in principle, and follow their work with great respect and appreciation, as a consequence of their different methods, approaches and goals.