Rewarding engagement – VALUES cluster visit in Nuremberg

05/02/2020

“We saw what it was here in Nuremberg when we forgot our values,” said Diana Liberova, a Nuremberg city councillor, of the need to embrace the value of integration. One in four Nuremberg residents are non-Germans, and almost half of all residents have a migrant background. Such significant figures make integration not only a social, but also a practical necessity for the city. For this reason it has long been a cross-sectoral issue relevant to all municipal departments.

Four main bodies within the local government deal with integration: a coordination group that oversees all departments; an integration committee that instigates new projects and follows existing ones; a council for immigration and integration that is made up of locals with a migrant background, which is elected every six years and meets every two months; and an advisory council for integration and human rights which works to implement the city’s integration policy.

Dual surges

The city has a history of citizens volunteering, but there was a surge in volunteers wanting to be involved in integration in 2015, when 3000 refugees arrived in the city. Nuremberg is now looking to improve its work with volunteers, increasing cooperation with volunteer groups and building volunteer numbers, as well as ensuring that volunteering opportunities are extended to migrant populations.

     

Nothing comes for free

The city is interested in volunteering not because of the offer of free labour, but because of the community spirit that it conjures, and its unique efficacy in certain areas of integration. In fact, organising volunteer efforts comes with a cost, for example the running of the Volunteer Centre, for which the city budgets €450,000 annually. The volunteer centre offers advice to its 500-strong group of volunteers and provides them with a choice between 22 different volunteering options. The city also organises a monthly prize of €1000 for a volunteer whose efforts the community determine are of special merit.

The city’s volunteer department also offers an engagement prize, the Youngagement prize, offering four prizes twice per year. Two of the prizes go to exceptionally engaged young individuals, two to groups. The prize also functions as a good method of communicating on volunteer activities and opportunities, as there is an open process for the public to vote for the prize winner online.

 

A school for democracy

For Mo, a winner of the prize in 2018, volunteering is the foundation of democracy, as it is an avenue for true civic engagement in the shape of the city. He contrasted this with his country of origin, Syria, where, he says, there is neither volunteering, nor democracy. This accords well with an old German saying that Ulli Glaser of the city’s volunteer department likes to quote, “Volunteering is the school of democracy."

For Glaser, levels of volunteering define the quality of the city, and while he is sad to report that there is an inverse correlation between the largeness of a city and its level of volunteering, he is proud that Nuremberg’s levels are relatively high, especially among young people. The young, says Glaser, want to act now, rather than later, and be part of the solution for the problems they see around them.

A licence for living

Volunteers are very much involved in working with Nuremberg’s refugees at the city’s ‘First Steps’ Refugee Centre. Here volunteers work with refugees in an informal environment, teaching them the German language and the basics of getting on in a German city, from finding their own flat to where to shop. After this informal training, refugees are awarded an unofficial diploma, a ‘licence for living.’ While it has no formal value, the licence can be a help to refugees as it can, for example, demonstrate to potential landlords that they are familiar with the conventions related to being a tenant in Germany. ‘First Steps Women’ provides the same service in a safe space for women and young children only.

Culture corners

At Nuremberg’s cultural ‘corner shops’, migrants, locals and volunteers mingle through cultural events, even staging their own performances. Here, as in every part of Nuremberg’s integration policy, the same clear message comes through – culture is not something monolithic, but something we all create together. The better our communities are integrated, the more creative our societies will be.