All current participatory mechanisms have a power dynamic that is usually a TOP-DOWN, service provision, hierarchical dynamic, which occasionally has space to hear selective and invited voices. However, without a true shift in power relations, transformation in spaces provided, and the design of the participatory mechanism, we will not reach active and meaningful participation.
Until policy and even humanitarian aid move from a service provider approach to a truly democratic process, and power relations shift from a TOP-DOWN to a power share, and till migrants and refugees turn from "clients, users or beneficiaries" to true partners, we will not reach active and meaningful participation.
Active and meaningful participation is not a readily available solution that fits all. It is a combination of awareness, willingness to challenge the status quo, and long-term commitment to change by all stakeholders and parties involved, whether it be institutions, organizations, civil society organizations, and migrant communities.
New Women Connectors, based on the lived experience of its members and research conducted on the topic, created the New Women Model, which can provide a holistic approach to meaningful participation. A model that includes a shift of attitudes, spaces, power relations, and mechanisms.
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iMPLEMENTED CASE STUDY
New Women Connectors (NWC) took responsibility for designing the training component of the MILE project, which stands for Migrant Integration through Locally designed Experiences. This project aims to empower the entire local community, including newcomers, migrants, and refugees.
The fundamental principle behind the project is that policy-making, particularly at the local level, should be a collaborative process that encompasses the diverse population and provides every citizen with a voice. By involving municipalities, migrant groups, and research teams from various European countries, MILE seeks to enhance the engagement of migrants and refugees in decision-making processes, while simultaneously striving to establish sustainable ecosystems of exchange between local governments and migrant groups.
The training component adopts a meaningful participation approach. Its primary objective is to foster a deeper understanding among participants and to explore approaches that place citizens at the core of a city's services and local policy-making. During the design phase of the trainings, NWC collaborated closely with members of migrant communities and municipalities to create a platform for dialogue and mutual understanding. The training sessions cater to both migrant communities and municipalities, including local service designers, advisors, and colleagues from the municipality's outreach department, each offering their unique perspectives.