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Sustainable practices to help settle refugees in Europe

Eight years ago, conflicts in the Middle East drove migration across Europe to a level not seen since World War II. Decision makers at local, national and European level had to adapt quickly, and created a vast range of new tools and approaches to integrate refugees. The SPRING project enables decision makers to identify best practices from that era that can help them face the migration challenges of today.

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Good policy is more likely to emerge where extensive research, tools and recommendations are available, but there can be too much of a good thing.

The large-scale influx of migrants into Europe in 2015 and 2016 led to a myriad of initiatives aimed at enhancing integration. But the knowledge generated by these efforts is so varied and fragmented that it has become difficult for stakeholders to find quick, actionable insights.

Integration issues to address ranged from housing and settlement to employment, education, training and access to services, and were approached at various governance levels from local to EU-wide. There were so many initiatives at the time that it became very difficult for stakeholders such as policymakers, NGOs, think tanks and grassroot groups to navigate them in search of actionable insight.

“We’ve seen new practices at all governance levels, a wide range of new actors and communities of practices involved in integration issues, and major research investments focused on empirical observation and analysis of integration processes,” explains SPRING project coordinator, Guia Gilardoni, international research project manager at the ISMU (Initiatives and Studies on Multiethnicity) Foundation in Milan, Italy. “But as valuable as it is, all this new knowledge needed some sorting.”

SPRING’s three main deliverables are a handbook for practitioners, a toolkit of evidence-based policymaking and a database of exemplary practices. Their common purpose is aiding disparate ‘communities of practice’ – the different types of stakeholders involved in facilitating refugee integration – in navigating the labyrinth of integration information, and facilitating informed decision-making on current challenges.

From research to on-the-ground best practices

Over a span of two years, SPRING also fostered a community of 219 integration actors from 42 countries in Europe and elsewhere. From groups working on the same issues but not necessarily interacting with each other, they became an organised network actively exchanging information and knowledge.

Another notable project outcome is an online database listing exemplary integration practices on the basis of qualitative metrics. “This tool helps practitioners identify, adapt and amplify successful practices. The objective is to obviate the need to reinvent the wheel by offering a structured platform for stakeholders such as researchers, NGOs or public bodies to learn from and build upon,” Gilardoni says.

The SPRING project’s assessment of available knowledge covers a breadth of actions, from evidence-based research to on-the-ground practices. These include, for instance, an Austrian initiative to help LGBTIQ+ refugees, and another in Belgium providing migrant newcomer artists with social integration and career development opportunities.

All in all, the SPRING website is a trove of curated knowledge, practice analyses and self-evaluation tools accessible to practitioners, policymakers and academicians – all supported by dissemination efforts through an array of webinars, workshops and events.

“The SPRING approach has ensured the highest degree of accessibility of the emerging evidence base by engaging with stakeholders through co-design activities around their knowledge gaps and needs. As a result, they can now get the specific evidence they need for their specific thematic area of intervention,” notes Gilardoni.

Although it was completed in February 2023, SPRING’s legacy continues to resonate as follow-up project proposals have been submitted which seek to extend its principles. Through these endeavours, SPRING’s mission of fostering a collaborative ecosystem for informed migrant integration continues to hold sway, marking a significant stride towards better integration policies across Europe.

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Project details

Project acronym
Project number
Project coordinator: Italy
Project participants:
Total cost
€ 2 108 434
EU Contribution
€ 1 999 536
Project duration

See also

More information about project SPRING

All success stories