The Utrecht Refugee Launchpad is an initiative which aims to enable an inclusive approach to facilitate the integration of asylum-seekers from day one. Recognising that cities play an important role in the reception and integration of asylum seekers, Utrecht city council in collaboration with a range of local partners has opened a new centre, based on a shared living concept which brings local young people and asylum seekers to live together. This innovative reception facility will seek the establishment and development of social networks with neighbours, encouraging newcomers to participate and build relationships with those from the locality to generate solutions to improve living in the centre, neighbourhood and city. Participants, both asylum-seekers and local young people will be offered training courses in English language, entrepreneurship and international business. Through the support of expert coaching and opportunities to connect locally and space and time given for the incubation of new business ideas, participants will be supported as they develop future-proof skills that will be of benefit to them whether in the Netherlands or elsewhere, thereby encouraging the repair of broken narratives and/or halting the negative spiral created by the usual approach to reception.
The evaluation and research strand is being conducted by two UK-based universities, Oxford and Roehampton, to offer an independent evaluation of the outcomes of this experiment. The Global Exchange in Migration and Diversity, at COMPAS, provides oversight of the evaluation, managing an international advisory board and manages the learning exchange and dissemination of lessons learned from the process. Roehampton leads in the research and evaluation activities with a researcher based in Utrecht, principal investigator, Dr Caroline Oliver.
European Regional Development Fund through the Urban Innovative Actions Initiative
City of Utrecht
Socius Living (SME)
School of Economics (USE) and Centre for Entrepreneurship (UtrechtCE), University of Utrecht
People’s University of Utrecht (English language division)
Social Impact Factory (NGO)
Dutch Council for Refugees (NGO)
University of Oxford
Details of the Advisory group members will be made available shortly. The Advisory group will hold their first meeting in May 2017.
The project evaluation applies a Theory of Change approach to the evaluation, recognising the importance of context and the contributions of multiple actors for understanding the interaction of the programme and its effects. The evaluation facilitates stakeholders to identify their own understanding of the steps taken to reach their goal, identifying the specific outcomes needed and then testing them through the research.
The exact methods adopted for the evaluation are currently being developed in response to the programme theory; however it is expected that the research will use mixed methods, including a neighbourhood survey and interviews with participants to garner insight into changes in participants and local inhabitants’ social capital, skills and self-efficacy.
The full evaluation report will be available in 2019.
Further updates on milestones and publications will be given here when available.
The project aims to create a more inclusive approach to asylum-seeker reception that benefits locals as much as asylum-seekers and generates future-proof skills and capabilities. Many cities across Europe will be interested to see how the initiative works, and learn from the city’s experiment. The evaluation will provide a key resource for cities to understand how this programme has worked in this setting, and understand the mechanisms and processes that might be needed if it were to be replicated elsewhere.