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Social enterprise, community innovation and empowering through language

Having moved into the implementation stages of the project, MiFriendly Cities finished 2018 with the successful launch of three initiatives, creating opportunities for refugees, migrants and the wider community to get involved in the project. 

Social Enterprise Programme

November saw the launch of the MiFriendly Cities social enterprise initiative by project partner CU Social Enterprise (CUSE).Whilst the existing Evolve Programme at Coventry University has always been open to all, there has been low uptake from migrant communities. The social enterprise sector contributes as much as £60bn to the UK economy and employs 2m people, but there is limited involvement from refugee and migrant communities, with lack of access to credit, and religion, gender and language identified as barriers.

Our dedicated programme for refugees and migrants builds on our core project value of enabling grassroots mobilisation in ‘migration friendly’ cities. The four-week course covers 20-hours of interactive learning to develop an initial idea into a viable business, as well as developing the skill sets to deal with negotiation, presentation and problem solving.

Following this, participants have roughly five weeks to prepare for their business funding pitch. During this time they can book one-to-one support with a business mentor and have the opportunity to give each other constructive feedback at a practice pitch.

Eight participants attended the first course in Coventry, with six completing and four successfully obtaining up to €5000 funding to start up. Participants varied from students, graduates, and stay-at-home mothers to the unemployed. The first funding pitches took place on Wednesday 5th December, with the panel made up of a local social enterprise expert, representatives from within the MiFriendly Cities project, third sector refugee and migrant organisations and a private sector business coach.

Potential business ideas were graded on their levels of:
•    Potential for commercial viability
•    Strong value proposition
•    Customer/Users Identified
•    Applicant’s strong personal qualities

The four successful business pitches will see the launch of two clothing companies (one which creates sports clothing in cultural prints and the other aimed at empowering 18-30 year olds), a British cultural knowledge programme, and an accessory and fabric upcycling business.

CUSE will support the migrant entrepreneurs with a year of business coaching from receipt of the grant and access to the social enterprise network and other entrepreneur events at The Enterprise Hub. All participants – successful or not – will have access to the same support we offer members of the community, such as 1-2-1 support from the CUSE business trainer and social enterprise officer.

Share My Language: Integrating English learning

Share My Language is an element of our Active Citizenship strand which aims to make learning English an informal, social, everyday activity. This is achieved by creating new activities and by integrating English learning into existing city-led provisions.

The initial pilot led by Coventry City Council has focused on increasing learning and inclusion in Rhyme Time sessions in local libraries, a free service which gives both parents and children the opportunity to socialise and develop their communication skills.

In a Share My Language Rhyme Time session, participants are given the opportunity to share something about their culture, reflecting the MiFriendly Cities ethos of encouraging refugees and migrants to get actively involved in their community.

By sharing a rhyme in their native language, confidence is built within the group to speak and socialise. As this increases across sessions, the rhymes are then translated into English. Sessions have also introduced a scratch off map, where participants are invited to share which country they are from as an interactive activity to break the ice.

Adding this element of cultural exchange into sessions increases social participation and helps to bridge gaps between communities, giving parents more opportunities to learn, express themselves and get to know new people.

In one session, a mother who had previously been quiet and isolated expressed that she had an Urdu rhyme but was too shy to share it. After attending for several weeks, she enthusiastically shared her rhyme with the group. This increase in confidence enabled the mother to socialise more with other parents after the session. She was also able to reach out for support to look after her children as she was struggling with one poorly newborn and an energetic two-year-old. Another mother – a childminder – offered to take her two-year-old for an afternoon to give her some respite.

Ultimately, the intention is for all Rhyme Times to become a Share My Language activity across the West Midlands.  Bell Green Library in Coventry is already leading the way by becoming the first official Share My Language library in the region in November 2018.

Future Share My Language activities will include Spoken Word Workshops, launching in January, which will involve a 6-week course where participants share poetry in any language, and work together to share the meaning and potentially translate the poems into English.

‘’In one session alone we had rhymes in Urdu, French and Polish, and a Nepalese mother felt confident enough to share a rhyme from her childhood the following week!’’ – Indy Donald, MiFriendly Cities Share My Language Coordinator

Community Innovation Workshops

MigrationWork ran four social innovation workshops in the West Midlands at the end of 2018 – two in Birmingham, one in Coventry and one in Wolverhampton. The workshops were aimed at encouraging local refugees and migrants to identify ways to address social issues and develop ideas for projects to improve social integration in innovative ways. MiFriendly Cities will be offering 15 projects up to £5,000 in start-up funding, plus bespoke support from one of MigrationWork’s expert consultants.

So far the project has worked with 65 refugees and migrants living in the West Midlands interested in finding out about getting more involved in their communities and developing project ideas which benefit migrants and the wider community. The workshops covered four main topics with the aim of inspiring participants. These were employment, health, housing and active citizenship. Participants came armed with great ideas to improve fitness and mental health, to offer affordable food and explore the arts in their communities.

MigrationWork has also drafted four briefings with inspiring examples of community projects around Europe.

Following the initial workshops, MigrationWork will be running follow up sessions for those who want to discuss their project ideas as well as for those who were unable to attend the workshops.

Applications to pitch for funding need to be submitted by 30th January and can be done using a simple form, or by explaining the project idea in a short ’selfie’ video. A MigrationWork consultant will be assigned to every project selected to pitch and will help them develop their presentation ahead of Pitch Day, which will take place in March 2019.

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European Union & Urban Innovative Actions

This project is co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund through the Urban Innovative Actions Initiative.