Diversity in Hessen
Hessen is a diverse society. Currently, one in four Hessians has an migration background. Regarding children under the age of six the number is nearly fifty per cent. Due to the population change, the Hessian government wishes to foster a lasting common culture based on the values of the German constitution. However, cultural barriers still exist between native Germans and immigrants, as well as between different groups of immigrants, that hinder mutual acceptance.
Hessians integration policy therefore focuses on diversity management, for example a more adequate representation of its population within the state administration. Furthermore the Hessian government wants to make its governmental institutions more accessible and welcoming to new immigrants. In addition the Hessian government encourages local organizations to cooperate with one another and with state organizations to optimize the results.
Hessen’s “Model Regions Project”
The described change in perspective about integration was set into action in 2009 with the program “Modellregionen Integration”.
This program tackled integration as an issue that concerns everyone, not only persons with a migration background.
Program Design and Goals
The Modellregionen Integration ran from 2009 to 2013, with an annual budget of 1.3 million Euros. The program employs six coordinators in their respective counties in Hessen. These coordinators helped facilitate and improve immigrants’ access to public services and created networking opportunities between various local organizations and the public sector. Another goal of the program was to support these specific municipalities in order to capitalize on the diversity in their communities. Thus, these regions succeeded in increasing the interests of all inhabitants in local services and institutions.
Tool Kit for sustainable local integration
The aim of the Modellregionen Integration was to achieve and maintain a sustainable development of integration policies within local municipalities. Although only six regions were chosen to be supported financially, eleven additional municipalities participated voluntarily in workshops to increase their own intercultural acceptance and to share their experiences.
The Modellregionen Integration fostered intensive cooperation between the state of Hessen and the town councils. This cooperation - for example through workshops, meetings, project visits by the ministry - set a new standard of multilevel governance for future integration programs. It should be noted that the state of Hessen counselled the six regions in how they should conduct the Modellregionen Integration Program. Most importantly, it provided the statistical indicators for a monitoring system in all six municipalities.
The European forum for migration studies (efms) worked with the Ministry to analyze the quantitative and qualitative success of the program. Their statistical analysis helped the Hessian government to determine which aspects of the program to keep for the future and which to improve. The evaluation of the program led to the creation of “WIR,” a new integra-tion program, which will encompass the entire state of Hessen starting in 2014.
“WIR” – Program to implement sustainable integration approaches
One main conclusion of the Modellregionen Program was that sustainable integration needs long term commitment from all government levels. In the local counties the active participants developed a grass root movement on integration and found encouragement through a fully responsible leadership.
From 2014 on, all Hessian counties will benefit from these experiences. By a new program called WIR, with an annual budget of 3.1 million € in 2014, the state of Hessen aims to further facilitate intercultural awareness. The 33 counties in Hessen can employ full-time coordinators to implement strategies.
Furthermore the program will emphasize these six main focus areas of integration policy:
the establishment of a welcoming and open culture,
intercultural awareness and acceptance in administrations, associations, and organizations,
active integration partnerships in the regions,
reliable and accessible language assistance, - training and implementation of integration volunteers,
The state of Hessen will organize platforms for sharing local experiences on current issues. These platforms will showcase good ideas and promote successful integration policies.