Reviving a declining Norwegian community by attracting migrants

 

Herøy is a small Norwegian community of about 1700 inhabitants of 25 different nationalities spread over 2,000 islands. The community was affected by a significant brain-drain among young and highly-qualified people between the 1960’s and 2009 and severe budget cuts between 2008 and 2010. As a result, Herøy had to cope with high and increasingly growing rates of unemployment and disability, evolving reliance on public assistance and child welfare costs, a low rate of university graduates and a bad reputation.

 

A Positive Reply to Negative Trends


These negative developments prompted the community to launch a project named “Increased Settlement” in 2010. The project aims to contribute to population growth by increasing welfare, work opportunities and living offers by 2014. The following subsidiary objectives were set forth to attain these goals: strategic good reputation building, availability of varied workplaces, attractive living and recreational activities, successful integration of newcomers and project sustainability. For each of the objectives a list of ten measures was established.

 

Good Intercultural Practices


When it comes to integration, Herøy aims to become “the leading municipality in Norway” and “a preferred municipality for newcomers, work-related immigrants and refugees”. The initiatives conducted or planned under this head are worth mentioning. Thus, along with developing welcome packs for newcomers and hosting a welcome ceremony, Herøy has launched a so-called Buddy System whereby the residents are invited to sign up as a sponsor for newcomers. In order to incite the residents to participate, a prize is raffled off by the community. Another meritorious initiative is Herøy’s International Café which is organised upon newcomers’ request for funding. This initiative helps newcomers and locals to mix and exchange and offers the former an excellent opportunity to present their homeland.

 

A number of interesting activities have also been initiated or planned to contribute to building a good reputation of the community. For instance, Herøy started celebrating small progresses accomplished not only by businesses but also individuals (e.g. by offering small presents to newborns’ families). The community subsidises a local on-line newspaper (available at http://heroyfjerdingen.no/), which serves as a wire between the current and the former Herøy residents and helps them keep informed of community developments. Furthermore, a survey has been commissioned by the municipality to assess its reputation among the residents.

 

The Success Story


After the steep population decline over the last 50 years, Herøy recorded a population growth of 6.2% in 2010-2012, which is partly due to EU work and family migration. The project team are happy to acknowledge their contribution to this up-ward trend.

 

Furthermore, there has been a rise in housing prices and living offers. With one firm per every eight inhabitants and a total export value of 330 million Euros, entrepreneurship is also on the rise. In addition, the project is fully in line with the national objective to attract more inhabitants to small coastal municipalities.

 

According to the project managers, the success of the project can be explained by two factors: direct involvement of inhabitants in its planning and implementation and the participation of political and industry leaders in its conception and management. Last but not least, the municipality of Herøy and the project team are actively engaged in experience sharing with a number of other regional, national and international initiatives.

 

From this standpoint, the concept and initiatives proposed by the Norwegian community of Herøy can be taken on board by many other cities pursuing the intercultural strategy. They are simple but creative, highly adaptable and represent good value for money. One should note, however, that the inclusion of newcomers as beneficiaries under each of the objectives would potentially enhance the outcome of the activities.

 

To find out more about the Herøy community, please consult: http://www.heroy-no.kommune.no/

 

Christina Baglai