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On the eleventh and the twelfth of April, an event promoted by Social Innovation Europe and the European Commission – in collaboration with Impact Hub Siracusa – entitled “A brighter future for Europe: Innovation, integration and the migrant crisis” took place in Siracusa, Sicily. The event aimed at exploring integration policies and practices for migrants within member states while connecting and creating new synergies between projects for future collaborations. The chosen location, Siracusa, is emblematic because the latter is, since a decade, a fundamental actor in facing the European migrant crisis and in contributing to the finding of innovative solutions for integration processes.

The migratory flow confronted the European Union and its Member States with a series of complex challenges of different nature in the last years: such a situation raised fundamental questions about the social and cultural fabric of European societies. Ingenuity, as well as political will and an efficient use of resources are required if we are to find ways to deal with this on going, unabated crisis. The closing of borders and the rise of populism are the result of a public debate that has framed migration in negative terms, questioning the fundamental values that characterise Europe. Migration has been an engine for development throughout history, and Europe is a region with a long history of defending human rights and helping migrants integrate.

Beyond public rhetoric, communities are reacting to contemporary population movements spontaneously in creative and constructive ways. Several innovations are emerging, tackling immediate needs, raising awareness, welcoming new populations of refugees and migrants, and transforming them into long term opportunities. Understanding these responses is essential in shaping new poli-cies that help integration, and allow the European society benefit from their arrival.

Public policy has an essential role to play in tackling this challenge, and will greatly benefit from the support of these innovative initiatives. From migrant entrepreneurship, new approaches to housing, food making and sharing, schooling and education, several models combine policy-led and bottom-up approaches across Europe that could serve as a blueprint for other communities to adapt and adopt over the coming years.

Social Innovation Europe has already begun looking at some of these examples through the “Beyond Crisis: Innovative Approaches to Migrant integration” collection. Building on this, we hosted a two-day gathering bringing together approximately 60-80 policymakers, foundations, academics, social entrepreneurs, and local communities. This event offered insights into a variety of initiatives that can help change the narrative around refugees and migrants. In particular, we brought together projects around Europe that had the potential to improve
the longer term, sustainable integration of migrants across European communities.