Berlin has long been a haven to migratory creatives, as well as refugees. Now, the former are taking Berlin’s spirit of innovation to make a difference in the lives of the latter. Working collectively in cooperation with the refugees themselves, many Berlin-based organisations are developing ways to help the city’s newcomers.
One of the most notable predecessors to the newfound diversity of creative efforts to aid refugees is Give Something Back To Berlin, which Annamaria Olsson founded in 2013. This platform is focused on organising a multitude of different grassroots volunteer efforts and intercultural activities. The no-frills site functions as an interactive database that connects volunteers with organisations in need of various skilled and unskilled helpers. When prompted about her reasoning for creating this platform, Olsson muses, ‘[Berlin] has migration in its veins, so it felt up to us to give our time to this.’ Olsson also stresses the importance of fostering connections between refugees and volunteers as well as engaging refugees in developing solutions for the current refugee crisis.
Social Science Works is a new company that aims to make social science research more accessible to stakeholder institutions within modern democracies and beyond. One way that they are doing so is by conducting interviews, seminars, and other projects with the refugees in order to gain information they believe is imperative to developing best practices for refugee integration. Their most recent project, ‘Understanding Europe: Helping Male Refugees Settle In Germany’ for instance, is a workshop series where refugees are prompted to consider their relation to European identity and cultural values. Though technically located in nearby Potsdam, Social Science Works was formed when its founders connected at Humboldt University of Berlin.
Another creative-run effort to accommodate the influx of refugees in the city is Refugees on Rails, an initiative that teaches the newcomers how to code. In doing so, the team at Refugees on Rails is helping to boost economies throughout Europe while also giving refugees tools to better integrate into society. The project largely relies on the help of other IT professionals serving as volunteer buddies for the refugees enrolled in the program, along with donated laptops and other materials. Refugees on Rails even set up a free online curriculum with step-by-step instructions that other nonprofit organisations can use to further the work. Plus, the company has expanded to several cities around Germany since it first began in Berlin.