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Social entrepreneurship hub in Oslo

Social entrepreneurship hub in Oslo creates network to encourage refugee inclusion in the workforce

Like most European countries, Norway has seen a recent increase in the number of refugees seeking and receiving asylum in the country. Helping newcomers integrate into the local society comes with many challenges, one of which is their limited access to the workforce. This is even problematic in places like Oslo with its low unemployment rates and generally ample job opportunities. To tackle this challenge, social entrepreneurship incubator SoCentral [link to SoCentral website] developed a project to integrate refugees into society and the workforce. After being approached by the Municipality of Oslo, SoCentral created an incubator program for social entrepreneurs to find or create work with and for refugees called BOOST Refugee.

To deepen their understanding of and further define the local issues and challenges around refugee integration, SoCentral organised an experimentation process supported by SIC partner the Danish Technological Institute (DTI). This process followed a specific design methodology and included three phases, namely the definition of local challenges, the co-creation of solutions and the development of these solutions. In facilitating each of these phases, SoCentral made use of innovation tools and resources in the SIC Learning Repository.

As SoCentral is experienced in bringing together people from multiple sectors, the organization was able to engage a large and diverse group of participants (public sector, business, social entrepreneurs, business, civil society). Encouraged by DTI, the project leaders stepped out of their comfort zones and SoCentral went outside of its primary network by inviting larger private sector companies to be involved. These companies included a cleaning company, a bank, a tourist information centre and a consultancy firm, and termed as the ‘unusual suspects’ with regards to the integration of refugees in the workforce.

The experimentation process resulted in a number of solutions, namely:

  • Employer network : The network consists of individuals working in different organizations who are willing to host a refugee as a language intern in their institution. The network serves as a tool for job seekers to find employers willing to host refugees, and for employers to connect and exchange experiences with other employers who are hosting refugees. One member of the network will have experience in hosting refugee interns. This coordinator will host monthly meetings, be available for questions between meetings, and facilitate contact with the Social Welfare Administration.
  • Integration day : The solution aims to facilitate cross-sector collaborations and communication for all the various initiatives, public offices, NGOs, social entrepreneurs and private sector employers in Oslo working to include refugees in the workforce. Through a series of regular breakfast events, SoCentral aims to forge connections between these actors, and help them to organize and familiarize themselves with all the other initiatives existing in this field.

In addition to these solutions, the experimentation process led to a redefinition of SoCentral’s mission. The organization intends to nurture its  role as a facilitator of SI processes. In so doing, it wants to facilitating the process of bringing together actors around a certain topic over a longer period of time, rather than organizing separate singular events. SoCentral will continue to create a peer-to-peer learning community that shares lessons and best practices when it comes to employing and educating refugees and migrants. Also, the municipality has adapted some of its programs in collaboration with SoCentral during this process, and has included social entrepreneurs and SI conditions into some of its funding schemes for social issues. Thus, the social innovation ecosystem in Oslo has changed and became more receptive through this experimentation process.