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CSIopinion: Co-defining local challenges and solutions with SoCentral

Hannah Rich from the Young Foundation caught up with Marie from SoCentral, in Oslo, to talk about the SIC experimentation process. As a host centre, SoCentral has the capacity for bringing people together around specific challenges. One of the local topics, which SoCentral's workshop participants have wanted to co-define a solution for, is addressing the issue of including refugees in the workplace.

How do you feel the process as a whole has gone so far?

What has been especially interesting has been being able to follow what we’ve been doing over such a long period of time. We started back in November and now we’re in April and we’re still able to be working on the same subject with some of the same people, who’ve met several times. We do a lot of one-off events and workshop so, for me, that has been really interesting.

What has been the key thing you have learned from the process?

I would say that it’s helpful for people when they’re trying to create something together to get to know each other over time and earn each other’s trust; to figure out that they can talk to people outside of their sector or line of work. It’s important to have these conversations, to find out what people are doing and if there’s opportunities for collaboration. I think if you just meet one time, in an event, then you don’t necessarily create that trust. You need to meet several times for that to be able to happen.

What has been the best moment of the process for you?

I think one of the most impressive things that’s happened is that one of the participants from one of the workshops has been able to set up a food stall with Syrian food sold by Syrian refugees. She is a refugee from Syria herself and only recently arrived in Norway. In the space of 6 weeks following the workshop, she was contacted by a Syrian chef and had a meeting with someone who gave her space for free and now they’re serving Syrian food every weekend in Oslo.

What would you do differently about the process?

It would maybe be good to have more time to plan each event because it felt like as soon as we’ve finished one event, we’ve had to jump straight into the next one. Maybe in the beginning if we’d had more time to plan the whole process and think through, we wouldn’t have felt so behind some of the time.

Has there been any particularly difficult moments you can think of?

For me, it’s been a challenge to lead and facilitate the workshops. That’s not something I’ve done before so things like standing in a workshop and managing the process was a challenge. I lead one of the workshops on my own and that was a huge learning experience for me, but it was definitely challenging.

How useful have you found the Learning Exchange Sessions?

What was useful for me was finally being able to see other people who were working with the same things, because up until that point, I hadn’t really felt connected to everyone else doing this process. So it was great to meet them, to hear what their experiences were and to really feel part of something. Also to see how different all the host centres are and the different things they’re doing.

Any other comments?

Our co-operation with our support centre has been really interesting and really fun because for us, they are someone we would never have come into contact with otherwise but they do lots of interesting projects which fit with what we do in other areas and on other levels too. So that’s been a great connection.

If you had to describe the process in 3 words, what would you say?

Challenging, collaborative, social.