Going extra-large in Oslo

16/07/2019

There is no ‘one size fits all’ integration solution, but Oslo tends towards ‘extra-large.’ ‘Everyone who lives in Oslo has equal access to municipal services. They will experience equal treatment every time they go to the municipal office, school, a youth club or a nursing home.’ This is the basis of the inclusion strategy ‘Oslo Extra Large (OXLO), a city for all.’

OXLO also serves as a guide for businesses and organisations for integration and support to vulnerable groups, including migrants, and offers funding and support for voluntary organisations.
Cities know that given the right support, migrants can be a great asset. The incubator Toyen Unlimited realises this potential by helping young people, including migrants, space to develop their own entrepreneurial ideas for solving social challenges.

Some truly incredible initiatives have sprung up from Toyen Unlimited. Among these is CaféB04, where young people can enjoy social activities, job search counselling and homework help. Conceived by Shad Ibrahim Hussein, the café began as a volunteer run initiative, but has been so successful that it has upgraded its workers to paid employees. It is hard to estimate the impact that such migrant-run spaces can have; “Had it not been for this place, I’d have been on the street” commented one user of the service.

There are also T-Town Youth and Wide-Ink, both conceived by Wid Al-Saedy, a political refugee haling from Iraq. Herself a long-time volunteer, Al-Saedy thought of creating organisations that would use a mix of volunteers and employees, and would leverage volunteering as a way to gain work experience and integrate with the local community.

To support volunteer-run organisations, Oslo has a volunteer centre in each district, which provide a framework for volunteering. Schools and libraries are also obliged to give space to any local association that requires it.

During the VALUES cluster visit to Oslo, the cities of Amsterdam, Dusseldorf and Thessaloniki took in all of these best practices, and worked together with Oslo, with the support of EUROCITIES, MigrationWork, and the European Volunteer Centre to develop an action plan for further progress.

Oslo’s first step will be to improve their mapping of the different organisations working on integration, including NGOs, volunteers and businesses. There are few regulations surrounding volunteer work in Oslo, which makes it easier for innovation to spring up, but this also makes it more difficult for the city to keep track of the many initiatives that are active in its territory.

Increasing this oversight, strengthening anti-discrimination measures and working on a simplified version of the OXLO inclusion goals that can be mainstreamed throughout the city are all targets Oslo will pursue as part of VALUES. In the meantime, the other cities on the visit will be fitting themselves for an XL size.