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Innovation for Integration

Action for children and youth on the run

When tens of thousands of unaccompanied children and youth came to Sweden in 2015, The Stenbeck Stiftelse and Reach for Change realized that action was needed, and it was needed fast. A few months later, the initiative Innovation for Integration was launched. During the years since, the foundations have supported seven social entrepreneurs and together they have developed solutions to improve the situation for unaccompanied children and youth in Sweden.

During a few days at the end of 2015, Reach for Change stopped all ongoing operation. For several months, there had been talks about an oncoming refugee crisis, and now it had reached Sweden. Every day, thousands of people arrived in Sweden on the run from war, poverty, and oppression. At Stockholm Central station and other places, groups of volunteers mobilized to show support and give the newly arrived urgent care and other help. In total, millions of people had, in a relatively short period of time, fled from their home countries in the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia, to escape war, poverty, and oppression. Among those who made it to Sweden, there were 35,000 children and youth who had either fled on their own or been separated from their families on the way. Extremely vulnerable children who not only needed urgent help, but also a chance to create a whole new life. The question for Reach for Change was what they could do for this group. Many ideas were discussed, and some tested in a smaller scale. Soon, the conclusion was drawn that the most effective thing they could do was to build on the model that they had developed for over five years. Another conclusion was that it was urgent, and that they would not be able to take on the challenge on their own.

Innovation for Integration is a thematic initiative that was launched by Reach for Change in 2016 to improve the living conditions for unaccompanied children and youth with support from the Stenbeck Foundation. Within the framework of the initiative, seven social entrepreneurs have received support to develop solutions that contribute to improved mental well-being, language skills, and social networks. The social entrepreneurs who have participated in the program are Mitt Livs Val, Kompis Sverige, IT-guide, Right to Play Sweden, The Good Talents, Kidnovation, and Barnrättsbyrån.

“As with all of the Stenbeck Foundation's investments, a high priority was that the children and youth's own voices should be heard. It is only in close collaboration with the target group that the projects become successful.”

In the beginning of 2016, Reach for Change launched the initiative Innovation for Integration in collaboration with the Stenbeck Foundation and Tele2. The plan was to identify strong social entrepreneurs and together develop, test, improve, and spread solutions that improve the living conditions of unaccompanied children and create new paths into society. Four years later, seven social entrepreneurs have received support to develop new solutions that improve the situation for unaccompanied minors.

- I remember when they said GO! I felt that now I have to keep what was promised – and exceed it, says Sofia Appelqvist, founder of Mitt Liv and one of the first social entrepreneurs that was contacted. In the initial conversations between Sofia and Reach for Change, an idea grew about a mentorship program that strengthens the unaccompanied minors’ opportunities to enter society through education. Today, the program Mitt Livs Val, is established in both Gothenburg and Stockholm.

“As with all of the Stenbeck Foundation's investments, a high priority was that the children and youth's own voices should be heard. It is only in close collaboration with the target group that the projects become successful.”

“I remember when they said GO! I felt that now I have to keep what was promised – and exceed it.”

Another program that was launched is Right to Play Sweden, that strengthens integration through sports. “Reach for Change contacted Right to Play globally to discuss the possibility of starting a new operation in Sweden. That was the start of everything, and since then, we have been able to scale up together with Reach for Change and benefit from their knowledge and support,” says Anna Lindh, head of operations for Right to Play Sweden.

One part of the program has been an ongoing follow-up of the effect on the target group. For some of the entrepreneurs, this has meant that they have reevaluated initial assumptions and changed their method. In 2019, external researchers conducted an evaluation that showed that the programs have led to statistically significant improvements for the target group in mental well-being, language skills, and social belonging. According to research, these factors are crucial for a successful establishment in society.

When tens of thousands of unaccompanied children and youth came to Sweden in 2015, The Stenbeck Stiftelse and Reach for Change realized that action was needed, and it was needed fast. A few months later, the initiative Innovation for Integration was launched. During the years since, the foundations have supported seven social entrepreneurs and together they have developed solutions to improve the situation for unaccompanied children and youth in Sweden.

During a few days at the end of 2015, Reach for Change stopped all ongoing operation. For several months, there had been talks about an oncoming refugee crisis, and now it had reached Sweden. Every day, thousands of people arrived in Sweden on the run from war, poverty, and oppression. At Stockholm Central station and other places, groups of volunteers mobilized to show support and give the newly arrived urgent care and other help. In total, millions of people had, in a relatively short period of time, fled from their home countries in the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia, to escape war, poverty, and oppression. Among those who made it to Sweden, there were 35,000 children and youth who had either fled on their own or been separated from their families on the way. Extremely vulnerable children who not only needed urgent help, but also a chance to create a whole new life. The question for Reach for Change was what they could do for this group. Many ideas were discussed, and some tested in a smaller scale. Soon, the conclusion was drawn that the most effective thing they could do was to build on the model that they had developed for over five years. Another conclusion was that it was urgent, and that they would not be able to take on the challenge on their own.

Innovation for Integration is a thematic initiative that was launched by Reach for Change in 2016 to improve the living conditions for unaccompanied children and youth with support from the Stenbeck Foundation. Within the framework of the initiative, seven social entrepreneurs have received support to develop solutions that contribute to improved mental well-being, language skills, and social networks. The social entrepreneurs who have participated in the program are Mitt Livs Val, Kompis Sverige, IT-guide, Right to Play Sweden, The Good Talents, Kidnovation, and Barnrättsbyrån.

“As with all of the Stenbeck Foundation's investments, a high priority was that the children and youth's own voices should be heard. It is only in close collaboration with the target group that the projects become successful.”

In the beginning of 2016, Reach for Change launched the initiative Innovation for Integration in collaboration with the Stenbeck Foundation and Tele2. The plan was to identify strong social entrepreneurs and together develop, test, improve, and spread solutions that improve the living conditions of unaccompanied children and create new paths into society. Four years later, seven social entrepreneurs have received support to develop new solutions that improve the situation for unaccompanied minors.

- I remember when they said GO! I felt that now I have to keep what was promised – and exceed it, says Sofia Appelqvist, founder of Mitt Liv and one of the first social entrepreneurs that was contacted. In the initial conversations between Sofia and Reach for Change, an idea grew about a mentorship program that strengthens the unaccompanied minors’ opportunities to enter society through education. Today, the program Mitt Livs Val, is established in both Gothenburg and Stockholm.

“As with all of the Stenbeck Foundation's investments, a high priority was that the children and youth's own voices should be heard. It is only in close collaboration with the target group that the projects become successful.”

Another program that was launched is Right to Play Sweden, that strengthens integration through sports. “Reach for Change contacted Right to Play globally to discuss the possibility of starting a new operation in Sweden. That was the start of everything, and since then, we have been able to scale up together with Reach for Change and benefit from their knowledge and support,” says Anna Lindh, head of operations for Right to Play Sweden.

One part of the program has been an ongoing follow-up of the effect on the target group. For some of the entrepreneurs, this has meant that they have reevaluated initial assumptions and changed their method. In 2019, external researchers conducted an evaluation that showed that the programs have led to statistically significant improvements for the target group in mental well-being, language skills, and social belonging. According to research, these factors are crucial for a successful establishment in society.

“I remember when they said GO! I felt that now I have to keep what was promised – and exceed it.”

“Reach for Change has encouraged us and challenged us to rethink our work and take new approaches in order to finally arrive at a method for how we work with youth,” says Natassia Fry, founder of Kompis Sverige, an organization that facilitates for newly arrived youth to make friends with Swedish youth. She also points to the value of being connected with other social entrepreneurs who work with the same target group. “The exchange of experiences with the other entrepreneurs has been important, the network has always been a source of energy and new perspectives.” Like many of the other organizations, Kompis Sverige has begun to scale their program towards impact on a national level. Within their participation in the program, they have expanded their program for unaccompanied minors to 8 municipalities across Sweden. By 2019, a total of 2,000 unaccompanied minors and newly arrived youth had been reached by the organizations in the Innovation for Integration program. All of the entrepreneurs state that the support from Reach for Change has played an important part in their growth, and two thirds say that it has been a determining factor.

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