Working groups

Through visits, interviews and collaboration with people across Europe, A World of Neighbours engages grassroots actors accompanying ‘people on the move‘.

Gathering in working groups, practitioners get to know each other, building bridges of understanding between people, cultures and religions.

Working group 1: Strengthening Receiving Communities

The first working group met in Scotland, in March 2019, addressing receiving communities.

Time to share and offer support

Many faith-based actors are deeply involved in helping ‘people on the move‘ to find their place in their new communities. While their collective knowledge is essential, practitioners nevertheless often feel isolated and in need of sharing and support, while the nature of their work is constantly changing over time – from responding to immediate needs, to enabling equal participation in society.

By sharing best practices A World of Neighbours network strengthens community resilience and envisions a society where we live side by side.

Working group 2: Practitioners

The second working group met in Ekerö, Sweden, in November 2019, addressing practitioners

The working group focused on a specific category of people engaged in the process of receiving people on the move – practitioners.

Practitioners have been defined as those who have one foot on the ground, directly taking part in the reception process, and one in the worldly structures, advocating in thedecision-making processes. They can be found at the train stations, in the docks, at the borders, at the airports, in the city centers, local neighborhoods, in their faith communities and at the demonstrations.

Preliminary research and site visits showed that they are often extremely skillful, and could well take on any other job, but they choose to do this particular kind of work. Many of them experienced dislocation in one way or another – either themselves, or through those they cared for. They often feel exhausted, are underpaid, and carry the burden of needs beyond those that can be met.

The participants of the working group noticed, that their primary tasks as practitioners focus around two elements: (1) accompaniment of people on the move, from their arrival, through primary reception, documentation and legalization of stay, to settling in, finding a job and building a community; and (2) social change, which can be effectuated in many ways.

By being involved in the reception processes, practitioners offer a valuable input in the wider discussion on migration issues. As they are involved in the process of recognizing needs, they can relate them to policymaking, and take an active part in advocacy and education.

Practitioners are the primary defenders of human rights in action – they are able to recognize their violation and react in an adequate way. They are able to act by themselves or engage necessary expertise to help those whose rights are not respected. They are able to offer guidance in difficult situation and emotional support in moments of crisis.

“For me, God tests us in different ways.
He challenges us to do the best we can with the means we have.”
Kajs Atallah

Practitioners struggle with a number of issues. Most often they feel a lack of support – both institutional and communal.

There is also growing lack of understanding for the humanitarian work. The growing political pressures to resist migration, and the growth of radical nationalistic movements, additionally limit resources and force practitioners to find creative ways of engaging in the reception processes.

Download full report on Working Group Practitioners

Working group 3: Media and narrative

The third working group met in Bratislava in June 2019.

Understanding the links between the news media and polarisation in society is essential. Journalists alongside various NGOs and grassroots organisations throughout Europe, contributed to the roundtable discussion on how narratives in the media shape the public’s perception of refugees and migrants.

Download full report on Working Group Narrative and Media

Working group 4: Social cohesion

The fourth working group met in Fisksätra, Stockholm in November 2019.

In tackling the coming major global challenges – of unprecedented migration and climate change – there was a sense of urgency within this working group of A World of Neighbors about the need to foster greater social cohesion. The group grappled with a number of critical questions and intriguing possibilities, all with an eye to grassroots engagement.

In academic and policy-making circles, the term social cohesion started to gain traction in the 1990s. This mirrored trends in moving from mono-cultures to rapidly pluralizing societies. In considering the degree to which a society is able to welcome and live together with ‘people on the move,’ the working group agree on this shared understanding of social cohesion as:

… the capacity of a community to draw on the assets of all sectors of society for its collective well-being, combining realism, openness and creativity in order to create a reservoir of trust, good will and resilience, so as to meet the practical challenges of living together with mutual respect and shared responsibility.

“If you are not at the table, you are probably on the menu.”
Rabbi Rebecca Lillian

Coming to grips with the value of diversity is essential, while acknowledging how difficult it can be. Nevertheless, with a commitment to unconditional regard for the other, expressed in deep listening and acceptance, new and often unexpected relationships, and meaningful collaboration, is possible.

Faith-based communities and their affiliated organisations need to be proactive as first-adopters and role models in this crucial work. In other words, instead of being bystanders, they can be upstanders.

Heterogeneous communities need to endure the discomfort of different ways of living and new ways of practicing old traditions. Each group within the heterogenic society will also have non-negotiables that need to be expressed and discussed.

Download full report on Working Group Social Cohesion

Working group 5: Policy Frameworks

The fifth working group met in Berlin in March 2019.

Representatives from faith communities together with representatives from the IOM, UNHCR and European Economic and Social Committee met to discuss the impact of policies concerning migration, asylum and refugee status on people on the move and on the receiving communities.


The working group in Berlin convened between the 18th and 20th of March 2019 focused on policy-making through the lens of religious communities as 2 receiving communities. These three days aimed at providing ways of encouragement and involvement of those who are most affected by the policies, but too often are not at the decision table. The working group was meant as a way for affiliated humanitarian organizations, and their partners in the broader civil society, to communicate their problems, needs and observations.

The following goals were used to organize discussions:

  • To consider the policy dimension to the work of receiving communities on with refugees, migrants, and other displaced persons in Europe.
  • To consider methodologies for addressing policy through advocacy (direct), and social norms and participatory democracy (indirect) approaches.
  • To mobilize the interreligious movement, in conjunction with other civil society actors, in fostering more effective and humane policy, at local, national, and European-wide levels.
  • To shape the work and strategy of the ‘World of Neighbors” initiative, and to enlist receiving communities into collaborative partnerships towards impacting policy in constructive ways.

The following report gathers the most important inputs provided by the participants coming from a number of organizations involved in advocacy on migration issues at local, regional, national and European levels.

Download full report on Working Group Policy Frameworks

Videos from working group 5, about Policy Frameworks:

Francesco Sciotto – A World of Neighbours from Svenska kyrkan on Vimeo.
Francesco Sciotto from Diaconia Valdese is interviewed during the working group “policy frameworks” in Berlin, March 2019. 

Anna Hjälm, A World of Neighbours from Svenska kyrkan on Vimeo.

Said Barkan – A World of Neighbours from Svenska kyrkan on Vimeo.
Said Barkan from Central Council of Muslims in Germany is interviewed during the working group “policy frameworks” in Berlin, March 2019.

Bernward Ostrop – A World of Neighbours from Svenska kyrkan on Vimeo.
Bernward Ostrop from Caritas in Germany is interviewed during the working group “policy frameworks” in Berlin, March 2019.

Jose Antonio Moreno Diaz – A World of Neighbours from Svenska kyrkan on Vimeo.
Jose Antonio Moreno Diaz from the European Economic and Social Committee – European Union – is interviewed during the working group “policy frameworks” in Berlin, March 2019.

Aniko Bakonyi – A World of Neighbours from Svenska kyrkan on Vimeo.
Aniko Bakonyi from Helsinki Committee – Hungary is interviewed during the working group “policy frameworks” in Berlin, March 2019.