SIMRA Innovation Action holds promise for a new narrative of refugee inclusion.
Social Innovation in Marginalised Rural Areas (SIMRA) is a Horizon 2020 funded project aiming to explore social innovation and innovative governance in agriculture, forestry and rural development – how these function and how to boost them – with a special focus on marginalised rural areas across Europe.
Eastern Norway Research Institute (ENRI) is one of 26 partners participating in the project, with the Innovation Action (IA) taking place in the rural area of Gudbrandsdalen, in Oppland county.
Translating action into a rural setting
Mari Bjerck of ENRI stresses that the treatment of refugees should not focus on a single track – basic needs or social integration – but rather on the two as complementing parallel processes.
The IA supports a local branch of the Norwegian Trekking Association. It is currently working on building a bridge between the local community and newly settled refugees, through activities such as hikes and trips.
In the long term, the IA aims at maintaining population numbers and even contributing to population growth, as well as contributing to the mental and physical health of the rural community as a whole.
It is the human interaction and connections that are made, which change the narrative of refugee inclusion, according to Bjerck.
Eastern Norway Research Institute (ENRI) was established in 1984 as a private autonomous non-profit foundation.
On January 1st 2019, ENRI was established as a part of INN University.
Up to 20% of the institute’s funding is from the Research Council of Norway, with the remaining percentage assigned through project funding.
ENRI has three main areas of focus: regional development, wilderness and mountain regions, and welfare.