Home-Hame-Дом-Dom was a creative learning project, bringing people from different backgrounds together to build a sense of community and belonging in the North East. The project aimed to facilitate deeper engagement of Eastern European migrant communities and encourage meaningful integration with the indigenous populations, as social isolation and loneliness were identified as a considerable issue for parents and older migrants.
The evaluation report describes how activities and events, such as photography, sewing, and dance, helped participants from diverse cultural backgrounds increase their sense of connectedness and integration. In a follow-up survey both migrant and Scottish participants reported positive outcomes, including meeting new people, making new friends and professional contacts, learning new skills or developing existing ones, learning something new about other cultures, and improving language skills and confidence.
Building personal connections was very important to participants, especially as isolation increased during lockdowns, and connections tended to ‘ripple out’ into generating more connections. The project helped to improve integration and gave participants an opportunity to express their feelings, and also created moments of serendipity, when unexpected opportunities arose.
There were several relevant lessons learned through the implementation of this project:
- Translating the project documentation into the main community languages attracted a wider range of participants.
- Polish and Doric classes challenged English as the only important language for integration.
- Language skills developed informal methods – there are other options to learn a language besides a formal class, with images and videos key to making learning accessible.
- Learning through practical activities worked well to bring people together and integrate without focusing explicitly on language and integration. The creative nature of the activities helped to engage participants, shifting focus away from what might be perceived as threatening or embarrassing, and technology (e.g., translation apps) helped people to learn together.
- Spaces played a relevant role, as community centres did not attract migrants to participate. Acknowledging the need for flexibility, venues were identified that had meaning for participants, so they felt welcomed and safe.
- Fostering cultural democracy was important, along with making all activities as non-hierarchical as possible. All forms and expressions of culture were valued equally – including vernacular culture. Co-creation and process took priority over the ‘end product’ of the arts activities.
It should be noted that this is a summary of lessons learned – the full report includes more detail and examples.