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  • Global Leeds

An Exchange of Ideas with Dortmund

Pria Bhabra, Migration Programme Manager and Geoff Turnbull Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Manager have returned from our twin city Dortmund where they have been sharing ideas about how both cities work with migrant communities, tackle racism and promote equality.

Pria visited a range of projects which were either council led or voluntary sector. One particular organisation called MigraDo opened a day after the Ukraine War to support crisis management. An information centre working closely with MigraDo is the first point of contact where service users are signposted to the right service. The city has approximately 7500-8000 Ukrainians in the city and MigraDo supports a range of nationalities, the top one being Romanian, of whom 80% are Roma. We will continue further discussions to share good practice.

In Dortmund, these projects benefit from good funding and a considerable presence of social workers within neighbourhoods, as well as trained conflict managers to address issues through mediation.

Dortmund have a pool of volunteer translators has been established to provide low level support particularly in schools and they are provided €15 per hour to recognise their contribution. They have 60 translators who speak 30 languages.

Pria says "The success of this project is certainly good practice to share with Leeds where we are developing a Leeds Volunteer Interpreting Service."

Dortmund's House of Diversity building is an old school which is now used for community groups to come together. The House of Diversity has 70 community organisations registered and charges a €120 annual fee. "This is an excellent resource for communities and something similar could benefit the many communities in Leeds. Leeds Refugee Forum provides a similar process but on a much smaller scale" says Pria.

Community funding is also available for education, social integration, multiculturalism and employment support. Up to €5000 can be applied for local projects.

"Just like Leeds, Dortmund has a great can-do attitude towards welcoming new migrants, but with much greater access to resources" says Pria.

Geoff took the opportunity to discuss challenges that both cities face in tackling racism and promoting equality share what we are doing in Leeds.

Geoff says "Dortmund is involved in the European Coalition of Cities Against Racism which is a currently untapped opportunity for Leeds which might tie into our work to refresh and reposition LeedsRace4Equality.

"We also talked through oursupport for the 2nd August commemoration of the Roma Holocaust. This is something Leeds could consider as part of our genocide commemoration programme, which currently includes Holocaust Memorial Day, as well as remembering the Srebrenica and Rwanda genocides."

The city of Dortmund has a strong record on countering right wing activity, linked both to their experience of Nazism (the city celebrates the liberation day from Nazi rule) and the rise of right-wing extremism again in recent years.

They have a strong focus on online radicalisation and countering antisemitism and misogyny/anti-feminism.

The visit to the Equal Opportunities Office was an opportunity to learn more around some of the key campaigns that are supported by the city. They have a budget of approx. £500,000 which gives them the opportunity to deliver some high cost public campaigns. This includes ‘Mein Herz Schlagt fur Gleichstellung’ which translates as ‘my heart beats for equality’.

The Equal Opportunities Office have a strong focus on improving sex equality. Germany and Dortmund's representation of women at senior levels, equal pay and in political representation lags behind the UK and Leeds.

Campaigns and activity include Total E-Quality around women in leadership (which involves a collaboration with the University), a research project on professional career trajectories, a she for democracy campaign to get more women involved in politics and support for the Istanbul Convention around violence against women.

The city has an annual equal pay march through the city centre, which is attended by the mayor and involves the trade unions. It is both a call for further and faster progress as well as a celebration of women and is heavily supported by male allies.

Geoff and Pria also attended a meeting with the Department of Labour, Health and Social Affairs where the focus was on neighbourhood and social cohesion.

"It was really useful to talk about their strategy against poverty and exclusion which has similarities with our own Locality work," says Geoff. "They also hold a big annual festival called DortBund to celebrate all of their communities, and they have a strong focus on taking these big cultural events out into their local communities. The best equivalent I can think of would be celebrating something like Light Night at a local or district level. They are also trialling bringing privately owned spaces into public use by partnering with private landowners."

Now that they are back in Leeds, Geoff and Pria will be sharing their inspiration with colleagues, and considering how some of the ideas of our partner cities might improve the way we go about our work in Leeds.

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