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4IM: Revitalising Miskolc by empowering marginalised communities

May 27, 2024 | News

Mayor of Miskolc, Mr Pál Veres kicking off the 4IM project closing conference on 7 May 2024 

“Miskolc is a caring city”, was the opening remark of the Mayor of Miskolc, Mr Pál Veres kicking off the 4IM project closing conference on 7 May 2024. The event gathered together consortium partners, project participants and stakeholders to showcase their achievements, discuss the challenges encountered during the past two and a half years, and share their hopes for the future. 

In implementing the project, the Municipality of Miskolc took on the issue of poverty, utilising social innovation tools, techniques and ideas to try to improve the situation of the city’s most marginalised citizens. The consortium, made up of five partners, rallied around the motto of “Miskolc is a place for everyone” to tackle poverty and create a sustainable model for the social and economic integration in the city’s poorest neighbourhoods.

In this industrial city in the northeast of Hungary, about 10,000 people, out of a population of 145,000, live in 16 neighbourhoods affected by severe poverty. The project focused on two neighbourhoods, Bábonyibérce and Tetemvár, with a majority Roma population, where 40 to 60 percent of inhabitants face extreme poverty.

4IM is helping residents of these marginalised neighbourhoods by improving access to social services, developing an innovative and scalable model of integration service delivery that coordinates social, educational, and employment services, and by providing vocational training, job search assistance, and access to childcare and education. The key focus of the model is to render these social services and supporting resources readily available in the neighbourhoods, integrating them into the local community.  

Reversing “learned helplessness” 

One of the approaches piloted in the project was “Community Coaching”. This provides an inclusive and participatory method for working with marginalised groups: it views the community members as “clients” who actively participate in the development of their community. They are encouraged to set their own goals for improvements and manage their own expectations, thereby taking ownership of the community. The Community Coaches serve primarily as catalysers for the community, ensuring that changes are sustained even after the coach leaves. This is a key step towards addressing learned helplessness, where individuals feel trapped in difficult situations and therefore lack the motivation to try to improve their conditions, leading to passivity, frustration and disappointment. 

Rózika Gulyás Béláné , resident of the Tetemvár neighbourhood, and Ádám Zakár, the Community Coach of the Tetemvár neighbourhood  

Ádám Zakár, the Community Coach of the Tetemvár neighbourhood, working alongside the Order of Malta, identifies the first step towards to creating self-sustaining, and self-motivating communities as gaining the trust and support of the local residents, an approach that takes time to develop, but has ultimately been welcomed by the local community.

“I can see a positive change since Ádám and the Order of Malta have been here. They help with everything. They helped me write a resume and sent my CV to several places so that I could find a job,” remarked Rózika Gulyás Béláné, a resident of the neighbourhood, who talks gratefully about the work of the community coach and The Hungarian and Charity Service of the Order of Malta.  

Community garden in the Tetemvár neighbourhood 

The Hungarian Charity Service of the Order of Malta, a non-governmental organisation, has been actively working in the Tetemvár neighbourhood since 2018, addressing long-term issues such as housing, unemployment, and environmental problems like illegal waste. The organisation’s Programme Leader Szebasztian Halás built trust with the local residents and supports them with everyday issues, but highlights the importance of involving the local government in Tetemvár: “If the local government is involved, residents can come forward and share their problems. I hope they will be present in a consistent and systematic way in the future.” 

The work has only just started 

Employment and job security have been the fundamental issues identified during the course of the project. The Social Innovation Resource Centre, a local support centre, has provided the locals with regular on-site career guidance whereby participants received training and guidance on how to choose a profession, present themselves during interviews, prepare a CV and showcase their skills to potential employers.  

Also, access to childcare services has enabled parents to enter the labour market and provide for their families. Consequently, their children have gained access to the education system, enabling their further integration into the system of municipal services, and boosting multigenerational integration. 

Prof. Zsuzsanna Török from the University of Miskolc described the project’s immediate impact.  “I’m not saying life has become easy, but the fact that a mother with a small child has reached a point where the child can go to school or a nursery and she can get a job, is significant. She trusts herself now.”

As multiple project participants pointed out, the work has only just started. The deeply rooted problems affecting these communities have developed over years and will take just as long to resolve – an additional reason for which the project has promoted the multigenerational approach. 

Creating cities for everyone 

The 4IM project has made significant steps towards sustainable social integration of marginalised groups living in poverty in Miskolc, notably by developing methodologies and pilots that can be integrated into policies at local, national and even international levels. This work proves to be all the more noteworthy considering that of the nine projects funded by Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI) strand of the European Social Fund (ESF), 4IM was the only one selected in Central Europe – a region where many cities and regions face similar problems.  

Creating long lasting change will take more time and sustainable funding and support by all levels of government, but the groundwork done during the 4IM project can make Miskolc a model for other cities in the region so that each can “be a place for everyone”.