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Human dignity in a more liveable city: social innovation tackling the problems of Miskolc

Jul 27, 2023 | News

Residents of Tetemvár discuss with project participants.

The Municipality of Miskolc in Hungary is making good progress in its “4IM” project, funded by the European Union under the name of “City Initiative for Innovative and Integrated Social Services and the Development of Employment”, and supported by AEIDL.

Drawing on international examples of integration in deprived areas, the 4IM consortium is bringing about structural changes in the city’s social and employment services, focusing on the segregated Roma neighbourhoods of Bábonyibérc and Tetemvár.

To address the fragmented institutional structure and the high number of organisations linked to the neighbourhoods, the city has set up a pilot organisation for coordination. The Social Innovation Resource Centre (SIRC) will take a new approach, based on the specific needs of the residents of Bábonyibérc and Tetemvár with a common goal in mind.

The SIRC is coordinating the resources of existing public and municipal institutions, NGOs and professional organisations to improve cooperation, joint intervention and action, and processes management.

The work of the first months shows that the new institutional approach in the two areas, has been well received by locals, as the first joint programmes and events have begun.

Actions based on local understanding.

A household-level survey was carried out prior to the preparation of the Action Plans to complement the available and spatially relevant databases. The survey focused on the housing, education, employment, and community needs of local people. In the spirit of learning, the project used the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) methodology for the survey, which has already been tested in other cities.

Community coaching: The involvement of community coaches – an innovative approach in itself – has proven to be an important tool for cooperation with local people. The coaching methodology helped local people to identify and articulate their community’s needs. This is in line with the community participation processes launched by the city in 2020 and the participation concept adopted by the assembly of the Municipality.

Walkway renovation: The project brought locals together to renovate the path between Bábonyiérc and the bus stop, providing an excellent example of cooperation and coexistence with the urban majority. Thanks to this, locals can now take the bus without getting wet and muddy, and go to work or school with dignity. By solving this single problem, many issues of appearance, hygiene and social perception have been tackled.

Community centre: A major problem for the city government has been its lack of properties in the two communities to provide access points for local people. However, the municipality has managed to place a house at the disposal of local residents in Bábonyibérc to provide a community events venue, where members of the community of any age group can come together for events, as well as holding forums on the issues that concern them.

Children’s activities: Numerous children’s programmes have been implemented under the mentoring plan. Activities have brought together children from the Bábonyibérc community and beyond to play games, attend theatre visits, make a raised bed garden, and learning foreign languages. If children work together, there is hope for everything, say the programme’s organisers.

Collecting rubbish together: Miskolc belongs to everyone, say the consortium participants. This attitude was confirmed by the Spring 2023 litter picking, where people living in the neighbourhood and the surrounding areas worked together to clean up the space.

Sustainable change

The mission of the 4IM project is to help residents of Bábonyibérc and Tetemvár understand that they can work together to improve conditions, and that nothing will change without them. Working with the Integrated Development Consortium, they have the chance to improve their economic and living conditions. By empowering local actors, the project is facilitating change that will continue beyond the lifetime of the project.

Andrea Varga, Deputy Mayor for Human Services said, on behalf of the consortium leader, the City of Miskolc, “Tackling the legacy of the past and the problems that are recurring today are the most important social tasks of Miskolc. We need to do something about this for the future of the city. To be able to integrate all the under-developed areas, we need to know what to do and how to do it. The project is about developing a methodology in two selected neighbourhoods, together with local people, which can then be used in all the areas concerned. The aim is to make people become an integral part of the city’s society. We are building mutually beneficial connectivity and coexistence through initiatives that create dialogue at individual and micro-community levels. If we can develop a sense of achievement and progress for all actors, then with the developed methodology we will have a chance for change in other lagging neighbourhoods.”

In the coming months, we will provide detailed insights into the project, from the history and of the deprived areas, and updating on the current situation of the people living there, to the work of the volunteer communities and their participants, to the collective successes in social innovation in Miskolc that can be applied elsewhere.