Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?
Diverse communities are increasingly segregated from native Swedish society, which can begin as soon as a newcomer arrives. Upon arrival, newcomers receive varying levels of benefits depending on their immigration status. This may include asylum, education, loans, and information about how a person can live and contribute to Swedish society. These are often not the social benefits that solve the full range of social challenges of new immigrants. Moreover, the government pays a high price for these offerings as well as for the increasing number of those who do not excel within rigid social structures, which can overlook individual strengths and potential. Furthermore, existing social work efforts to improve integration for new arrivals– both initiated by the state and civil society – target primarily immigrant areas rather than the neighborhoods where native Swedes live as well. This results in misconceptions about what diversity means – both among the immigrant and native Swedish populations. In fact, more than 40% of children with an immigrant background live in majority immigrant areas. Simultaneously 55% of all children with a Swedish background live in majority native Swedish neighbourhoods. This segregation manifests in the makeup of schools, too. In many schools, students come from only one or several social backgrounds. Native Swedish children, for example, can go through the school system with little contact with those from backgrounds other than their own, and vice versa.
Working with an outdated institutional framework that promotes assimilation and social conformity over diversity, society and schools in particular fail to draw upon the individual strengths and assets of children and teenagers. Moreover, the current national conversation about immigration in Sweden – fruitlessly oriented toward the problems rather than solutions – can easily further the gap between native Swedes and the various groups of new arrivals if not redirected more constructively. Despite the region’s comparatively open-door policies and resources for immigrants, new arrivals and, in particular, young people can struggle for years to pursue their aspirations and find their way as full economic citizens. They can easily become locked into their status quo, struggling to find the steps to shape their own futures. Young people – regardless of background – must build relationships with their peer groups, find their way at school, surmount bullying, build confidence, and identify role models during their school years.
Society as a whole, including schools, the business sector, municipalities, the education system, law enforcement, and local associations, lacks an integrated approach to fostering and developing today’s newly diverse Scandinavian context. Increased flexibility, tools, communication, and role modeling are required to build a generation of young people willing to take important risks and build sustainable relationships.
Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!
In 2010, Admir founded Idrott Utan Gränser (IUG), which translates to “Sports Without Borders” in English, with a mission to cultivate a generation of young people eager to take necessary risks and responsibility to shape their lives. Admir makes new use out of existing, underutilized spaces - including PE classrooms, playgrounds, and schoolyards during afterschool, weekend, and holiday hours – in order to promote active learning and new relationships across social groups. IUG young leaders facilitate activities in these spaces, thereby attracting youth from diverse backgrounds and ages to engage in unique combinations of sports, play, and hands-on role modeling. IUG young leaders, often from immigrant backgrounds and young in age as well, become a system of support and mentorship for the participants, in particular those from immigrant backgrounds.
Beyond its work directly with youth, Admir and his organization, IUG, use its approach with play and young people as a tool to encourage society at large to function more collaboratively. IUG’s methodology inside and outside of schools creates new interactions between local associations, schools, teachers, universities, governance, the business sector, and law enforcement, in ways previously missing from society. IUG enables diverse groups in Sweden – from the youth it engages all the way to the municipality leadership – to meet and change their views of each other in unexpected ways, unleashing new role models. Consequentially, IUG shifts the current conversation about integration of immigrants in a more positive direction through highlighting the potential of role models from diverse backgrounds.
IUG creates a win-win interactive program by building networks and personal relationships that break down the barriers in society so children and teenagers build positive experiences out of failures and have an opportunity to incubate their own ideas and develop their entrepreneurial skills. Since its inception in 2010, Admir has built IUG into a nationwide movement of thousands of young people, dozens of schools, corporations, and sports clubs, as well as teachers and municipality leadership all contributing and participating in its work with young people in Sweden.