Social Cohesion and Communication Skills Training Programmes
The project in brief
The project is implemented by Presidency for Turks Abroad and Related Communities (YTB), Ministry of Culture and Tourism in Türkiye. It began in January 2021. The project is implemented on a yearly basis which can be extended with the joint decision of the UNHCR and YTB.
In 2022, nine training programs in nine cities in Türkiye were conducted with the participation of 1000 students. As a complementary, in 2023, five Trainings of Trainers (ToTs) was delivered to Turkish and Syrian students under temporary protection, persons under international protection and other person of concern to help them spread the knowledge they gained during the training.
The main goals of the project include:
- Fostering Social Cohesion: The primary goal of the project is to promote greater social cohesion among Syrian and Turkish university students in Türkiye. This involves building trust, understanding and positive relationships among individuals from diverse backgrounds, ultimately contributing to a more inclusive and harmonious society.
- Enhancing Communication Skills: An important aim of the programme is to improve the communication skills of participating students with the ideas that an effective communication is essential for resolving conflicts, promoting understanding and building stronger relationships.
- Conflict Resolution Training: By delivering conflict resolution training, the project aims to equip students with the skills and knowledge needed to peacefully address conflicts and disputes, both within the student community and in broader societal contexts.
- Capacity Building Through Training of Trainers (ToTs): Another key aim is to build a pool of trainers among the Turkish and Syrian students who can continue to spread the knowledge and skills acquired during the programme. These trainers will play a pivotal role in creating a positive ripple effect by conducting further trainings for their peers.
- Targeting Specific Groups: The programme aims to address the needs of various groups, including those under temporary protection, international protection, status holders, and other persons of concern. This demonstrates an inclusive approach to social cohesion and capacity building.
- Geographical Coverage: The project's goal includes reaching students in various cities across Türkiye, as evidenced by the nine cities where training programmes were conducted in 2022 and five cities in 2023.
Main activities of the Good Practice
The project's core activities put in centre the training workshops for Syrian and Turkish university students. These workshops aim to impart vital skills related to social cohesion and communication, covering topics such as conflict resolution, intercultural communication, active listening, and relevant competencies. The goal is to foster a harmonious and interconnected community among students.
Geographical expansion is a key aspect of the initiative, with activities spanning multiple Turkish cities, particularly those with a substantial Syrian population. This strategic approach ensures accessibility for a diverse group of students from different backgrounds and regions.
In 2023, the project introduced Training of Trainers (ToTs), designed to prepare select students to become trainers themselves. These individuals will lead their peers in conflict resolution training, promoting a "snowballing effect" where knowledge and skills cascade through the student community.
Community-building activities are integral, fostering social interaction and trust among participants, and enhancing social cohesion and a sense of belonging.
Monitoring and evaluation activities are implemented to assess the impact of the training programmes and make necessary adjustments based on feedback and results. Documentation and reporting provide transparency and evidence of the project's achievements.
Community engagement involves collaboration with the local community, universities, and relevant stakeholders, strengthening the project's reach and effectiveness.
The training content and methods are customized to address the specific needs and challenges faced by Syrian and Turkish university students in Türkiye, making the project tailored and responsive to their unique circumstances.
Elements which helped facilitate the implementation of the good practice
- Government Policies and Support: A welcoming and supportive legal and policy framework, such as policies that allow people under temporary protection and displaced persons to access education and work, created an enabling environment for this project.
- International Partnerships: Collaboration with UNHCR provided essential resources and funding to support the programme.
- Dedicated Funding: Access to dedicated development funding from UNHCR is essential for implementing this project.
- Community Engagement: Active engagement with the local community and key stakeholders is important. Building partnerships with universities, local authorities, and community organizations facilitated the programme's reach and acceptance.
- Qualified Trainers and Materials: Having qualified trainers and relevant training materials is essential for the success of these training programmes. Trainers (Conflictus team) have deep expertise in social cohesion and communication skills programme to equip participants with the qualified knowledge.
- Needs Assessment: Conducting a thorough needs assessment to understand the specific challenges and requirements of the Syrian and Turkish students is crucial. This helped to tailor the programme to meet the actual communicational needs of the participants.
- Cultural Sensitivity: Recognizing and respecting cultural differences is vital in creating that inclusive programme. Cultural sensitivity ensured that the training is relevant and acceptable to all participants.
- Monitoring and Evaluation: Ongoing monitoring and evaluation mechanisms helped in assessing the effectiveness of the programme and making necessary adjustments. This ensured that the programme remains responsive and adaptive.
- Sustainability Plan: Having a plan for the programme's sustainability is important. Training students as trainers, as mentioned in the programme, is one such strategy. It helps ensure that the impact of the programme can continue even after the initial implementation phase.
- United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
What challenges were encountered in delivering the project and how were they overcome?
- The occurrence of earthquakes in 2023 in the cities where the project was planned to be implemented presented significant obstacles. Since the disaster considerably affected the students and their families who are living in the earthquake region, it was needed to change the locations with the alternatives. Even if there is no direct damage, the earthquakes caused a profound impact on target audience.
- Working with a diverse group of students from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds presented minor challenges in communication, understanding, and cultural sensitivity. Some participants found it difficult to join a training programme in Turkish, albeit this was a relatively small group.
- Coordinating training sessions in multiple cities was sometimes logistically challenging, including travel, venue arrangements, and ensuring consistent quality across different locations.
- Ensuring active participation and engagement of students in training programmes was sometimes a challenge. Some students had competing commitments and were not initially inclined to participate.
- The "snowballing effect" strategy of training students to become trainers in some cases, required ongoing support and resources to sustain their motivations.
How they were overcome
- Alternative training locations that are safe and accessible were immediately identified to ensure that these locations meet the needs of the project and can accommodate the participants. Also, the timeline of the programmes was updated in the expectation that the psychological impact of the earthquake on the social level would diminish.
- Training materials in Turkish and Arabic were offered to participants.
- By working with a competent company in the field of organization to oversee logistics across different cities eased the logistical challenges.
- Continued support, mentoring, and resources were provided to the students who have been trained to become trainers. This included refresher courses, access to materials, and assistance in addressing challenges they face as trainers.
Results of the Good Practice
- Enhanced Social Cohesion: Fostering trust, understanding, and positive interactions among Syrians under temporary protection and host community members.
- Improved Communication Skills: Developing effective interpersonal and intercultural communication abilities.
- Conflict Resolution Proficiency: Acquiring peaceful conflict resolution skills to alleviate tensions and enhance overall well-being.
- Empowerment and Self-Esteem: Training students to become trainers empowers individuals, boosting self-esteem and a sense of agency.
- Cross-Cultural Understanding: Promoting deeper cultural understanding between individuals under temporary protection and the host community, reducing stereotypes and prejudices.
- Community Integration: Facilitating better integration of Syrians under temporary protection into the host community, expanding access to employment and social services.
- Psychosocial Well-being: Enhanced social cohesion, communication, and conflict resolution skills contribute to reduced stress and anxiety, benefiting participants' mental health.
In what way does the good practice meet one or more of the four objectives of the Global Compact on Refugees?
Objective 1: Ease the pressures on host countries
The project aims to foster social cohesion between Syrians under temporary protection and the host community, which can help alleviate social tensions and promote harmonious coexistence.
By providing training and educational opportunities, the programme contributes to the empowerment and integration of displaced people, potentially reducing the economic and social pressures on host communities.
Objective 2: Enhance refugee self-reliance
Training displaced people in communication skills, conflict resolution, and other essential skills empowers them to become more self-reliant. These skills can be valuable for finding employment, integrating into the host community, and making informed decisions about their future. The "snowballing effect" strategy, where Syrian students become trainers, promotes self-reliance by enabling them to take an active role in assisting their peers.
Objective 3: Expand access to third-country solutions
While the primary focus of the programme is on fostering social cohesion and self-reliance within the host community, the skills and education provided can also enhance the prospects of refugees who may seek third-country solutions, such as resettlement or education opportunities abroad. These skills make them more competitive in the global job market and better prepared for life beyond the host country.
It is expected that this project will continue in the next year to track the trainings that will be provided by the students.
Arife Pehlivan, Coordinator of Joint Scholarship Programmes, Presidency for Turks Abroad and Related Communities, Ministry of Culture and Tourism - [email protected]
Emirhan Yalçın, Assistant Expert in Joint Scholarship Coordination, Presidency for Turks Abroad and Related Communities, Ministry of Culture and Tourism - [email protected]