TilburgTilburg’s “Language, Orientation and Participation” (TOP) programme
What is inspiring?
What makes TOP so inspiring is that it was born out of difficult circumstances – in response to a controversial Participation Statement that is concerned solely with the teaching of values and norms. Tilburg’s officials opted for a pragmatic and strategic approach. They saw an opportunity in the Participation Statement to have their say in the centrally coordinated national policy on integration, and developed a comprehensive inclusion programme spanning 12 weeks. Instead of focusing only on norms and values, Tilburg’s orientation programme is tailored to the different needs and interests of newcomers.
How does it operate?
The aim of the “Language, Orientation and Participation” course is to welcome newcomers to the city shortly after their arrival. At the heart of the inclusion programme is a Personal Action Plan that takes into consideration individual skills, competencies and interests. For example, the orientation workshops focus on participants getting to know the city and the facilities, services and welcoming initiatives in the neighbourhood.
What is the outcome?
Tilburg’s policy advisors wanted to make the harsh transition between life in reception centres and life with settled status easier. As a result of TOP, participation in the labour market and educational qualifications among refugees in Tilburg are higher than the national average. The national Ministry has adopted several measures developed in Tilburg and other progressive municipalities, such as the method of the Personal Action Plan, and incorporated them in the new Dutch Integration Act (which will come into force in 2022).
Who initiated the project? How?
Tilburg’s policymakers and political officials initiated TOP in response to the Participation Statement. The task of organising Participation Statement workshops falls upon Dutch municipalities, for which they receive financial support. Many Dutch municipalities stick to the bare minimum, as the law only requires a one-day workshop on Dutch norms and values followed by a ceremony. In Tilburg, however, the administration opted for the creation of an experimental pilot programme which has since become a groundbreaking success story.