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Clubs of People. Generating human connection without borders

Tackling xenophobia and fostering integration by bringing together people from different places to talk about life finding common ground.

Photo of Milagros Fonrouge
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What problem does the idea help to solve and how does your solution work? (2,000 characters maximum)

We are tracking the problem of integration people on the move face when they arrive to their countries of destination. Particularly, immigrants or refugees who have arrived recently and who lack connections and social networks to make it easier to find jobs, housing, understand local culture, and especially, to find wellbeing and a sense of belonging. In Argentina, this means people who have arrived from Venezuela in the past few years; and a smaller group of immigrants who are arriving from Syria though a private sponsorship program supported by the government. In our exchanges with immigrants from Syria, we’ve seen that establishing connections with local people is a huge challenge. There are few spaces to interact, and integration activities only target immigrants, failing to involve local people. Urban life can also be isolating, and generating human connections with new people is a challenge. We propose to create clubs, a format for people from all walks of life, all ages, different backgrounds and countries of origin to come together, with the idea of sharing a common experience. We are aware that sometimes xenophobia as well as stereotypes, misinformation or lack of shared spaces with immigrants can prevent local people from getting to know newcomers; and we believe that getting to know people, focusing on sharing, can help foster understanding and empathy that can impact the way they see other foreigners as well. Furthermore, it can allow them to develop meaningful human connections beyond nationalities. We want to create a format to facilitate these encounters, where diverse people are summoned to live a shared experience and connect; they can meet to share stories about a certain topic that is universal like love; attend a museum together; meet to discuss a book or movie, or to share a meal. We want to prototype this idea and develop a toolkit for people to host a club anywhere in the world, adapting it to the local culture or their particular interests

Geography of focus (500 characters)

This collaborative intervention could take place anywhere in the world, but for methodological purposes we will start targeting six cities in Latin America. Three of them in Argentina, where we will focus in Buenos Aires, which is the capital and where newcomers usually arrive, secondly a smaller city and thirdly a town situated in the rural area. The other three cities are located along the way between Caracas and Buenos Aires, as we hope to work on local integration at a regional level.

Building Bridges: What bridge does your idea build between people on the move and neighbors towards a shared future of stability and promise? (500 characters)

This collaborative intervention will build meaningful human connections based on the idea that no way of being is the only way possible. Those connections represent the opportunity to learn and unlearn from each other, deconstructing stereotypes, building trust and creating new pathways for people on the move. The club is the space where these connections come to life and set the bases for local integration to take place organically.

What human need is your idea solving for? (1,000 characters)

People who were forced to leave Venezuela and Syria lived traumatic experiences. On top of that, they arrive to a new culture with no financial or social capital and their livelihood opportunities are stretched while their emotional wellbeing is under constant threat in this scenario. The Clubs for people are spaces co-designed with newcomers and host communities to overcome those challenges by sharing social life, exchanging cultural experiences and fostering local integration. The participatory design process of these Clubs will empower and connect people who are part of this initiative. What is more, the type of activities that could take place in the Club such us choosing a film and discussing it in groups or going to a Museum together to talk about love, encourage getting diverse people together.

What will be different within the community of focus as a result of implementing your idea? (1,000 characters)

The community will be benefited with a better experience of integration of newcomers.. Newcomers will find friends and acquaintances that will give them social capital to begin with, a sense of belonging, a network of support and a more active participation in social life. This will make it easier for them to find jobs and other opportunities, and to navigate social norms and the local culture. Those involved and newcomers in general, will be benefited by the change in perspective from the host community participants, who will develop a better sense of empathy and understanding with newcomers, that they are likely to replicate in their own social circles. For host communities, this will be an opportunity to learn from new people and new cultures, open their minds, become key members of integration in their communities and acquire empathy and cultural sensitivity skills. For both newcomers and host community members, this will be an opportunity to generate meaningful human connection

What is the inspiration behind your idea? (1,000 characters)

This idea is inspired by the need to generate spaces for meaningful social connections in modern societies. Particularly, in the experiences of book clubs, a podcast listening club created by Radio Ambulante, and the collaborative media-related encounters organized by Chicas Poderosas. We find that when people are brought together with a specific goal, it’s easier to get them to connect and leave aside political, identity, ideological and other differences. Sharing a common experience and collaborating towards a common goal, even if it is for a brief moment, can change the way people perceive others, make them more empathetic, establish relationships, open to new ideas and likely to put themselves in the place of others. The idea of generating a format to replicate this clubs that, after being proprotyped, can be shared for others to organize and adapt, comes from the Listening Clubs created by Radio Ambulante podcast.

Describe the dynamics of the community in which the idea is to be implemented. (1,000 characters)

Currently, there are few effective policies targeting local integration. For example, in Argentina the government is currently supporting a private sponsorship program for Syrian refugees. However, this is hardly enough to achieve local integration. Syrians refugees do not speak Spanish and communicating is a major challenge. On top of this, organizations working closely with them, usually connect them with other newcomers in the same situation. Thus, it is hard for them to get to know their host community and build a safety net. Forced migrants from Venezuela do speak Spanish, which allows them to communicate easily but they have no connections, so they get underpaid jobs, if any. In Colombia and Peru, the situation is even harder. Moreover, local population in the above-mentioned countries is facing an unstable job market situation and high poverty levels, which impact negatively on the perception people have on migrants.

How does your idea leverage and empower community strengths and assets to help create an environment for success? (1,000 characters)

Our idea is to create a model for Clubs that can be adapted locally to the culture, interests and characteristics of the people who want to host them, anywhere in the world. We will create a format laying out some guidelines to foster human connections and proposing some activities that can help generate interactions, but the idea is that clubs can be created to gather people around any activity that can be carried out together and that focuses on something that others can relate to, always having in mind the end goal which is to generate meaningful human connections. This initial model will be created in collaboration with newcomers and host community participants, co-creating a format to empower them and give them ownership of the process and the idea. When we share this model with others, we will also be giving them the opportunity to intervene in how the club is adapted and implemented, leaving space for their own cultural traditions and interests to be included.

What other partners or stakeholders will work alongside you in implementing the idea, if any? (1,000 characters)

We will work closely with people on the move and host communities. They are the heart of this project. They will be deciding what topics to work on and what kind of activities to do. We are going to facilitate the process with participatory tools and to measure the impact. We hope to work with collaborative and experimental communities and organizations in Latin America such as Chicas Poderosas and other communities, Fieldwôrk, museums, NGOs working on displacement issues and arts and performance spaces. These partnerships would help us to generate engagement and reach people on the move. We will also use social media in order to do this.

What part of the displacement journey is your solution addressing

  • Arriving and settling at a destination community

Tell us how you'd describe the type of innovation you are proposing

  • Other

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Blueprint: We are exploring the idea and gathering the inspiration and information we need to test it with real users.

Group or Organization Name

The club for people

Tell us more about your group or organization [or lived experience as a displaced person?] (1000 characters)

We are explorers, colleagues and friends. We are currently based in Argentina but two of us worked closely with displaced populations in Latin America, Nigeria and Cambodia. One of us was forced to leave his country and seek refuge in Argentina. One of us hosted at her place people on the move. The situation on arrival was far from what was expected, and it was frustrating to explain repeatedly that people forced to migrate should be at the center of any initiative targeting their needs. Agency in any intervention should be shared. That's how we became friends. Doing some fieldwork, we identified a pattern when it comes to displaced population and local integration. It is the lack of opportunities for people to connect in a safe space. People have common interests, and a club is an opportunity for newcomers and host communities to share their experiences and thoughts in everyday activities, to get involved in the community and find a way to feel a part of it.

Type of submitter

  • We are individuals who are part of an informal group or collective

Organization Headquarters: Country


Organization Headquarters: City / State



Join the conversation:

Photo of Ikong James

Hello Milagros Fonrouge thank for sharing the idea i enjoyed reading through the proposal and comments. It seems like you have even before implemention, figured out some core touch points to address and i like the way you want to use clubs involing watching movies together etc ( i would personally enjoy watching comedies and create memorable experiences of happiness, love and fun togther ).

However, i wonder how sustainble this will be for you and your team. I would like to learn more about that and sure to look forward to sharing more in the next phase.

Good luck
Ikong James 

Photo of Milagros Fonrouge

Hi @Ikong James Thanks for ur comment! Actually the clubs are organic so the idea is to scale it by inviting other people to replicate the clubs. This is working in Radio ambulante. In order to engage people we will create a fb group to share experiences and lessons learned from all the clubs (Organizations like Chicas Poderosas have proven to be successful following this system) and of course we will invest in communication using social media. This way, the clubs belong to the people. ����

Photo of Ikong James

Awesome and good luck

Ikong James 

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