In this pilot project, funded by the BAMF, we taught professionals and volunteers working in migration and integration the ideas and methods of deliberation. In addition, we discussed and deliberated values, viewpoints and perceptions considered important for integration. Accordingly, we learn about deliberation by discussing essential topics like freedom, tolerance and gender equality. We aim to reduce uncertainty among European citizens with respect to the articulation and justification of core social values, both European and Universal. These ambiguities and uncertainties cause vague, confused messages to newcomers and hinder their integration.
Social Science Works organized two series of eight workshops, where we discuss with in total 30 social workers and volunteer citizens the ideas, perspectives and values that some keep as constitutive for the European culture and identity. The topics were, among others, ethical, cultural and political pluralism, democracy, freedom, tolerance, freedom of religion, gender equality, (Homo)-sexuality, as well as the mutual fears of migrants and European citizens. In addition, we informed the participants about the latest research on political deliberation. We built on the theories and research of pluralism and deliberation and pursued a third way between cultural relativism and ethnocentrism.
We will evaluated the workshops and on the basis of this evaluation formulate, discuss and communicate a “best practice” report (forthcoming in 2017).
We believe that rational discussion of values, as well as plausible and reasonable justifications of values and perspectives is both possible and necessary (see also our blog How to debate values in a diverse Europe). Additionally, we believe that values like freedom, autonomy and equality are universally recognized and acknowledged. It might be that these values in different contexts have different weights and are balanced with each other differently; the values, their clashes and the need to balance them in plausible ways are recognized universally. Related to this, democracy is also, or perhaps even above all, a learning process in which people establish their real preferences in an informed discussion with other citizens. And this is more than a utopian wish: also as a matter of fact, it is only through concrete and context-bound deliberations that people can determine their real preferences. Through open and respectful deliberation, we will not so much “explain” European and global values and perspectives but present them as a coherent, interconnected web of ideas. To do so, we make use of the extensive empirical research on deliberation.
What we wanted to convey to the participants of the seminars, is how we can connect to refugees as citizens who are able to rethink together with us the basic values of our society. Refugees should not simply be taught or lectured the values and laws in Germany and other European countries. It is more respectful and at the same time much more meaningful to discuss and justify these values and laws intrinsically. We see our mission as complementary to the already existing integration-programs. As social and political scholars it is our strength, together with the seminar participants and indirectly with the refugees they work with, to construct an argument for an equal, emancipated and free society. Only in this respectful way, one can expect that the newly arrived not only know the values and laws, but are also convinced of their meaning, and act accordingly.
Workshop Feedback 2016
Feedback: Multiplicator Workshops on deliberative values from Social Science Works – November & December 2016
“In November and December, I took part in one of the multiplicator courses at Social Science Works, and the topics discussed there and, above all, the approaches have kept me busy with my private and professional work ever since. I am currently working as a project manager at the German Foundation for Integration, where I am responsible for coordinating programmes with refugees. I also work as a freelance teacher for German as a foreign language and volunteer at the Start with a Friend initiative, where I am an intercultural mediator who provides tandems from refugees and interested Berliners.
In all these contexts, I am constantly in touch and exchange with people from other countries and different cultural backgrounds. Social Science Works has encouraged me to question my own views and views more critically and to develop a more precise concept for large and often hard to grasp terms such as “democracy”, “freedom” or “equality”. This experience has shown me how complicated it is for me – as someone who I really felt proficient in these questions – to formulate such ideas concretely. I have been trying to take this feeling into conversations about these issues: I am much more open-minded about my own difficulties in these areas, and have had the experience that such an admission of one’s doubts and open points is often a much more balanced and a more equitable conversation atmosphere. I also tried to involve the methodology through a deliberately far-reaching and fundamental issue, rather than to advance my own positions. I think the deliberative approach provides very interesting ways to track down your own blind spots. The realization of these own gaps makes it possible (at least for me) to be much more open-minded in discussions – an ability whose value in today’s times has hardly been more necessary.”
Phil Reckermann, 20th February 2017.
“The central starting point for the training was, for me, the common notion of understanding of democracy and freedom. In the intensive discussion, I realized that these terms, which seem self-evident, are anything but. As the main approach of deliberation I have understood that values and norms are not presented in the form of confrontational teaching or the like but are worked ideas out together. It is necessary to develop a common understanding of democracy, freedom, tolerance and emancipation. This can not be done by means of normative ideas, since this leads to strong fronts and leads to opposites. Values are an important part of the identity and for this reason also a very sensitive topic and difficult to change.
Deliberation is about initiating discussions through empirical questions, on the basis of a common understanding of democracy and freedom, and so to come to accept that everyone should live as he / she wants and that there is not always simple and right answers to complex questions. The deliberative method is built up via discussions of the meanings of these kinds of questions. The questions must be made in such a way that there is no correct answer and no answer is already implied but all answers are taken seriously and checked for compatibility with the previously clarified concepts of democracy and freedom.
Particularly interesting for me was that the procedure was by means of questions instead of exchange of opinion. In various conversations with more “foreigner-critical” acquaintances, I have tried this procedure since then and often times, and found that, on the one hand, I was emotionally less stressed and on the other hand, really mindful of how the conversation was managed. When talking to an elderly lady, we talked about the subject of Ramadan. She said that she can not understand why the women are occupied with the topic of food all day in the kitchen, but can only “fall to it” in the evening. By not engaging as I would have initially would have, but asking her objectively and neutrally, she was able to see the contradictory perspective she had, and in the further discussion, come to the opinion that her view was just a feeling, not a reality.
As such, I have already found a success in the deliberative method of questioning a process of thinking in the process of opposing it and not wanting to expose it further. In addition, I have already applied the method in various job interviews and it has repeatedly met with great interest and approval. I would also like to use them in my work with young people in the future and thus give them the feeling that they really take them seriously in their interests and ideas. Adolescents are very sensitive when it comes to whether or not their needs, fears and ideas are taken seriously, and I have the impression that the deliberative method is a good way to get in touch with young people beyond knowledge.”
Karin Teuber, 7th Feburary 2017.
“I really enjoyed participating in your workshop for multipliers of democratic values. As a teacher for foreign languages at a high school, I often come into the situation, particularly in the context of mediation of intercultural competence, to discuss with students of different social and ethnic origin about values.
It is often difficult for me to step into the background as a teacher and not to take the role of the decision-maker, which is often demanded by the pupils, rightly and wrongly. With the method of deliberation I hope to counteract this problem to some extent. However, I already knew that this requires very good preparation and consistency in the execution and also has its limits, because in the school context ultimately it is always about evaluation and I can not completely rely on this role. Also in private, I find the method very helpful.
As a participant of Start With A Friend, I often meet with my Syrian tandem partner to discuss the differences between our cultures. It is true that my tandem partner is very open to German culture, and accepts many things, however, some areas are difficult topics. Hence, it is important it is to create a common basis for the discussion of controversial topics, I have also noticed, in my Arabic course, by a completely innocent, interested participant question (“Is it true that music is forbidden in Islam?“) Teachers from Jordan felt that he had to defend their religion and culture.
Social Science Works’ workshops have already shown me how many conversations about different values fail, and will hopefully help me to lead such discussions in the future in such a way that all the participants feel comfortable and leave the discussion with a positive feeling.”
Anne-Grit Pfau, 16th January 2017.
“Social Science Works’ Multiplicator Training sessions, which took place between 19.11., 3.12. and 17.12.2016 has encouraged me to think from the first session. The workshop started with a video about an integration course in Norway, which gave values ”top down” to the refugees. This course was compulsory for refugees, the penalty for non-participation was a benefit cut. The result of this course was shown in the participants’ feedback: the participants felt offended to be treated like a person of a lesser culture, who has cultural norms explained to them. This kind of paternalistic lecturing obviously led to a strong reaction from the refugees – a state that made it impossible for people to open themselves to new views or uncomfortable facts and ideas.
I have often asked myself how to better convey the values of our society. Communicating cultural values is important to avoid misunderstandings in social situations. The way these can be mediated – without placing one culture above the other – requires diplomacy. The method of deliberation seems to me to be a very effective, diplomatic, and also very clever way of leading people into discussions with a certain opinion which they do not feel that they have an opinion imposed upon them. In my study of social psychology, I have learned that it is important to always listen to all parties, even if the opinion of the other is unpleasant and possibly illegal.
“Only those who understand the enemy can defeat him”. The workshop for the deliberative transfer of values helped me to apply my existing knowledge on psychological manipulation strategies to the issue of values in Germany (and in other countries).
After this workshop, I had a lot of interesting discussions with my tandem partner from Syria. We have talked about how different interpretations of values between Germans and Syrians can lead to serious misunderstandings. We also cleared up some misunderstandings between the two of us. In addition, the multliplicator training and the subsequent talks with my Syrian tandem partner inspired me to work on my own political education. I have become embarrassingly aware that my Syrian friend knows more about my birthplace, its political system, and how to influence it as a private person than I do. I have been talking to friend who is active in the field of political education. She surprised me when she said that I was not a minority of politically uneducated people, but a majority – who are just as politically uneducated as I was.
Against this background I find the workshops of Social Science Works for refugees as well as for German volunteers very valuable. They stimulate reflection and motivate us to become politically educated and committed.”