Building Bridges Toolkit

The Toolkit was designed to collect and share the know-how on voluntary projects involving people seeking or who have recently found refuge, as well as raising awareness on forced migration in general. The collection of guidelines, methods and case studies is non-exhaustive and should simply foster your own inspiration and support you in implementing projects on the topic. The creation of the Toolkit has been driven by the ever bigger need of the international SCI network to exchange best practices on projects in the field. It was coordinated by SCI Switzerland with the support of Útilapu Hungary. Its existence wouldn’t have been possible without the support of the Mercator Foundation Switzerland and the active contribution of the Building Bridges working group and a number of SCI branches.

Case studies are successful implemented examples sharing with you what is going on in the SCI movement on the topic of refugees and migration.


The Balkan Route Case is divided into three activities and projects 

When: 10th – 15th of March 2017

            9th – 18th of February 2018

            6th – 10th of June 2018

Contact: Sonja Barać 

    Context and idea

    1. Route to Connect, a project of Service Civil International included a 2 week study visit to different refugee camps and aid centers in Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia and Greece.
    2. Road of Change, a project of Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen that happened during 1 week, bringing Belgian highschool students to observe the situation regarding Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, France and Italy borders.
    3. Community Forum: Branching outaim of this workshop session, happening in Antwerp, Belgium, was to, first of all, compare 2 very similar projects focusing on the Balkan route and observing the situation on the field.

    Objectives and aim

    Throughout the discussion with volunteers and coordinators from both of these projects, together they came up with some common situations the volunteers were facing while working with refugees in different contexts. The output of this workshop is listed through 6 main challenges people face on the field and the solutions given by the experienced activists.

      • Advertisement
      • Timing and planning
      • Involve participants in planning the communication together and making sure it will happen
      • Branches should commit to make their projects visible. Improve the feeling of ownership in the projects so branches really do a good communication
      • Should we do marketing? Eg. including in the participants group a famous person to increase the visibility.
      • Trainings on critical/ethical communication strategies for branches
        – BALANCE – selling our values to devil/coherence with our values
      • Aside from social media, maybe using a public event or festival already happening to organize for instance a workshop to illustrate the project and explain the results to whom is interested
      • Get in contact with the mainstream media and journalists instead of only using social media
      • FOLLOW UP EVENTS: include also not-so-like-minded people
      • Talking to many people
      • Having participants belonging to the community
      • Integration using their skills, knowledge and work
      • Using participatory needs – assessment methods
      • Contacting local leaders who know the reality of that community
      • Make sure you get to meet and gain the trust of all the leaders of the different communities (elderly people, recognized individuals…) and make sure you listen to all they have to say and they know who are you and accept you. (not only the leaders but they are essential to reach the rest and to ensure the participation and security of everyone)
      • They demand, we supply
      • Field work, open discussions, forums, inquiries, being an active part of the group that we would like to work
      • Repeating the project, maybe somehow different but with the same features and with some community that maybe can help to understand better the needs, what to improve, what to eliminate
      • Start «on time»
      • Being aware of the procedure, contact other organizations that have experience in doing the paperwork and networking
      • Adapting organizational and language habits to meet the required standards without losing the vision
      • Be well prepared and confident
      • Building a healthy relationship with official institutions prior to the events/projects
        • every partner organisation tries to maintain contact with institutions in each country and keep them informed
      • Invite representatives to visit / see the work you are doing
      • Being hongest; not asking for help but being sure to do something valuable (also for the official institutions as to have their support)
      • Stressing the social value of this in particular and in general these kind of projects
      • Commitment to each participant to organize activities to raise awareness once they are back:
        • Open to the public
        • Organization – partners (strong relationship)
        • In universities, social senters…
      • Promote and plan social, non-formal activities to ensure connections and sharing
      • Organize discussions with all participants about the post-project phase before, during and after the project
      • Select participants who are already involved with partner organizations and other institutions where they can implement follow-up activities
      • Form a group with local communities in the project locations and make regular contents with them by email or visit them in person
      • Call them or visit them periodically
      • Staying in touch with the people, making sure you know what they are doing etc.
      • «After» events: mobilization of the group (keeping it alive); COMMON ACTIONS
      • Include the participants in all the phases of the project as much as possible
      • Adapt to the constant changes of needs
      • Be in touch with people who has been there or with an organization that will be visited beforehand to understand the needs and what would be useful also for them
      • Doing a huge research before planning the actual project. Talk with people who I am going to work with, ask about their needs, interests, skills. What do they want to do? Ask «local leaders» what the resources in that area are
      • Get in touch with local organizations working on the same field to identify the needs of the community or do a baseline survey and identify the priority of the community. Having contacts with local organizations will reduce duplication
      • Contacts to be focused on objectives and resources
      • Interactive campaigns to break «saving people» videos of volunteering (especially North-South projects)
      • Look for competences and expectations
      • Improve the selection process: eg. Google form + interview
      • Include the voluntourism topic in the preparation training and develop guidelines on behaviour / photos / interaction
      • Limit the number of volunteers and the kind of tasks everyone can do
      • Ask the volunteers and yourself to work with the same level of excellence and respect as you would do if you were working anywhere else


      You can share your experience, observations, tips and tricks, pictures etc. by uploading for instance a method or a case study to the Building Bridges Toolkit. As this Toolkit is a work in progress to which all involved parties are invited to contribute, we would also be very grateful for your support and contribution in order to inspire others to continue the work towards peace and intercultural understanding.