Living Well Together Resource
The FOCUS Living Well Together Resource is a guide to help policy makers, civil society organisations and communities understand important dimensions of dynamic integration and how to implement them in practice and programming.
Case Studies »
Implementation Guide »
The FOCUS Approach
to Dynamic Integration
The FOCUS Approach to Dynamic Integration is a practical framework to strengthen existing promising integration practices and support the development of new ones. At its core is the idea of fostering social bonds, connections and bridges among arriving and receiving communities.
The FOCUS Approach highlights key elements to promote trust and reciprocity, social connectedness, wellbeing, resilience and a sense of belonging of all community members.
It was developed through key informant interviews, group consultations and workshops with policy and programme leaders and practitioners to identify best dynamic integration practices and explore practitioner needs.
Four core dimensions of integration practices were identified to form the FOCUS Approach to Dynamic Integration.
Mental Health &
Incorporating Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) as a stand-alone integral dimension to successful integration practices highlights the importance of concretely addressing mental health and psychosocial needs and providing psychosocial support as part of standard practice.
The FOCUS Approach to Dynamic Integration recommends moving away from a sole focus on trauma-informed care and ensure mental health and psychosocial considerations are considered more broadly.
Implementing staff and volunteers should be trained to broaden their understanding of MHPSS not only as a vehicle for the identification and management of clinical mental health conditions, but as an avenue to strengthen social and community supports to broadly improve individual and community levels of wellbeing.
Dynamic integration programmes should consider psychosocial aspects of practice and ensure those working with the forcibly displaced are able to identify and refer persons in distress and connect them with appropriate services. Specialised mental health care should be provided in a way that is culturally sensitive and informed and consider topics such as racism and discrimination.
FOCUS podcast on MHPSS (2021)
DRC Guidelines on MHPSS in Migration and Displacement (2022) (coming soon) »
IFRC PS Centre: Guidance on MHPSS for People on the Move during COVID-19 (2021) »
IASC MHPSS RG: Community-Based Approaches to MHPSS Programmes (2019) »
IASC Inter-Agency Referral Guidance Note for MHPSS (2017) »
IASC Guidelines on MHPSS in Emergency Settings (2007) »
WHO: Provision of essential services to Migrants (2022) »
FOCUS Forum Brief on MHPSS (2021) »
GIZ: Leave No One Behind (2020) »
Case Study 1 »
Case Study 4 »
Case Study 3 »
Case Study 5 »
Arriving & receiving
The importance of establishing and reinforcing continuous social bonds, social bridges between receiving and arriving communities and community members’ social links to relevant services has long been acknowledged in research. Contact between groups has been noted as an important factor in influencing attitudes, emotions and behavioural intentions receiving and arriving community members can have about each other.
More important than quantity of contact is the quality and nature of those interactions. Safe supportive spaces are essential for meaningful interactions.
The categorisation as an ‘arriving’ or ‘receiving’ community member is not fixed, with arriving community members becoming part of the receiving community over time as part of the integration journey.
FOCUS has identified volunteerism as a powerful vehicle for quality interactions between communities as it provides a crucial entry-point to the community for newly arrived persons and can engage receiving community members in integration practices beyond the typical ‘helper/recipient of care’ dynamic.
IFRC PS Centre Integrated Model for Supervision (2021) »
IFRC PS Centre Guidelines for Caring for Staff and Volunteers in Crises (2019) »
IFRC PS Centre: Train staff and volunteers in Psychological First Aid (2018) »
IFRC PS Centre Psychosocial Support Toolkit (2012) »
OECD: Local Inclusion of Migrants and Refugees (2020) »
UK Home Office Indicators of Integration framework, 2019 »
OECD: Working Together for Local Integration of Migrants and Refugees (2018) »
Orton: Building migrants’ belonging through positive interactions (2012) »
Ager, A. and Strang, A. (2008). Understanding integration: a conceptual framework. Journal of Refugee Studies, Vol.21(2), pp.166-191. »
Case Study 3 »
Case Study 5 »
Ensuring the targeted communities are part of programme assessment, design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation is crucial to instil community ownership of dynamic integration practices. Asking community members to contribute to programme assessment and design ensures that the implemented practice is culturally and contextually relevant and adequately addresses core needs of all parts of the community.
Community members can be drivers of their own care and should be meaningfully involved in all stages of integration-focused programming. This means shifting the view of community participation from being community members as passive recipients of care to viewing community members as active participants in developing initiatives that aim to strengthen individual and collective wellbeing.
Ensuring equal participation between receiving and arriving community members allows for the establishment of a sense of equality in the creations of relationships and dynamics between and within groups. Giving community members an opportunity to provide input into their care also helps instil a sense of empowerment, autonomy and respect, aligning well with core humanitarian principles.
An additional benefit of participatory and co-creative approaches that is often not considered is the potential impact on the participating refugee’s social capital which has the potential to lead to wider socioeconomic benefits.
FOCUS podcast on participatory and co-creative approaches (2021) »
Global Refugee-led Network: Meaningful refugee participation as transformative leadership (2021) »
FOCUS Forum Brief on participatory and co-creative approaches (2021) »
Red Cross EU Office: Moving Forward Together. Red Cross approach to the social inclusion of migrants (2018) »
Betts/Bloom/Weaver: Refugee Innovation (2015) »
Case Study 2 »
Given the diverse socioeconomic needs of both arriving and receiving communities, the establishment of partnerships and coordination with all relevant stakeholders within private enterprise, government and the non-profit sector is essential.
As an example, developing connections between integration programmes and MHPSS actors is crucial, however linkages must also be made with a diverse range of services that support various other aspects of integration. These include services and organisations in the areas of housing, education, work, leisure and health and social care that equally address the arriving and the receiving community’s needs.
Such partnerships can assist in addressing socioeconomic and sociopsychological factors integral to facilitating integration. An example of this could be partnering with private business to create opportunities for apprenticeships or on-the-job training to ease the transition into the labour market.
Linkages with municipalities and key government representatives ensure the sustainability of programming and are an opportunity to advocate for change to alleviate common post-migration stressors hampering integration efforts. Advocacy initiatives ensure equal and equitable access to services, tailored to needs, for both receiving and arriving communities.
Eurocities overview of different areas of coordination at municipal level »
REGIN tools to help regions to collaborate across levels of government and civil society to apply more coherent integration policies »
(Example) SHARE Network »
OECD Education Working Paper: Multi-stakeholder approach for better integration of refugee students (2022) »
Case Study 4 »
Case study results
Exploring Integration Practices Using the FOCUS Approach
The FOCUS case studies illustrate and validate the FOCUS Approach to Dynamic Integration and provide an example for how its various dimensions might be implemented. They also give key recommendations on how existing practices can be strengthened to support dynamic integration in different cultural and institutional contexts.
The case studies were conceived by five implementing partners in Sweden, Germany, Denmark, Austria and the United Kingdom to highlight one or two different dimensions of the FOCUS Approach.
They were designed using principles of participatory action research.
Case Study 1
MindSpring is an approach first developed in the Netherlands which aims to address the psychological concerns of displaced persons. For the purposes of this case study, MindSpring was adapted by the Danish Red Cross to serve as a group programme implemented for and by refugees and migrants about topics related to their lives. The aim is to create awareness and empowerment and thereby strengthen the ability to cope with psychological and social problems.
The overall theme for the programme varies and depends on the participants (parents, adolescents, or children). In this case study, the focus was on parenthood due to the unique challenges faced by families during the integration process. This focus was selected in collaboration with participants of the programme.
Case study 2
In recent years, due to increasing migration to the region and a lack of resources (staff and housing), it has been difficult to provide adequate care for all new arrivals and to ensure they receive the necessary information that will facilitate their access to essential services and ultimately support integration.
The specific objective of this case study was to design an activity that better caters to the needs of residents of the Austrian Red Cross accommodation facilities and provides the information they need to ease their transition within Austrian society. A participatory approach was chosen to ensure the activity accurately targets the concerns and strengths of the participants. The participatory nature was also expected to yield an activity that supports the wellbeing of participants.
Download case study summary
Download full report
Case study 3
Workshops to Explore Racism
The German Association of Psychosocial Centres for Refugees and Victims of Torture (BAfF) has been working to identify the ways in which racism may manifest itself within the therapeutic context and how awareness of racism is important to ensuring effective care and support for refugees (see report in German here). This was considered an especially pressing topic for BAfF as an umbrella organisation, given that most staff working within the psychosocial centres do not identify as black, indigenous or other people of colour (BIPOC).
The role of racism in determining integration outcomes has also been identified as a substantial barrier to integration by the FOCUS field studies and mapping of existing knowledge.
The BAfF case study was designed to provide a roadmap to understanding and addressing racism in the context of the BAfF services.
Case study 4
Health communication for migrants
In-depth programme for mental health and wellbeing
Partnership Skåne’s support programme for mental health and wellbeing, supported by the Swedish Ministry of Health and Social Affairs, is a newly developed initiative to support the arriving community’s mental health and psychosocial wellbeing.
The programme was developed based on a comprehensive mapping of research in which several theoretical frameworks has been used to analyse how Partnership Skåne’s methods align with established models and analytical frameworks of mental health support to the arriving community. The programme consists of 1) dialogue support groups/study circles on mental health and wellbeing for the arriving community members; 2) coordinated efforts to create enabling environment around the dialogue circles; 3) training in mental health and wellbeing for Civic and Health communicators (CHCs).
Download case study summary
Download full report
Mental Health &
Multi-stakeholder partnerships &
Case study 5
Family Reunion Integration Service (FRIS)
FRIS was designed as the UK’s first national programme of integration supports specifically for reunited refugee families. The project aimed to support 900 reunited refugee families in building a new life together in the UK. It also aimed to provide robust evidence to shape the ongoing and future national discourse about integration. Families with complex needs were offered a 10-week group work programme, involving group work sessions with parents and children.
FRIS was funded by the European Union Asylum, Migration, and Integration Fund (AMIF) and administered by the relevant UK public body. FRIS was conducted in partnership with Queen Margaret University (QMU) and Barnardo’s, the largest national NGO in the UK supporting vulnerable children.
Following the FOCUS Approach to Dynamic Integration, which is the the theoretical framework, and the illustrative case studies, you find here a practical guide: the FOCUS Implementation Guide to Dynamic Integration. This guide is aimed to operationalise the FOCUS Approach, co-created by integration-focused practitioners and policy makers, breaking down its four dimensions into actionable steps.
This guide is for policy makers, civil society organisations and local communities and is designed to help them understand important dimensions of dynamic integration and how to implement them in practice, both in programme and policy development. It is not a recipe book for ‘successful’ integration, but rather practical guidance, based on the expertise, ideas and experiences of practitioners. This guide is here to help you on your way.