MILE action learning sets

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Action Learning Set Handbook

For participants of Amadora Workshop

on the theme Enterprise development for ethnic minorities

“Businesses owned by migrants and ethnic minorities have a significant impact on economic growth in Europe. At present there are roughly 24 million non nationals living in the countries of the European Union, many of them from ethnic minority populations. Their businesses - mainly small and micro enterprises - play an important role in the European society and in particular in urban areas. “

- DG Enterprise and Industry

You can see examples of action learning sets at ALS Amadora ; ALS Komotini;  ; ALS Sevilla ; ALS Torino



This handbook has been produced for the participants of the first Transnational Scoping and Exchange workshop that will take place in Amadora, Portugal on 26-28 February 2008. The theme of the workshop is “Enterprise Development for Ethnic Miniorites”. This theme has been selected by partner organisations in the “Managing Migration and Integration in Cities and Regions”(MILE) project.

Each partner has selected a group of three delegates to participate in this event. These three delegates are the Action Learning Set of each of the 10 partners. The Action Learning methodology which the MILE project will be using is designed to help each Action Learning Set to develop a concrete project proposal that could secure future ERDF/ESF or other EU or National funding.

This workshop is the first phase of a process that will support each of the ALs’s to achieve this goal.

This handbook provides a succinct overview of the MILE project and then outlines the ALS-Methodology.

Futher information about the MILE project you can find on []

We look forward to seeing you in Amadora,

MILE management team

General Project Information

This project seeks to establish a thematic network of 10 Cities and 10 Regions which is based on the need to develop an integrated exchange programme relating to the theme of “Managing Migration and Integration in Cities and Regions”. The project is a pilot for the newly launched “Regions for Economic Change” (REC) programme." Regions for Economic Change is a new proactive policy tool offered to Member States, regions and cities to help them implement the renewed Lisbon agenda through actions aimed at economic modernisation. It aims to draw on the experience and best practice of high performing regions and to transfer this to regions wishing to improve.

The “raison d’être” of this project are the significant changes in migration flows in Europe that have taken place over the in over the past two decades:

  • First, there has been an increase in intra-EU mobility.
  • Second, there has been a rapid increase in the diversity of migrants as a result of a more interconnected world, yet with continuing economic disparities.
  • Finally, the flow of migrants has become more complex, both in terms of their movements and their legal status.

The overall aim of this project is to assist 20 partner Cities and Regions to actively address and improve practice in relation to the issues of migration and integration within their regional operational programmes. However, it is also the aim to assist partner cities to develop and identify good practice project proposals for possible funding from ERDF, ESF or other EU or National sources of funding.

In order to realise this overall goal the project will develop and deliver an Action Learning Sets ( ALS ) transnational exchange programme for over 90 key actors from 10 cities and their 10 “sister regions”. The aim will be to ensure close involvement and co-operation in the learning exchange between practitioners, policy makers and programme managers focusing on three specific sub-themes which reflect the priorities identified by partners:

  • Enterprise support and development
  • Active Inclusion measures for labour market access
  • Access to key Services(Education; Housing; Health) and Intercultural Dialogue

Key facts about immigration in Europe

In 2005, the world counted 191 million immigrants, of which 21% (about 41 million) were hosted in the European Union. This represents 8.6 % of the EU population (The European Union and Immigration policy, October 2006).

Despite the recent EU enlargement which has brought the total population to some 490 million, the number of people living in the EU is set to decline in the coming decades. It is expected that by 2050 a third of the population will be over 65 years of age (“The future development of EU migration policy”).

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These figures raise two issues:

First, migration reception has become the engine for demographic growth in the European Union. Second, the need for workers in many Member States is already evident.


The growing importance of the knowledge economy means that the battle for talent is becoming as important as the battle for inward investment, and skilled migrants can offer a significant comparative advantage to local labour markets, as long as their potential is harnessed.

For the potential advantages of migration to be maximised however, it is crucial that immigration is accompanied by integration, that is, effective mechanisms for ensuring immigrants are effectively incorporated into local labour markets.

Similarly, the successful integration of third country nationals is a key component of achieving the overall Lisbon Objectives in terms of employment, enterprise and social cohesion. Indeed, the labour market needs of the EU economy can only be addressed with greater immigration and thus the need for a more effective way of ensuring the integration of third country nationals.

While immigration policy is often determined, designed and funded at national level, its impact on migrants and society are strongly felt at the local level where other policies, including labor market policy, interact. There is strong variation between local areas in terms of the number and types of migrants received. Local policy makers are able to take into account such variation, along with variation in labor market demand. While a migrant’s application to reside in a country may be dealt with at the national level, they will ultimately need to settle in a local community and find their place in a local labor market.

The consensus that emerges from practice and policy is that there is a need for a holistic approach. This same perspective was echoed in the decision of the Justice and Home Affairs Council in 2004 to adopt a series of 9 Common Basic Principles (CBPs) to underpin a coherent European Framework on integration of third-country nationals.

Common Basic Principles

1. Integration is a dynamic, two-way process of mutual accommodation by all immigrants and residents of Member States.

2. Integration implies respect for the basic values of the European Union by every resident.

3. Employment is a key part of the integration process and is central to the participation of immigrants, to the contributions immigrants make to the host society, and to making such contributions visible.

4. Basic knowledge of the host society’s language, history, and institutions is indispensable to integration, enabling immigrants to acquire this basic knowledge is essential to successful integration.

5. Efforts in education are essential in preparing immigrants, and particularly their descendants, to be more successful and more active participants in society.

6. Access for immigrants to institutions, as well as to public and private goods and services, on an equal basis to national citizens and in a non-discriminatory way is an indispensable foundation for better integration.

7. Frequent interaction between immigrants and citizens of the Member States is a fundamental prerequisite for integration.

8. The practice of diverse cultures and religions is guaranteed under the Charter of Fundamental Rights and must be safeguarded, unless practices conflict with other inviolable European rights or with national law.

9. The participation of immigrants in the democratic process and in the formulation of integration policies and measures, especially at the local and regional levels, is a key to effective integration.

10. Mainstreaming integration policies and measures in all relevant policy portfolios and levels of government and public services is an important consideration in public policy formation and implementation. The principle of engaging civil society is also endorsed.

11. Developing clear goals, indicators and evaluation mechanisms are necessary to adjust policy, evaluate progress on integration and to make the exchange of information more effective, so as to transfer good experience.

Ethnic Entrepreneurship

Social exclusion, discrimination, high levels of unemployment and cultural factors push an increasing number of immigrants towards entrepreneurship. However, in addition there is also a greater interest in self-employment and business creation amongst many ethnic minority groups.

The older generation of migrants tends to be more oriented towards traditional sectors serving the needs of their own ethnic groups. The younger generation is more open and looks for new opportunities outside the traditional markets

These social networks are multi-faceted: they provide flexible and efficient possibilities for the recruitment of personnel and the acquisition of capital. In general, ethnic businesses rely heavily on labour from the co-ethnic group and the family more specifically. Although the own ethnic group offers the entrepreneurs advantages in terms of customer loyalty it seems that this focus makes them vulnerable and withholds opportunities for expansion.

The voice of ethnic minority businesses is not yet fully heard in all Member States and at EU level. A clear need can be identified to promote ways to facilitate such a dialogue on European and national, but also at regional and local levels.

The problems of communication due to differences in culture, language and education are often perceived as barriers to financing by ethnic minority businesses. These may be reinforced by the often-reported problem of perceived discrimination. Furthermore, as ethnic minority entrepreneurs tend to require small loans, which are less attractive for banks, they have very limited access to bank financing particularly in the start up phase.

Solving these problems is important for at least two reasons:

  • Ethnic minorities are an important part of the EU population. Most immigrants have entrepreneurial spirit, initiative, energy and the ability to take risks. Most of them also have a background of self-employment or micro-enterprise. These capacities and skills should not be wasted. "Last year," Romesh Ratnesar of Time reports, "the 16 million legal immigrants in Western Europe earned more than $460 billion." In the European Union, the number of self-employed foreigners has risen by some 20% in last ten years.
  • Ethnic minority groups live to a large extent in urban and suburban areas where there are few employment opportunities. Self-employment or enterprise creation is therefore a major alternative to unemployment and social aid and help to reduce crime and urban violence.


The project will use an Action Learning Methodology. Action Learning is inherently based on ensuring that the personal and social capital that participants bring will form part of the exchange and learning process.

Action Learning is an organisational, problem -solving technique which encourages participants to learn with and from each other, in pursuit of the solutions to real-life, work - related problems.

An Action learning Sets would be established by each partner for each of the three sub-themes. The ALS’s bring together key actors in the business of “doing” (elected representatives, practitioners, institutions, companies, or community-based organisations) from the cities, alongside involvement of actors from each of the Managing Authority in the partnership.

The methodology aims to achieve two key goals:

  • Maximise impact at a local level and ensure that the eventual local project proposals have wide ownership.

The key actors who will be responsible , with support, in maximising local impact will be the members of the Action Learning Sets established by each project partner for each one of three sub themes:

    • Enterprise support and development
    • Active Inclusion measures for labour market access
    • Access to key Services(Education; Housing; Health) through Intercultural Dialogue and Mediation

The members of three Action Learning Sets will form a Local Support Group.

  • Facilitate the effective transnational exchange of experience and learning.

The key role here will be played by the Transnational Exchange Workshops involving the members of all Action Learning Sets focusing on one sub-theme.

The two diagrams below outline the actions related to achieving these two key goals: insert diagrams here File:ALSdiagram1.png