All for one: Social projects to bring more people into communities

VELUX FONDEN supports initiatives that allow socially disadvanted people to participate actively in social communities. The foundation is awarding five projects a total of DKK 11.5 million to develop and test new ways of motivating young immigrant women and people with mental health problems and physical illnesses to take part as volunteers. At the same time, it is starting an evaluation of the initiatives.

Social initiatives in Denmark

VELUX FONDEN’s grant area for social initiatives in Denmark focuses on strengthening social work by developing methods aimed at improving conditions for socially disadvantaged people. The foundation’s board has earmarked DKK 55 million for the area in 2020, DKK 48 million of which has been allocated so far. Under the theme ‘Communities for All,’ 40 applications have been submitted, five of which will receive grants.

Read more about the grant area for social initiatives in Denmark.

Being part of a community is good for mental health. Everyone needs to be a part of something with others and mean something to someone. But not everyone has an easy time finding their way into constructive communities. Since 2018, under the heading ‘Communities for All,’ VELUX FONDEN has supported initiatives that develop and test new ways to help socially disadvantaged young people and adults join voluntary communities. Last spring, various organisations and public housing associations were invited to submit expressions of interest:

“The community survey by VIVE and the Voluntary Report by the Danish Centre for Voluntary Social Work indicate that socially disadvantaged people participate in social communities less than others and take on fewer voluntary tasks – even if they want to. We therefore prioritise initiatives that develop methods to give more people opportunities and desire to join in. The five new projects aim to find important ways to engage socially disadvantaged young people and adults as active volunteers,” says Vibeke Lybecker, Head of Programme in VELUX FONDEN’s grant area for social initiatives in Denmark.

To examine how well these initiatives work, VELUX FONDEN has selected the Social Development Centre SUS to carry out a cross-cutting evaluation.

Young people on the margins and people with mental health problems

The five selected projects receive grants of between DKK 1.5 million and DKK 3.4 million and focus on a wide variety of target groups – from vulnerable young people in peripheral areas and people with mental health problems in Silkeborg to immigrant women and severely traumatised and mentally ill refugees and immigrants in Copenhagen.

In the project ‘Active communities on Lolland,’ DGI Storstrømmen will develop and carry out initiatives targeted at young adults in cooperation with local young people, the job centre and local associations, and based on the overall plan for social housing on Lolland:

“We and our partners in the project see a great need to increase young people’s self-esteem and ability to act and to invite more people into positive communities. There are many strong association communities in Lolland Municipality who are very keen to invite more people to join. But it’s not always easy, which is why we want to help take responsibility for making it happen, and we’re extremely pleased that VELUX FONDEN has chosen to support the project. Together with the job centre, the social housing planners and the local associations, we look forward to putting our shared experiences and competences to good use and finding solutions together with the young people,” says Merete Røll Lærke, Executive Director of DGI Storstrømmen.

The five projects:
Active communities on Lolland

V. DGI Storstrømmen, 3,405,415 kr.

The aim of this project is to increase active participation in leisure communities among socially disadvantaged young adults between 18 and 35 in Lolland Municipality, to help them develop decisiveness, lifeskills and a belief in their own possibilities. In dialogue with the local associations and leisure activity organisers, the goal is to open the communities up to new members and volunteers, so as to give young people real access to the associations. In cooperation with the young people themselves, the social housing planners for Lolland and Lolland Job Centre, DGI Storstrømmen will develop and test new methods and voluntary programmes in order to build bridges within the municipality.

From isolation to communities

- For severely traumatised and mentally ill refugees and immigrants

V. The independent Muhabet Institution,  2,122,500 kr.

Muhabet’s users are mentally ill and severely traumatised people, mostly with refugee and immigrant backgrounds. They are lonely and isolated and feel marginalised and excluded by Danish society. Muhabet works to promote trust and build relationships with understanding and compassion, and some users have come a long way in their personal recovery process within their current community.

The aim of the project is to develop a new step in the process by helping a selected group of users become active citizens in new communities outside Muhabet. The project will develop methods to help the participants gather the courage to become active in new and constructive communities. The project staff will support the participants closely through the processes and, together with volunteers, act as bridge builders between the participants and the new communities. At the same time, the user group will gradually take on more responsibility for planning and running activities in Muhabet for the benefit of others.

Relationships on the move

 - Creating sustainable relationships. A method-developing pilot project
V. Volunteering Centre Silkeborg (Frivillighedscenter Silkeborg), 1,999,040 kr.

The aim of this project is to ensure that more people with mental health problems move towards recovery and independence by taking part in voluntary associations.

Based on design thinking, and in cooperation with a group of people with mental health problems, the project will develop methods to provide opportunities for the participants to be included in the volunteer work offered in Silkeborg Municipality. Through experiments developed by the participants and in collaboration with a number of voluntary associations, the project will create learning communities based on the opportunities for the psychologically vulnerable to regain power and control over their own lives.

Local meal communities for socially disadvantaged ethnic minority women

V. Centre for Immigrant Women (Indvandrer Kvindecentret), 1,567,550 kr.

Based on the resources of the Centre for Immigrant Women, the aim of the project is to use the food and meals in the community as a tool to change the position of women from passive recipients to active participants. It is expected that active participation in the communities will reduce the women’s feelings of loneliness, strengthen their self-esteem, increase their social well-being and improve their health. 

The project will also look at how to encourage women who voluntarily use the centre to join community programmes established for set purposes. These programmes differ from the centre’s traditional practice of offering activities and services based on the users’ immediate needs.

Getting on

V. The Outsider Association (Foreningen Outsideren), 2,204,916 kr.

The aim of this project is to use existing knowledge of practice-oriented communities to develop an onboarding programme targeted at people with mental health difficulties, which can be used in all associations and organisations that wish to include this target group in a voluntary, constructive community. The method is aimed at allowing the participants to move from peripheral participation in a voluntary community to playing active roles as participants and co-creators in the community.

To ensure that the method developed is relevant to different contexts, it will be developed in two organisations, the Outsider Association and Team Zest for Life (Team Mod på Livet), both of which are user-driven voluntary communities.

Vibeke Lybecker
Senior Adviser, Head of programme, VELUX FONDEN
+45 23 80 69 80
Anna Høxbro Bak
Communications Adviser, THE VELUX FOUNDATIONS
+45 22 64 03 55