An on-screen sendoff presenting real-world results

05 June 2023 - Published by Walter Wehus
After working with social isolation through the pandemic, at the end conference I2I partners showed how the project has led to lasting change in North Sea Region communities.

In some ways, it ended the way it began.

When From Isolation to Inclusion (I2I) started in 2020, the partners had planned to meet for the first time in March of that year. But instead of a kick-off in person, the partners had to settle for a video conference. This was just one of many plans that the Covid-19 pandemic upended – both for I2I and the rest of the world.

The pandemic supercharged the social isolation already felt by many North Sea Region (NSR) inhabitants. I2I, with its goal to improve social inclusion and counteract loneliness in NSR communities and neighbourhoods, was suddenly more relevant than ever.

Three and a half years later, the project officially wraps up on June 30. The final conference was, fittingly, broadcasted digitally. But some things were different, and we’re not just talking about the production values.

Several partners presented results that will lead to lasting positive change in their communities. With guests in the studio and inspiring keynotes delivered on screen, the final conference was a success.

undefinedProject manager Ragni Macqueen Leifson and conference host Daniel Kumar on one of the monitors at the University of Agder's media department.

Sharing experiences and results

I2I consists of twelve partners from seven countries. Every partner chose their own target groups, ranging from vulnerable neighbourhoods to the elderly, and young adults.

“We have worked with the users to find out what their needs are. Based on this, we have tried to find new ways of using technology or delivering a service, and then try it out in real life together with the users. The partners have all learned from each other, and shared experiences and results. That is the way to overcome challenges like this”, says project manager Ragni Macqueen Leifson.

She also showed a short film summing up some of the highlights of the I2I project.

Real-life changes

“We don’t want people to be left alone with their problems. We are doing this European project together with other countries so that we can learn from each other”, says Alderman Jan Broekema in Assen.

Loneliness is a major social problem, also in the Dutch city of Assen.

“A neighbourhood survey showed that a large part of the middle-aged population experienced being lonely”, says Janine Rinsampessy, project manager of I2I in Assen.

This video, recorded especially for the end conference, shows some of the results:

“Our projects have helped people get out in an environment that can offer a distraction, surrounded by nature and what that can offer”, says Sharron Bright, the Community Inclusion Coordinator at the I2I partner Canal & River Trust in Leeds.

They have been using the British waterways to bring people out into the outdoors to reduce social isolation.

“It’s all about working with the partners to find innovative ways to reduce the isolation in the communities, and make the communities more connected and happier”, says Katie Logan, Sharron Bright’s colleague in Nottingham.

At the end conference, she showed the following film to sum up their work in I2I:

Reaching the elderly

The cities of Turnhout (BE) and Arendal (NOR) both chose the elderly as their target groups.

“We learned that our senior citizens need someone they can trust that they can turn to. Since October 2020, Turnhout has had a link worker especially for the elderly”, says Line van Rossum, project leader of I2I in Turnhout.

A link worker is an outreach worker that works with people in socially vulnerable situations who are not reached well enough by the current services.

“Our link workers don’t wait for people to come to them, but have different ways of identifying those that need assistance. They also try to create a network around the vulnerable person”, says van Rossum.

“I go on a lot of home visits. It makes it easier to create trust, says Ils van Bouwel, who is the link worker for the elderly in Turnhout.

Van Bouwel shared this video interview with one of the seniors who use her services.

“We have involved older people, the voluntary sector and municipal employees to map out what is important for them”, says professor Elin Thygesen at the University of Agder.

Working with the municipality of Arendal, they found that to be socially active, it is important for the elderly to be aware what is happening, to have somebody to participate with, and to be able to arrange transport there and back again.

“Arendal municipality has developed several existing solutions and services as an I2I partner. Among them is the ride-sharing service AKT svipp, a mealtime community in cooperation with Tyholmen volunteer center, and a digital communication solution called Komp, where the municipality has bought around 30 machines”, says Ingrid Kjørstad, a senior advisor in the municipality.

undefinedSunniva Whittaker, rector at the University of Agder, and Jan Ståle Nilsen, municipal health officer in Arendal, was interviewed about how academia and municipalities can find solutions together.

Happy with the results

Also at the conference were Elizabeth Casabianca, a socio-economic analyst at the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre. She held a talk about JRC’s key findings of loneliness interventions.

The final keynote was by Joseph Harrington, titled “Leading Adaptive Innovation”. Harrington works as a senior design and strategy specialist at Samhällsnytta at Karlstad University.

“I have to say that I am impressed by all the hard work and the results that the partners have achieved. I want to thank everybody that contributed to making this a successful end conference”, says project manager Leifson.

undefinedHost Daniel Kumar in front of the studio's green screen.