The Basel Region, directly bordering Germany and France, and with its long tradition of welcoming foreign scholars, entrepreneurs and asylum seekers, has always been international. In the past decade, the number of expats (highly qualified foreign workers) in the region, many of whom are employed in the Life Sciences industry, has increased dramatically. While they are educationally and financially privileged when compared to traditional migrant populations, expats nevertheless require support with integrating here. A unique half-day event, to be held on 29 August 2011, baselconnect aims to promote expat integration and facilitate connections between expats and locals in the Basel region.
baselconnect is the joint effort of three long-term expats, Maureen Carlson Reinertsen, Kathy Hartmann-Campbell, and Lorraine Rytz-Thériault, who believe the time is ripe for action. “The goal of baselconnect is to enrich the Basel region through tapping the under-utilized energy and expertise of the expat community”, notes Carlson Reinertsen. “We aim to define tangible projects and initiatives to help expats integrate more easily and to promote the sharing of resources and collaboration between expats and locals,” states Hartmann-Campbell.
According to the recently published study on the challenges and potential of expats in the Basel Region conducted by the firm ecos, there are about 36,000 expats living in the cantons of Basel-Stadt and Basel-Land alone. Many initially come with the intention of staying just a few years but end up living in the region for much longer. Unfortunately, their integration can be held back by barriers such as language, social isolation in their daily environment, single language educational programs, and unfamiliarity with local customs. The resulting limited contact between locals and expats stands in the way of mutual understanding. Locals may view expats as having deliberately decided to set themselves apart and expats may feel they are being rejected. As a result, both communities include members who may view each other with caution or suspicion derived from misunderstanding which can escalate over time.
baselconnect (baselconnect.ch) involves expat and local, cantonal and regional stakeholders so that they can discuss these issues face to face. Representatives from Canton Basel-Stadt include: Christoph Brutschin, Head Department of Economy, Social Issues & Environment; Sabina Horvath, Head of External Affairs and Marketing; Hans Georg Signer, Department of Education. Hans Beat Moser, BL Head of Integration, represents Canton Basel-Land. Corporate representatives include: Valerie Guertler-Doyle, Head of Diversity and Inclusion for Novartis Switzerland; Daniela Seabrook, Head of Corporate Human Resources at Straumann; Uwe Böhlke, Member of the Management Committee at Lonza; Christiane Schumacher, Head of Global Mobility at Roche; and Caroline Luscombe, Head of Global Human Resources at Syngenta.
One hundred fifty invited participants will engage in six theme workshops: Internet Solutions, Education, Language Learning, Welcome Information, Volunteer Opportunities, and Employment/Entrepreneurship. Participants will build on existing concepts and programs and introduce new ideas for better connecting expats and locals. “Representing public and private sectors, locals and expats, the workshop participants are people who want to be actively involved in making a difference in and uniting our regional community,” says co-organizer Lorraine Rytz-Thériault.
The workshop outcomes will be presented to the Round Table Discussion participants who, by their presence, show their commitment to expat integration. They will be asked to give their views on and offer support for the proposed initiatives and projects.
“In a time when walls are being built in various parts of the world to keep out foreigners, we want to build bridges to help locals and expats learn and benefit from each other,“ concludes Hartmann-Campbell.
The organising team: Maureen Carlson Reinertsen, Kathy Hartmann-Campbell, and Lorraine Rytz-Thériault welcome any requests for interviews.