Creating an inclusion strategy

Why did we create a strategy for inclusion?

Below you can read about the context of the inclusion strategy of the Icelandic National Agency for Erasmus+. The strategy can be found here on the website under Inclusion Strategy and "Read the Strategy".

Different factors can have an impact on individuals and prevent them from experiencing equal opportunities in society such as their: gender, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity, race, disability, economic status, physical and mental abilities. Without inclusion, a limited number of individuals get the opportunity to experience what Erasmus+ and European Solidarity Corps have to offer. These groups of individuals are, for many reasons, less likely to apply for funding or find it more difficult to participate in projects that are not organised with their needs in mind.

The slogan of the Erasmus+ programme is “Enriching lives, opening minds” The role of this strategy is to encourage the staff of the National Agency (NA), applicants, and beneficiaries to see the importance of inclusion and diversity in their everyday lives and work. The NA hopes that by adopting an inclusive mindset and actively participating in inclusion these practices will become a regular and everyday part of the lives and minds of people in Icelandic society.

European Strategy

Inclusion is a key element of the strategy of Erasmus+ and the European Solidarity Corps pursued by the NA. The objective of the NA is to encourage the same values to be implemented in projects supported by the programme in Iceland and in collaboration with Icelandic parties. The Erasmus+ NA operates within the Icelandic Centre for Research (Rannís – Rannsóknamiðstöð Íslands) which is a public institution. In this role, the NA considers it important to be socially responsible and to ensure that the opportunities offered by Erasmus+ and the European Solidarity Corps are open and accessible to all. The European Strategy lists nine different categories covering reasons that justify increased support for participants.

The Icelandic Context

The lack of visibility of individuals from vulnerable groups in Icelandic society means that individuals belonging to that group often do not realise which opportunities are available to them through the European programmes, or do not apply for them because they believe the opportunities are not for them. Simultaneously, project coordinators may be unaware of which aspects of project planning and implementation may be exclusive to individuals from certain groups or do not encourage their full participation.

There is no official comprehensive strategy or policy of inclusion and diversity in Iceland, however, the Act on Equal Treatment in the Labour Market which concerns equal treatment irrespective of race, ethnic origin, religion, beliefs, disability, reduced ability to work, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, sexual characteristics or gender expression came into force on 1 September 2018. With this in mind, together with the Act on Equal Status and Equal Rights Irrespective of Gender, the NA considers it important that inclusion is integrated into the work of the NA and the projects of the programme more actively.

In creating the inclusion and diversity strategy, the NA has mapped out specific focus groups for the 2021-2027 period. According to areas mapped out in 2021, the following list was compiled of specific focus areas for inclusion. The compilation of focus areas included a statistical review of participants as well as the experiences of NA staff in conversations with beneficiaries and knowledge of institutions, organisations and individuals that are less inclined to participate in the programmes.

Students with Children

In Iceland, it is more common than in the rest of Europe for people to begin or continue their studies after having children or that single parents choose to pursue their studies. It is important that this group has the same opportunities as other students to participate in the programme. Due to the cost of living, these individuals may feel that a mobility abroad is not feasible. To ensure that this group participates, it is important to communicate the information about grants and opportunities for participation available to them. One such example can be found in the higher education sector where it is now possible to obtain additional funding for individuals with children as dependents.

Individuals of Foreign Origin

The number of individuals of foreign origin in Iceland is around 22% in 2023. This includes immigrants, second generation immigrants and individuals with one foreign parent.2 Research indicates that those of foreign origin often do not have the same opportunities in the Icelandic labour market (even when their level of educational is high) and that information to the group is generally inadequate. Young people of an immigrant background are also less likely to participate in youth and sport activities. To ensure their inclusion in the programme's projects, it is important that funding opportunities are presented to them, that information is available in more languages other than Icelandic, and that promotional material reflect a diverse audience. Additionally, it is important that project coordinators are aware of the diversity of participants and that the needs of individuals from different backgrounds are met to ensure their active participation.

NEET Group

Recent research in Iceland demonstrates the difficult situation of individuals who fall under the NEET group (Not in Education, Employment or Training). This group includes a fairly high proportion of young single parents, young men and young people from foreign backgrounds, especially young women with an immigrant background. The NA is of the opinion that it has proved difficult to reach this group so far, but that its participation in the programme's projects could contribute to its increased activity in the community. The aim of the NA is to take special consideration that information reaches these individuals.

Disabilities, Physical and Mental Health

Inclusion strategies have long aimed at improving opportunities for individuals with disabilities, and although emphasis has already been placed on involving disability organisations in the Erasmus+ programme, much better can be done. In light of increased awareness raised on issues of mental health, the NA considers it necessary to draw special attention to the support offered by the programme in the event of mental illness. Recent research in Iceland shows the difficult situation of individuals with disabilities, out of which almost eight out of ten find it difficult or rather difficult to make ends meet. Likewise, single parents with disabilities and single individuals with disabilities are economically disadvantaged. Many of them feel socially isolated and the majority feel stigmatised. The objective of the NA is to increase the dissemination of information to these groups and better support those interested in participating in the programme.

Geographical Location

Due to geographical location, it may be more difficult for Icelanders to travel between countries than participants from most other European countries. In many cases there are no direct flights available, so one must often have to rely on layovers or take a train in the latter part of their route. This means that travel time to and from Iceland is often long.

In addition to this, domestic distances and distances between urban centres are usually high, public transport is scarce and many roads are treacherous in winter. Although international flights from Akureyri and Egilsstaðir are sometimes offered, most international air traffic passes through Keflavík Airport. Since domestic flights pass through Reykjavik Airport and are costly, many participants from rural areas experience time-consuming and expensive travel as a barrier to participation.

This can also make potential applicants less likely to apply for grants where they do not consider them appropriate, or consider their chances of entering projects more limited than those in the capital area. The objective of the NA is to promote increased travel grants and regard special attention to rural areas in promotions.

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