Smart Integration

Digital media support the integration of refugees

With the app-based peer group counselling Smart Integration, Ulm University, in cooperation with the Jobcenter Rhein-Neckar-Kreis, developed a new, innovative tool that supports refugees in their integration. The project was funded by the Péter Horváth Foundation. The aim was to evaluate the success and feasibility of app-based peer group counselling as a counselling service for refugees in a nine-month pilot project.

Smart Integration is based on the principle of peer groups. Peer groups form when people with the same interests, challenges or goals join together. Members of peer groups can benefit from each other's experiences, develop a common motivation or experience support that is difficult to find otherwise. Smart Integration implemented peer groups both digitally and on site. The digital version allows participants to network with each other regardless of location, maintain their anonymity and have access to the support of their peers at any time. Especially in the context of refugees, this offers the possibility to participate in a conversation without time pressure. The on-site and in-person peer groups were facilitated at the Integration Point Heidelberg (part of the Jobcenter Rhein-Neckar-Kreis), giving participants direct access to each other and the opportunity to communicate using facial expressions and gestures, and build up a trusting relationship with each other.

Cooperation partners: Rhine-Neckar District Job Centre, Integration Point Heidelberg

Funding body: Péter Horváth Foundation

Project period: September 2018 - July 2019


The lighthouse project yielded a new, innovative approach that supports the integration of refugees in Germany, as well as recommendations for how to implement it. The results of the pilot project show that Smart Integration can significantly support the integration process. Specifically, it was possible to measure more positive developments in terms of contact with Germans and with people from the home country, in terms of perceived discrimination and general satisfaction as well as in terms of connectedness with Germany compared to connectedness with their home country. The digital peer groups showed different positive effects compared to the on-site and in-person ones, suggesting that it would be beneficial to combine the two formats.