Wrocław is a community whose inhabitants live in mutual respect, regardless of their origin, cultural identity, language, or religion. It is worth appreciating the contribution of different cultures to the development of our community and to the build the future of the city. In Wrocław, we focus on knowledge and education, safety and integration among the residents of the city.
Wrocław’s vision of intercultural dialogue relies on the foundations that exist already. What are these? Wrocław, as the capital of the region, has historically documented rich traditions of multiculturalism. It is an important academic city, economically developed, connected to the world by a network of land, water, and air roads. Today, it is a place that foreigners choose to work and live in.
The launch of the activities supporting the intercultural dialogue between residents dates back to the early 1990s. Even then, one of the main points on the intercultural map of Wrocław was the "District of Mutual Respect". Its borders are marked by streets where the temples of 4 denominations - a Catholic church, an Evangelical church, an Orthodox cathedral and a synagogue - stand in close proximity in the city centre. To this day, the district symbolises religious and cultural diversity and tolerance.
The next big step was the accession of the city to the government's Programme for the Roma community in 2003. Representatives of the Wrocław local government implemented the programme, by establishing partnerships between the institutions, non-governmental organisations and the Roma community, by initiating work on projects and cooperating in the organisation of meetings, trainings and festivals.
Systematic cooperation with national and ethnic minority organisations living in Wrocław began in 2007 when the Department of Social Affairs of the City of Wrocław invited the representatives of minorities to work in the dedicated Working Group. In 2008, the first festival named “Kaleidoscope of Cultures” took place, and in 2009, the Kaleidoscope of Cultures Agreement was established, later transformed into a foundation. Within the scope of the partnership, a number of projects were organised (including the Kaleidoscope of Cultures festival, conferences, debates), including minority issues in social discourse. On the other hand, the organisation was also a response to the needs of the environment of national and ethnic minorities in terms of information integration, organisational support, and implementation of joint projects.
In 2009, an auxiliary unit of the Wrocław Municipality was established - the Wrocław Centre for Social Development (WCRS), then still under the name of the Centre for Information and Social Development (CIRS). The foundation on which the WCRS was built were two programmes previously implemented upon the request of the Health Department and the Department of Social Affairs of the City of Wrocław: Youth Information and Development Centre and Wrocław Senior Centre.
The activities of these units were very diverse: from activities for the benefit of seniors and youth, through pro-health programmes, a legal counselling programmes, support programmes for families, children and youth, to activities for national and ethnic minorities and intercultural dialogue. Wrocław Centre for Social Development focused on one main goal: to be as close as possible to the needs of inhabitants of Wrocław.
To date, the key activities of the WCRS Intercultural Dialogue Team include supporting intercultural education, counteracting intercultural conflicts and hate speech, supporting processes of mutual integration between the city's inhabitants and newcomers to Wrocław, and thus preventing exclusion and discrimination. It is not possible to achieve these long-term goals alone, and therefore is a need for cooperation and joint action of many actors: both municipal institutions and departments, as well as educators and representatives of non-governmental organisations, employees of schools and communities, and local centres.
The exchange of experiences between the educators took place, e.g. during the annual Intercultural Education Fair (held since 2014). The participants had an opportunity to familiarise themselves with the current offer of non-governmental organisations, as well as hear the voices of invited guests - experts, researchers, and representatives of cultural circles from Poland and other European countries.
In 2021, with a view to the inclusion of the Wrocław residents and migrant communities in the discussions, the formula of the fair has changed. Since then, it was held under the name Dialogopolis - days of dialogue and intercultural education. In the new formula, Dialogopolis was held twice (in 2021 and 2022). Participants, during meetings, discussions, workshop, and artistic actions, jointly sought answers to questions related to the inclusiveness of the everyday language, as well as how to create an open, inviting city that takes into account the needs of residents in the face of the challenge - the constantly changing needs and hopes of the community in Wrocław.
Since 2013, foreigners coming to Wrocław have been supported by a team of specialists “Infolink”, which today, known as a WroMigrant information point for migrants and refugees offers not only assistance in formal matters such as legalisation of stay and work, education, health system, but also publishes updates on everything that may be of interest to this audience of foreigners and assists to solve everyday’s life challenges.
Key partnerships at the national level are also worth highlighting. Wrocław has been one of the 12 member cities of the Union of Polish Metropolises for years. As representatives of the capital of Lower Silesia, since 2017, WCRS team members have been cooperating within the UMP commission for Migration and Integration. As part of the cooperation, local governments declared their willingness to develop and implement local action plans for the integration of immigrants, the aim of which is to build good standards in the areas of education, employment, security, culture, social assistance and health.
Along with the increased migration flow and the increasing diversity of Wrocław, new challenges and social needs have emerged. The answer to them was the Wrocław’s Strategy for Intercultural Dialogue (2018-2022). This document stressed the importance to create conditions for building new relations, improving intercultural competences, which are necessary for mutual understanding, coexistence and cooperation. Accepting and appreciating the values that other cultures bring to the life of the community is closely related to the knowledge and understanding of one's own cultural identity.
All these elements constitute a potential for further development for the city, and for the residents an opportunity to participate in a new, important stage of life of our community. The main success of the implementation of the Strategy is the cross-sectoral cooperation of many departments and municipal units with non-governmental organizations. This dialogue serves as the basis for building the social cohesion of Wrocław - the Meeting place. From 2020, as the third Polish city, Wrocław joined the Intercultural Cities Programme of the Council of Europe (ICC), thus declaring its readiness to continue the policy of an city open to everyone and taking into account the potential of interculturalism in its strategy.