Grain of sand | An open letter to the minister of social affairs and integration

39 percent of the Danes want to study near where they reside (photo: iStock)
December 22nd, 2012 7:01 am| by admin
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Dear Minister, I have chosen to address this matter publicly because I have come across a costly oversight in the Integration Act. In my personal experience, it fails to recognise and support foreign innovators and inventors living in Denmark and aims to create mainly employees and not employers.

Remedying this could create long-term employment and boost the Danish economy.

It is no secret that the Danish economy has been adversely affected by the global financial crisis. We are living at a time when the demand for jobs is much higher than the supply. Against this background, the Integration Act is failing to live up to its original premise of enabling foreigners living in Denmark to access employment and active participation in society.

The integration system is designed to make you fit into society in the way the system thinks is best, but in my mind, there is more than one way to get to a destination, and some of them are worth exploring. It’s a way of life, and many self-taught foreigners, like myself, are often misunderstood.

Great companies like Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and Ford were started by innovators who started in backyards, car garages and basements. People like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg are all university drop-outs. They could have all become great employees of other companies, but I think the world was better served when they took the path of innovation and invention.

Some foreigners who come to Denmark have this ability to create great technological inventions and think outside the box. But Denmark does not cater towards this way of doing things.

I am no Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, but I like to innovate and invent. For instance, I created a movie out of a poem (with no budget) and won the prestigious Nice French Film Award of 2012. I am not saying this to sound boastful, but to illustrate a greater point.

In September of 2012, I created the most diverse cultural publication in Jutland called aarhusblog.com after experiencing blatant racism. Within the space of four months, it has garnered over 50,000 hits and has a diverse team of 24 local bloggers and writers. Even the mayor of Aarhus has called it a great platform for people to meet and be active participants in the city.

In the future there are several ways the website can be monetised, but for now the priority is on growing the readership. Most publications in Denmark receive support but we have received no such support as authorities don’t quite understand new media or our unique concept. We are also creating a crowd-funding platform to fund cultural, social and humanitarian projects in Jutland. With time, these ventures will create employment and opportunities for many people, but the Integration Act and Aarhus Council are failing to grasp the potential of these social innovations.

Personally, I have had trouble getting the immigration authorities to recognise that what I am doing is ultimately good for society and the economy as it has the  potential to employ people in the near future. In most cases I suffer the brunt of Jante Law. I am misunderstood because I look at things differently.

Getting the integration officials to support this path of innovation has proved a challenge. In their normal way of operating, I should be striving to become an employee under some already established company or institution.

I have already created a non-profit institution called Aarhusblog Association to run these platforms, but the officials seem determined to get me to apply for ‘normal jobs’ like everyone else. But we all know there is rife unemployment out there. What I am doing with the community is trying to leverage the unemployment situation by creating platforms that will create employment and financing solutions for many cultural producers in Jutland.

I believe there are many autodidacts in Denmark who are potential inventors and innovators. Some of them are refugees and foreigners who end up becoming frustrated with the endless cycle of searching for scarce jobs and trying to comply with the integration legislation.

It would be prudent and mutually beneficial if the Danish government could tap into these opportunities and support them because that is how great initiatives and companies are born.

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