Shadow of the Future

Reflective workshops that acquaint locals and newcomers

More Info


The monthly number of non-western immigrants that applied for a status in the Netherlands has been constantly rising from 955 in May 2021 to 3590 in November 2021 (CBS, 2021). During the first period in the AZC, “newcomers” are purposely distanced from Dutch society. This has as an effect that when they finally get an official refugee status, they have a hard time finding a fitting job. They lack the social network (social bonds, social links and social bridges) that are needed to obtain certain goals or wishes. As previous waves of refugees have struggled to find their role in society, many people consider that the core objectives of integration policies have failed, leaving in their place unfulfilled promises of equal treatment, and polarized or fragmented societies, which strengthens the biases towards newcomers even more (Orton 2012).

As social capital is seen as one of the pillars for successful integration (Ager & Strang (2019), the goal of the graduation project at first was to train locals to be active connectors in linking newcomers to their network in order to help them achieve their goals and ambitions.

Through conducting desk research, interviews, analyzing existing buddy networks and the mapping of newcomer needs, 10 design principles were distilled that helped to define the final design goal. The research and concept ‘Shadow of the Future’ by Besnick (2000) showed that when referring to or when referred to people need to understand past actions to portray this understanding of the future. This resulted in the finding, that there is not such a thing as training locals to be active connectors but locals should get acquainted with newcomers to a level that they feel comfortable to refer them to their network.

Next to this insight, the clustered data gathered through interviews revealed that newcomers experience challenges in paving a new path and setting goals. As newcomers have been raised in a more collectivist culture, they have always acted upon the collective interest. However, with the disappearance of the value of previously obtained degrees and their collective society, awareness of the self and its corresponding goals is crucial, to be alte to function within the dutch individualistic society.

The developed concept, namely a personal growth workshop has been designed in a way to facilitate both the creation of a network and the shaping of goals based on ‘the self’. The workshop creates a space in which newcomers and locals meet to partake in a personal growth workshop. Through a mutual goal, a social script and through offering a way to build ‘the shadow of the future’, the outline of a personal development workshop supports the acquaintance process between local and newcomer.

This workshop has been prototyped, piloted and evaluated iteratively three times. These pilot’s had been used to evaluate the effects on acquainting and personal growth, but also provided insights to develop the concept further. The findings of these pilots showed that the workshop has had a positive effect on the attitude of locals towards newcomers and that the workshop created more awareness of the self. The pilot has great potential in opening up a network through acquainting, but more research has to be conducted to facilitate the right micro interactions.