Roma Inclusion


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Roma Inclusion


The SDC contributed to Roma inclusion through projects in Western Balkans and Central Eastern Europe. In each country, SDC officers were in charge of the quality and follow-up of these projects, in close collaboration with national authorities (policy dialogue). The SDC worked in cooperation with IDS to ensure a continuous learning process among SDC staff. The aim of the process was to deepen the understanding of the drivers of exclusion, and of the enablers and barriers for promoting greater inclusion of Roma people in the region. In particular, the process enabled SDC staff to reflect on their practice and share their knowledge about good policy and practice in this area. For this purpose, the SDC organised regular seminars where SDC staff exchanged their experience on particular relevant topics: Belgrade 2013, Bucharest 2015 and Tirana 2016.

The learning process began in April 2015 at the Bucharest seminar where three learning groups were set up: discrimination and power relation, women's empowerment and good policy practice. The three groups continued to meet every six to eight weeks and IDS researchers supported the groups with facilitation and materials. The learning from these groups was explored and shared at the regional seminar in Tirana which took place in spring 2016.


Regional Seminars

​​Plovdiv 2018

August 2018 / Laurent Ruedin, Programme Officer, Swiss Department for Development and Cooperation (SDC)

The fourth Regional Seminar on Roma Social inclusion took place in Plovdiv from the 12-15 of March 2018. It focused on the approach taken by the SDC in Bulgaria namely promoting Roma inclusion through government institutions.

With a full day field visit in small working groups (in Sliven, Plovdiv and Sofia), the participants had the opportunity to explore the viewpoints of different stakeholders (municipalities, service providers, Roma community, ministries, programme officers, bilateral and other donors) regarding SDC supported activities for Roma inclusion. These insights helped to answer the two main questions:  

• What are the pre-requisites/conditions to ensure effectiveness and sustainability of Roma social inclusion in the definition and implementation of public service delivery at municipal level?
• What is the best intervention strategy to ensure sustainability with a project of limited duration?

For more information and the relevant documents, please visit the DDLG Shareweb (link: .


​​Tirana 2016


Social Reporting (page flow)

Leading on from the Bucharest seminar, a regional seminar was held from 30 May to 2 June 2016 in Tirana, Albania. The focus of the seminar was to share experiences of effective, sustainable and transformative work towards greater inclusion of Roma people in the region. Participants shared case studies of their own work. SDC officers who have been involved in the learning groups since the Bucharest seminar shared their learning, and the group reflected on their progress in developing a learning community and decided on next steps. Invited Roma special guests also participated in the seminar as 'critical friends'.

The Roma Inclusion Seminar took place at the Rogner Hotel in Tirana, Albania, from 30th May to 2nd June 2016. It was attended by over 40 participants from a range of related backgrounds and organisations: the comprehensive programme of activities included field visits, case studies, presentations, discussions and debate.

Building on the seminar in Bucharest (2015), this event focussed on the themes of effectiveness, sustainability and transformation in relation to Roma inclusion. After the formal opening, Laurent Ruedin introduced these themes and explored their meanings with participants who produced three flipcharts: effectiveness, sustainability and transformation.

A summary of the findings from an external evaluation on educational aspects of Roma inclusion was also presented.

Field experiences of Roma inclusion work

In this session Dominique Be framed the topic from the perspective of RomAct, and there were presentations of experiences and case studies in Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia and Albania.

This was followed by input from Agota Kovacs on data collection and disaggregation in Romania, along with feedback from Roma guests and Valerie Liechti.

Strengthening learning and collaboration mechanisms across the network

At the previous Roma Inclusion Seminar in Bucharest in 2015, two Learning Trajectories were set up - Women's empowerment, and Discrimination, Power Relations and working with non-Roma. In this session, feedback from these learning trajectories was shared and discussed by participants:

Promoting collaboration, experience and knowledge sharing

This session focussed on examples of good practice which were presented from Slovakia, Kosovo, Serbia and Bulgaria.

Participants were introduced to different forms of collaboration, including EU experience in peer to peer collaboration. As a way of exploring expertise and good practice, participants formed groups according to country and created posters along with a Collaboration Matrix.

Reviewing the state of the SCO: reflection on social inclusion

After field visits to Elbasan and Tirana, participants undertook reciprocal reflections on their experiences. This was followed by a presentation from the SDC on the Strategic outlook for social inclusion in Albania. There was also a sharing of reflections from Kosovo, Serbia and Macedonia, as well as examples from the Ambassadors of policy dialogue platforms on Roma Inclusion (Romania).

Wrapping up the seminar and future plans

Towards the end of the three days, Roma colleagues reflected on the seminar process and their participation. An evaluation was also undertaken by participants.

The two learning trajectories continued to explore women's empowerment and discrimination in the context of Roma citizens.

For more information, please contact Laurent Ruedin.


​​Bucharest 2015


This regional seminar took place in Bucharest in April 2015.  Over three days, SDC staff from country offices in the region, staff from SDC offices in Berne, and Swiss ambassadors in the region came together to share experiences in areas of policy dialogue and institutionalisation.  The seminar was co-facilitated by IDS researchers Jo Howard and Violeta Vajda who also gave presentations, and have subsequently worked with participants over the learning period.


​​Belgrade 2013

A seminar took place in Belgrade in 2013, which brought together SDC officers from across the Western Balkans and Central Eastern Europe to share experiences and identify learning priorities related to their work on promoting the inclusion of Roma people in the region. Participants identified the need for a learning process to be developed.


Learning Trajectory

​​Methodology / Working towards Roma Inclusion in the Western Balkans


The Learning Trajectory is a learning journey which supports peers within an organisation to reflect on their own work and learn from each other.

This learning approach usually begins with a workshop, at which learning topics are identified and agreed by the group of peers who will participate in the process.

It was agreed that the 2015 Roma Inclusion seminar in Bucharest (already planned by the SDC) offered an ideal space to begin a Learning Trajectory on Roma Inclusion. The process began and ended with a regional seminar. Between these seminars, IDS provided support and facilitation using learning methods of greater or lesser intensity, according to the modalities that peers preferred. Two key methods were selected at the 2015 Bucharest Seminar:


1.  Action Learning Sets

An Action Learning Set (ALS) is created for each theme. This group of no more than 6-8 people will meet on Skype 4-6 times over a year, until the next face-to-face workshop. The learning that emerges over the ALS meetings is presented in the face-to-face workshop. Action learning brings together people who are peers - who work on similar issues, with a similar level of responsibility, but who do not work together on a daily basis.

The action learning group or 'set' is a space in which people can share experience, recognise that others experience similar challenges and concerns, and learn from each other. It is a safe space in which to share worries, admit failures and test out new ideas. Outside of the ALS group discussions, ALS members engage in their own reading, reflection and action research. They bring these reflections to the next Skype meeting.


2.  Group Learning Projects

This is a less intensive approach to creating knowledge together around a key question. Case studies can be selected, to illuminate good practice but also failures. The group decides itself how much time they want to invest into identifying, analysis and writing of these case studies; the 'lightest' way is to mandate a facilitator/interviewer who asks for the information from 'experience carriers' via telephone interviews. A template can be prepared for the case studies to be written up. The case study can then be shared with the experience carriers to ensure accuracy. 

The process facilitator (who can be one of the group or a consultant) may write a synthesis and extract some operational guidance, which then could be deepened, corrected, extended and appropriated by the group (through e-discussions), to be presented at the next face-to-face meeting.


The Roma Inclusion Learning Groups

Four learning groups were created at the end of the Bucharest seminar. Two chose to work as action learning sets (one focusing on discrimination, the other on women's empowerment).  The other two chose to collect 'good practice' case studies from SDC offices (and potentially also other organisations) across the region.

The learning from these groups was written up and fed into the next regional seminar. The intention was also that during the learning process, the groups would – if appropriate – identify Roma partners who could be interested in attending the next seminar.

If you would like more information about the Roma Inclusion Learning Trajectory, please contact Jo Howard at IDS ( or Ruedin Laurent at the SDC (


This Briefing Note is one of a series produced by the SDC-IDS Collaboration on Poverty, Politics and Participatory Methodologies in SDC. The collaboration aimed at deepening the multidimensional understanding of poverty among SDC staff and improve the quality and effectiveness of SDC processes and operations focused on poverty.  It is co-ordinated by SDC's Quality Assurance and Poverty Reduction Section.  For more information contact Stephanie Guha at


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​​Video / Learning Trajectory, Reflective Learning Approach - Roma Social Inclusion Project

In this video, Jo Howard from IDS discusses Learning Trajectories. This is a reflective learning approach which underpins the support IDS is providing to SDC's Roma Inclusion work in the Western Balkans. 


​​Experience / Women’s Empowerment in Roma Communities: a learning process

July 2016 / Aurélie Schwarb, Academic Intern, Western Balkan Division, Swiss Department for Development and Cooperation (SDC)

On an Advisor initiative and with the support of IDS, a learning process began in April 2015 at the Bucharest seminar on Roma Inclusion. Two learning trajectories proposed by Nonprofit Organisations (NPOs) in charge of this theme were set up on different topics: Discrimination and Women's Empowerment.

The idea was to share experiences and knowledge through documents, discussions between peers, interviews and reflection on field visits. "When we visit communities, we get a lot of information that we can't digest immediately. In order to learn, we need to analyse and reflect on what we have experienced and been exposed to shortly after the visit. In most of the cases we are flooded by other tasks and don't take time for this. Being part of a learning trajectory forces you to step back and dive into what you have learnt from the experience:  discussions and exchanges with peers adds further insights", said Laurent Ruedin, advisor and member of the 'Women's Empowerment' learning trajectory.

The major goals of this learning process were to broaden the understanding of each subject and to understand the intermediaries' role. To achieve this, the groups met seven times, via Lync, between October 2015 and May 2016.

The Women's Empowerment learning trajectory helped its members to have a better understanding of how power is operating to perpetuate discrimination amongst Roma women. Considering that Roma women are confronted with different forms of discrimination - in the Roma family, Roma community and in broader society - identifying and reflecting on the intersecting inequalities and power relationships, as well as on model interventions, contributes to providing a new perspective which could help improve action in this field.

For instance, a lack of gender focus was identified in much NGO work with Roma people. Despite their struggle for empowerment, NGOs often only engaged with Roma women as 'mothers', which paradoxically led to the replication of discrimination. But women were often leaders in Roma community organisations, active in advocacy and acted as catalysts for other improvements in Roma inclusion. Moreover, the learning group found that women's empowerment also depends on a change in the attitudes of men. Therefore, in order to transform the unequal power relationship, it was of key importance to work with both.

The learning process was judged as very positive by the members of the groups. They deemed it extremely valuable to be able to have a reflection session aloud with peers, especially after a field visit. The experience holder was deepening her/his learning through communicating the experience which was also useful to the others at the same time. Moreover, these exchanges are particularly enriching when participants are confronted with different contexts and realities.

Nevertheless, only a few people took part in the groups. However, the situation improved: during the third social inclusion seminar in Tirana, new members subscribed and other learning trajectories were created.

If you would like further details, please click on these links to have the complete summary of the two learning trajectories:

Women's Empowerment