"A win-win project"

 Executive MPA Robert Formato is helping find homes for refugees in Italy.

When thousands of refugees began pouring into Italy from Syria last year, Roberto Formato found his Hertie School skills in considerable demand. Working with the European Regional Development Fund and the European Rural Development Programme, Formato had to find a municipal housing solution to replace the government's emergency shelters in large, unfilled hotels. Having finished his Executive Master of Public Management in 2012, Formato was well-equipped to coordinate with European and local authorities, deal with financing and manage the project's performance, all of which had to happen very fast.

"This is a difficult project," Formato says. Getting municipal authorities on board can be tough, as local populations are not always welcoming to refugees. He wanted to ensure his plan would also help effectively integrate the refugees into their new communities, and reduce the potential for hostility. "I challenged the European regional development fund and Italian municipalities to think about a completely different policy towards refugees," he said. "If we placed refugee families in rural Italian villages, where there are a lot of empty houses, we could manage their integration differently."

By providing homes and putting children in local schools, which, due to low enrolment rates, are in danger of closing, Formato thinks this could be "a win-win project." He hopes his plan can ignite the necessary structural change needed to successfully integrate refugees - and possibly become a model for other communities. Formato says the governance perspective he gained at the Hertie School has been invaluable in connecting all the actors in such complex projects and steering them towards agreed projects and solutions.

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