Problem definition and project goals

The project "Innovative Formats for the Integration of Immigrants in Regions with High Demographic Challenges" (abbreviated to "Integration Innovative") developed practical solutions for the permanent integration of refugees and other immigrants in peripheral rural communities. Immigration offers a promising future, especially for structurally weak and rural regions against the backdrop of demographic change. Compared to the anonymity of larger cities, immigrants find better integration potential in rural areas, e.g. due to the "closeness" to the inhabitants or the strong social role of the associations. Nevertheless, after a short time they often move to urban areas, which they perceive as more attractive and with better prospects for them. In the project "Integration Innovative", two Rhineland-Palatinate municipalities, together with researchers from the ITA and the TU Kaiserslautern, tested new ways to improve local integration and to support the long-term retention of immigrants in rural areas.

The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) funded the project within the framework of FONA "Kommunen innovativ", a measure for municipalities that research and apply sustainable strategies for local development, infrastructure and public services in cooperation with science.

Approach and results

The project linked the topics of "integration of immigrants" and "demographic change" and thus broke new ground for sustainable municipal and regional development. The scientific work focussed on the analysis of supportive and inhibiting factors as well as framework conditions for immigrants to remain permanently in rural regions. Among other things, the retention factors in rural areas, the implications of the spatial distribution of refugees, framework conditions and solutions for successful integration in the labour market and in society were considered.

In addition to researching these issues, science and practice initiated new dialogue and cooperation formats in the participating municipalities. Numerous full-time and voluntary initiatives are active there, which were networked within the framework of the process moderation and included in the development of new approaches. The project has shown that networking, ideation and cooperation of interdisciplinary actors is useful for dealing with the challenges of integration and allows for good approaches to solutions for municipalities.

The publication series "Integration in Rural Regions" produced in the project is aimed at rural municipalities with an interest in the long-term integration of immigrants:

Part 1: Explanatory model of immigrants' choice of residence

Part 2: Framework conditions for integration - challenges and possible solutions

Part 3: Managing integration through a data-driven and integrated site development concept

Part 4: Practical tools for process facilitation and network building

The toolbox "Integration in Rural Municipalities" contains instruments (e.g. presentations, script sheets for workshops, checklist) that were used in the project for process facilitation in the participating municipalities. Other municipalities can use these instruments as templates and adapt them for their location. You can download the toolbox in ZIP file format here:

Toolbox "Integration in rural communities

Further information on the funding line and the project:

Project title

IN²: Innovative formats for integrating immigrants in regions with high demographic challenges

Duration: 01.05.2017 – 30.09.2020

Project partners

  • TU Kaiserslautern, Senior-Forschungsprofessur Stadtplanung Prof. Dr.-Ing. Steinebach
  • Verbandsgemeinde Gerolstein
  • Verbandsgemeinde Nordpfälzer Land


Contact person

Dipl.-Komm.-Wirtin Marina Jentsch
Senior Research Assistant