Scientific evaluation of matched integration meetings

Mardin Baban, operations manager at Nya Kompisbyrån and Mounir Karadja, researcher at Uppsala University’s Department of Economics

Mardin Baban, operations manager at Nya Kompisbyrån and Mounir Karadja, researcher at Uppsala University’s Department of Economics

For the first time, a scientific study is to be conducted of an integration activity involving matched meetings between established and new Swedes. The study will be conducted in collaboration between Uppsala University’s Uppsala Immigration Lab and not-for-profit organisation Nya Kompisbyrån. The aim is to measure the effects on participants in terms of jobs, social relationships, values and housing.

“This is one of the first research projects in the world to use a randomised controlled trial (RCT) to study the role of civil society in integrating migrants. Earlier non-scientific evaluations have shown that over one in four of those matched with an established Swede report obtaining a job or work placement via their new contact. Our intention is to produce scientifically underpinned results,” says project member Mounir Karadja, a researcher at Uppsala University’s Department of Economics.

Since 2014, not-for-profit organisation Nya Kompisbyrån [New Friend Agency] has matched over 40,000 new and established Swedes with one another all over the country. To increase the chances of a meaningful encounter, the participants are matched based on common interests, gender and age. Participants meet unconditionally for approximately one hour, digitally during the pandemic but otherwise in person over coffee or dinner in the home of one of the participants.

“We see how these meetings, which for many are their first informal contact with an established Swede, enrich the lives of new Swedes. We also see that, through these meetings, established Swedes are enriched by new knowledge of other cultures and life stories. We are therefore delighted to be involved in this collaboration with Uppsala Immigration Lab as together we seek answers to what effects these meetings have,” says Mardin Baban, operations manager at Nya Kompisbyrån.

Will cover over 3,000 people

The study will cover over 3,000 people recruited via the Nya Kompisbyrån website. When new participants register to be matched with potential friends, they will also be asked to participate in the study. Participants will be divided into three groups: new Swedes, established Swedes, and a control group. Each individual will be asked to answer questionnaires to provide continuous updates on their situation over the course of 12 months. Data collection is expected to take approximately three years and the hope is that interim results can be presented after just over one year.

The scientific method being applied is called randomised controlled trial (RCT). This means that participants are selected at random to be either matched or join the control group. By comparing the matched individuals with the control group, it will be possible to measure the effects of the meetings.

Annica Hulth

Facts: Uppsala Immigration Lab and Nya Kompisbyrån

Uppsala University’s Uppsala Immigration Lab (UIL) brings together researchers from various fields, including political scientists and economists, to study issues related to migration and working life of which knowledge is still limited. The ambition is to generate new and relevant knowledge and to communicate this with a clear policy perspective.

Nya Kompisbyrån (NKB) is one of Sweden’s largest not-for-profit organisations focused on strengthening integration and increasing social cohesion. To date, NKB has matched over 40,000 new and established Swedes with one another. Participants range in age from 18 to 90 and come from over 130 countries.

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