Creating community and promoting social inclusion between refugees and host community through physical activities

The COMMUNITY project aims to promote social inclusion of refugees in host communities through the implementation of socio-sports meetings, a methodology based on physical activities and sports that is developed in the framework of learning-service. The project is an initiative designed and implemented by the University of Barcelona, with the support of the European Commission.

The project intervention promotes physical activities and sports as a feasible tool to support individual and collective processes that imply a deep work in common values, interculturality, intergenerational relations, respect and recognition of the “other” as an equal, promoting social inclusion of refugees in host communities.

In addition, the project introduces civic engagement at the heart of the action, encouraging self-empowerment and the recognition and acceptance of multicultural and inclusive European societies.


Racism, discrimination, segregation or xenophobia are some of the obstacles for social inclusion of refugees. Besides these topics, some reports also identify the absence of opportunities for meaningful participation of these people in decision-making processes or limitations to access education and job market.

If the host communities are the ones located in the gates of entry of the European Union, like is the case of Spain, and affected by strong economic crisis and the rise of xenophobic discourses, the challenges are more important.

Led by the University of Barcelona, with the support of NGOs specialized in the field of refuge, COMMUNITY is a 3-year project that works on topics such as empowerment, coexistence, positive conflict management, direct engagement, critical thinking, interculturalism, intergenerational relations…, as well as facilitating physical well-being. As a result, we aim to promote social inclusion of refugees in host communities.


COMMUNITY project seeks to promote the social inclusion of refugees in host communities through the implementation of socio-sports meetings, a methodology based on physical activities and sports developed in the framework of service-learning.

The project is held in Barcelona and its specific objectives are to:

Improve knowledge and mutual understanding between refugees and host communities (university students, mainly).

Promote the direct engagement of host communities in innovative approaches in the field of refugee’s social inclusion.

Socio-sports meetings

These objectives are achieved through the implementation of a social intervention model called socio-sports meetings that, through the practice of physical activities (motor play games), contribute to the empowerment and improvement of participants’ social capacities, as well as their cognitive, emotional and motor capacities.

This model facilitates communication between refugees and volunteers, as well as coexistence, positive conflict management, direct engagement, critical thinking, interculturalism and intergenerational relations. As a result, it facilitates their social inclusion and physical well-being. On the other hand, it also promotes mutual knowledge, attitude changes and commitment of the host community regarding refugees.

SDG targets

Our project is related to the following Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda:

ODS 3. Good health and well-being. Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.

Goal 3.4 Promote mental health and well-being.

ODS 4. Quality education. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.

Goal 4.3 Ensure equal access for all women and men to affordable and quality technical, vocational and tertiary education, including university.

Goal 4.4 Substantially increase the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills, for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship.

ODS 10. Reduced inequalities. Reduce inequality within and among countries.

Goal 10.2 Empower and promote the social, economic and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status.


The University of Barcelona (UB) is implementing the COMMUNITY project within the framework of service-learning. Service-learning is defined as “an educational approach that combines learning objectives with community service in order to provide a pragmatic and progressive learning experience while meeting societal needs”.

For this reason, this approach requires cooperative and common work with civil society organizations, and more specifically, with NGOs and local public administrations. In this way, COMMUNITY meets local based organizations specialized in working with refugees and asylum seekers.

Through the UB’s Refugee Support Program, our University maintains intense contact with organizations like CEAR (Spanish Commission for Refugees), Red Cross, ACATHI (an NGO specialized in working with LGTBIQ+ refugees), ACCEM, Superacció, …

Refugee Support Programme of the UB

Since 2015, with the launch of the Refugee Support Programme of the UB, the common work with these organizations is more coordinated and with COMMUNITY this work is taking a step forward.

The UB wants to go deeper into specific work in terms of service-learning and promotion of sports and physical activity, following the experience of the socio-sports meetings with other target groups. The socio-sports meetings have been implemented since 1993 by the Department of Applied Didactics of the Faculty of Education of the UB.

University of Barcelona

The University of Barcelona (UB), which is the institution implementing the COMMUNITY project, is the main public institution of higher education in Catalonia. The UB is also the principal center of university research in Spain and has become a European benchmark for research activity, both in terms of the number of research programmes it conducts and the excellence these have achieved.

Its work contributes to the creation, transmission and diffusion of culture and of scientific, technical and professional knowledge, as well as to the promotion of critical thinking, innovation and pluralism.

UB has worked tirelessly in the pursuit of academic and research excellence, and is today considered a national and international leader in education, science and knowledge. The University’s training offer, rooted in the values of quality and innovation and adapted to the educational and professional needs of contemporary society, attracts over 60,000 students a year and encompasses all of the major branches of knowledge: the humanities, health sciences, social sciences, experimental sciences and engineering.

UB has 16 faculties, more than 5,600 researchers, more than 2,200 administrative staff and has one of the largest student, professor and researcher intakes of all spanish universities.

The UB remains as the only spanish member of the League of European Research Universities (LERU) and has bolstered its status as a research intensive university, consolidating its position as the most innovative university in Spain.

It is ranked 69th in the world in the Reuters Top 100: The World’s Most Innovative Universities. The UB is also the first ranked university in Spain in almost all the most prestigious international rankings. It is the first ranked university in Spain in the QS World University Ranking 2020 and the 165th worldwide. The 2018 edition of the Europe Teaching Rankings placed the UB 19th, making it the highest ranked public university in Spain.


Since 1993

The University of Barcelona (UB), through its Faculty of Education, has a broad and long experience in socio-educational intervention through physical activities and sports, the so-called socio-sports meetings, which have been implemented since 1993.

The areas of action of this intervention have focused on prison (people deprived of freedom) and mental health (people with mental disorders), and since 2015 there is an important interest to work with refugees.

Socio-sport meeting
Development of a socio-sports meeting between refugees and volunteers.

Over 16,000 participants

As a significant fact, it must be taken into account that more than 8,000 students from the Faculty of Education of the UB have participated in the socio-sports meetings, and these meetings have benefited some 8,000 people from different groups (people deprived of freedom, people with health problems, migrants, etc.).

The timeliness and usefulness of this socio-educational intervention program is demonstrated by the fact that it is being replicated in other Catalan and Spanish universities and in other countries in South and Central America. This is the case of Nicaragua, where the Culture and Sports Meetings have been promoted and organized for more than 10 years, in the framework of cooperation between the University of Barcelona and the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua in León (UNAN-León, Faculty de Educational Sciences and Humanities).