Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses ...

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You can learn a lot about a society from what is happening at its margins. That’s because no sustainable solution to a problem can exclude those who are vulnerable, such as the mentally ill, refugees, people with learning disabilities and the LGBT+ community.

This week we found inspiring stories of inclusion at the margins, from Europe to the Middle East and North America.

For 700 years, residents in a small Belgian town have been housing strangers with severe mental health problems and learning disabilities. Jennifer Rankin visited the residents of Geel, whose “radical kindness” is stirring interest from academics and policymakers.

Throughout the Middle East, gay and transgender people face state-sponsored repression, intimidation and violence. In comparison with other countries in the region, there is a relatively thriving community in Lebanon, although there is still a daily threat of harassment. In Beirut, Saeed Kamali Dehghan visited Helem – meaning “dream” in Arabic – the first community centre for LGBTQI+ people in the Arab world where “everyone is welcome”.

When Abu Bakr al-Rabeeah, 17, and his Syrian family arrived in the Canadian city of Edmonton, he was determined to challenge those who saw them as helpless refugees, defined by the conflict they had escaped. As he learned English he began to recount his story to a trusted teacher, who soon realised his astonishing tale needed to be heard by a bigger audience, as Ashifa Kassam discovered.

What we liked:

This piece in Pacific Standard looks at the success of “recovery high schools” for students with addiction problems. And the Philadelphia Citizen profiles the work of the excellently named Center for Good Food Purchasing, which encourages large institutions to be smarter about how and where they buy their food.

What we heard:

Parked cars are the problem no one can see. I live in a small British city and I’m in a car club. I wish there was more incentive to join these kinds of schemes as there is always a car/van available when I need one and they really work. If they were cheaper I think more people would use them as they realise that they are an economical and reliable alternative to owning a car.

Commenter cakeycakey writing below the line of our Dutch parking spaces story

Where was the upside?

In the Netherlands, where a project in The Hague encouraging residents to transform their parking spaces into something greener has sparked a debate about whether we need cars at all.

If there is a story, innovation or trailblazer you think we should report on, write to us at


The Upside weekly report



Middle East and North Africa




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