Guess who’s coming to dinner? A cultural integration project


What is the project “Guess who’s coming to dinner?”

The project was created from the bottom up by the Rete Italiana di Cultura Popolare (Italian Network of Folk Culture) and the same migrant families who felt the desire to open up themselves and their homes to meeting and sharing, with no stimulus other than their willingness and desire to “work in a network”: they offer a special family dinner, designed for those who have the “curiosity” to meet “another.”. This simple intimate experience breaks down the walls of suspicion created by a lack of awareness and a fear of different cultures. Something “magically” normal happens at the table: they talk about children, school, work, cinema and music and discover that they are so similar; they become friends and continue to meet afterwards. With a simple dinner you start from Morocco to China, Romania to Argentina, from Afghanistan to Ethiopia, sharing and telling stories of journeys, places and people: this is the idea at the heart of the project.

It is not a project of gastronomy.
“Guess who’s coming to dinner?” is a project for creating relationships.

The project “Guess who’s coming to dinner?” was launched during the 2011 edition of the International Festival of Folk Oral Culture, with a communal dinner involving over 100 people united around one table in Piazza Carlo Alberto in the heart of Turin, the dinner was prepared by the migrant families who participate in the project.

As of 2012, the project has become permanent, with an annual program and diffusion and development in all of the areas that participate and choose to promote it. The cities that propose, “Guess who’s coming to dinner?” aside from Turin are Carmagnola (TO), Alessandria, Prato, Grosseto and Gavorrano, Verona, Vicenza, Roma. Barcelona and other European cities are also joining “Guess who’s coming to dinner?”

How does it work?

It takes the form of a series of dinners in the private homes of migrant families and from this year also asylum seekers. The families open their homes to host a dinner for a group of people who are interested in learning about the culture, traditions and cuisine of their country of origin.

Those who express their interest can make a booking, and the day before the dinner, they discover who will be the host family and their country of origin. Guests cannot choose their preferred country or cuisine; they are guided for a night and meet people that are yet unknown to them. On the night of the dinner, they go to the indicated address. A family opens the door to their home and introduces the guests into their world: it could be that they tell stories of the journey to get here, show wedding photos or pictures of distant families but guests can also find themselves talking about children who may go to school together, their favourite sports teams, work and plans for the future.
Each guest is welcome to contribute, at their discretion, to cover the expenses of the dinner.

There is much more at stake than just a dinner, there is the opportunity to build real cultural policy from the bottom up thanks to the meeting, the proposal, and the mutual recognition. 

The diffusion of the project is thanks to evidence that shows more and more communities, whether in large cities or small towns, feel the need to begin investing in relationship capital.
Today there are citizens and “new citizens”: communities are composed of people born in this country and those who have chosen to live here coming from far away. The food, in the North as in the South of our country, is the centre around which it is easy build a first meeting, a connection: at dinner, we meet and get to know each other with simplicity. This is therefore not a project of gastronomy but a project in which the relationship with food and with friendliness are an opportunity to create human relationships between people and families. An opportunity to share private spaces that for the occasion become communal, social spaces.

The Italian Network of Folk Culture acts as a guarantor to the families who, with a gesture of great trust and private, welcome into their homes the people who want to share in this idea. The network aims to create partnerships and collaborations, to communicate what is happening throughout the country, but above all it facilitates the growth of local antennae that have the capacity to work together.

The matching grant of Fondazione CRT.

The proceeds of the “big” dinners that take place during the annual Festival of Folk Oral Culture (every year in October), are matched by Fondazione CRT. These resources are used to facilitate employment inclusion of children from migrant families, future new citizens. The resources go directly to support the families, without any mediation costs.

So far, € 10,000 has been collected, to which another € 10,000 is added from the matching grant of Fondazione CRT.

The consequences of connections

The event generates ideas, courage and a desire to do, so much so that a group of young people from Egypt, Albania, Cameroon, China and Afghanistan and other nationalities who originally met during the ‘Guess who’s coming to dinner?’ project, have proposed an online radio program to the Italian Network of Folk Culture. This project is currently being constructed.

Website of the Italian Network of Folk Culture:

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  • Fondazione CRT
  • Italy

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