The DIVERCITIES researchers found (in Work Packages 4 and 5) that it is often at the city, and/or at the district or neighbourhood scale, where some of the most progressive and innovative policies, approaches and initiatives with regard to diversity are now to be found in Europe – both bottom-up and initiated by local governments.
Coordinated by Claire Colomb (The Bartlett School of Planning, University College London)
This is happening, firstly, in a context of ‘austerity politics’ which is having a major impact on central, regional and local government funding capacities and welfare budgets. Urban programmes and interventions have been downscaled in almost all cases. In some instances this is leading to the abandonment of vulnerable groups and interests in local policy. In some cities, notably Athens and London, this is also leading to a forced devolution of responsibilities onto individuals, neighbourhood-based communities, civil society groups or even private business actors.
Secondly, this is happening in a context of increasing tensions in national politics over the presence of migrants, and more widely over the functioning and cohesion of diverse, multi-ethnic and multicultural national societies. The adverse impacts of globalization and neoliberal policies, the post-2008 economic crisis, global migration flows, geopolitical tensions and the rise of terrorism have been fuelling a more reactionary politics in many European countries. This has led to a move away from national agendas promoting greater pluralism and multiculturalism towards an increased return to demands for ‘assimilation’ and ‘integration’. The growing hyper-diversity of societies and cities is increasingly viewed by national governments as a threat to social cohesion. The extent to which this is happening in different countries and the form it is taking in specific cities reflects their particular histories and conditions. At its most extreme, neo-fascist, xenophobic or ultra-nationalist movements are emerging, along with anti-immigration and anti-EU parties.
Yet in many large European cities, we are witnessing a growing divergence between national and city-level policy agendas with regard to diversity, characterised by more pragmatic approaches at the urban level that promote the positive aspects of difference for economic competitiveness and social cohesion. In some countries, recent local elections have brought to power progressive coalitions (e.g. in several cities of Spain, notably Barcelona, Madrid and Valencia, and more recently Berlin) or Left-wing mayors (e.g. in Paris, London or Rotterdam) who are distancing themselves from the agendas of their national government and supporting a new progressive municipal politics, in part building on existing social movements, grassroot initiatives and forms of social innovation which have developed in the context of social and economic crisis.
This workshop will therefore address the following themes:
– To what extent are the challenges and opportunities brought about by hyper-diversity first and foremost urban issues that should be resolved at the urban scale? Is the local/urban scale the best place to develop new types of policy innovations and good practices in relation to diversity?
– Which local grassroot initiatives and forms of social innovation have emerged over the past decade or so to address the challenges and opportunities of hyper-diversity? To what extent, and how, are they being/can be/should be “upscaled” to inform public policies at the city or regional level, and replicated in other areas?
– Can the signs of a more ‘progressive’ municipal politics in several European cities counteract the more ‘regressive’ tendencies of national politics in European countries?
Schedule of the workshop
15.30: Introduction to the workshop and key themes (Claire Colomb)
15:40: Sona Mahtani, Chief Executive of the Selby Trust (Tottenham, London): Community-led development in a super-diverse London borough: challenges and change in an era of austerity. Lessons from the Selby Trust and Centre.
The Selby Trust was set up as a charity in 1992 in Tottenham, in the London Borough of Haringey, by local people who recognised the need for a multi-purpose centre led by the community and third sector organisations. Since 1992, it has operated from the Selby Centre, which the Trust manages as a multi-purpose community and social enterprise centre with offices, meeting rooms, training facilities, sports and events halls and a large car park. The Centre, which is located in an area of high deprivation, brings together a rich mix of individuals and organisations, primarily from Black and Minority Ethnic groups, refugee and other historically excluded communities in Tottenham, Haringey, North London and beyond. It reaches over 100 enterprises and attracts 1,500 individuals on a regular basis.
See: http://selbytrust.co.uk | http://www.thepowertochange.org.uk/the-team/sona-mahtani/
16:10-17:00 Debates and discussion with all participants