Cross-Evaluation Conference


The DIVERCITIES Cross-Evaluation Conference is a stakeholder workshop on the topic of  ‘Governing Urban Diversity’. This workshop brings together 70 civil society representatives, policy-makers, academic experts and DIVERCITIES researchers from fourteen cities to discuss how urban diversity can positively affect social cohesion, economic performance and the social mobility of individuals and groups.

During this workshop the DIVERCITIES team will present findings from four years of intensive research on the governing of urban diversity in 14 cities1. During small group sessions, we will discuss these findings in relation to your own experience and expertise on everyday life in diverse urban neighbourhoods and the ways in which diversity promotes or hinders social cohesion, social mobility, economic performance and entrepreneurship in diverse neighbourhoods. Our focus lies on policy and governance implications of these findings for policy makers and civil society organisations working on various levels (European, national, regional, urban and neighbourhood).

We are grateful that you have agreed to attend this stakeholder workshop and contribute to the dialogue on how urban diversity can be governed in such a way as to contribute to social cohesion, economic performance and the social mobility of individuals and groups. In the following pages you can read a range of statements in which we draw policy and governance conclusions from our research on urban diversity. They are organised around three themes.

The aim of the workshop is to discuss these statements with you during three small group sessions. We kindly ask you to read these statements in advance and think about them in the context of your own city. We would like to hear from you whether you have similar experiences or not? Whether you think the suggested policies or strategies could work in your city and if so, under which conditions? Or whether they have already been tried and what the results were?

Overall, we would like to hear from you whether our research findings fit with your own understanding of urban diversity and its governance and learn what you as policy makers and civil society organisations can do with the research results. The focus is on policy implications that are relevant for all cities, but we would also like to hear from you about best practices and important differences between cities in terms of their diversity and their policy and governance arrangements.

The programme comprises three plenary sessions and three small group sessions as described below:

Session 1Session 2Session 3
Social cohesion, neighbourhood attachment and everyday life in diverse neighbourhoods

Statement #1: Residents of disadvantaged and diverse neighbourhoods chose to live there mainly for reasons of location and low housing prices rather than for cultural diversity. Although specific groups (‘diversity seekers’) may be attracted by diversity, policy-makers should not work with a general expectation that diversity is an important factor of attraction for these neighbourhoods.

Statement #2: Policy-makers need to publicly recognise the value of living in diversity and facilitate peaceful co-existence in disadvantaged and diverse neighbourhoods, for example through staff and volunteer training, assistance regarding financial and organisational planning for local organisations, providing networking possibilities and the establishment of community centres to support intercultural exchange.

Statement #3: Many diverse neighbourhoods have a negative reputation. Negative images of these neighbourhoods are mostly spread by outsiders and often do not match the experiences of the residents of these neighbourhoods themselves. Policy makers and civil society organisations can work with the more positive feelings of neighbours to counter externally imposed negative images of the neighbourhoods, for example by training and supporting residents to speak for their neighbourhood in the mass media.

Statement #4: Perceptions of diversity of residents vary widely according to the place where one is confronted with diversity. Residents tend to be more sensitive to diversity in schools than to diversity in shops or restaurants and are more ambivalent about diversity in public spaces. This may have to do with the role of schools in the reproduction of people’s position in society. Policy-makers and civil society representatives should provide more support to places and situations in which diversity is seen as threatening, particularly in schools.

Statements #5: Perceptions of diversity vary depending on someone’s perspective. Immigrant residents with high ambitions for upward social mobility find the presence of native residents important, while the presence of different ethnic groups is thought to provide protection from excessive community-based control. Natives tend to overlook diversity amongst residents with a migrant background and mainly look at the balance between natives and foreigners. Policy-makers and civil society representatives should create more awareness of ‘diversity within diversity’ among the general population.

Statement #6: The dense social networks that often develop amongst immigrants in diverse neighbourhoods can provide protection against the pressures and social exclusions from mainstream society as well as impose social control and push down expectations of its members. Policy-makers and civil society organisations should be aware of the temporary benefits the spatial concentration of ethnocultural minorities in certain neighbourhoods offers to newcomers, but should also attend to its negative effects when social integration in the broader society is not happening.

Statement #7: In disadvantaged and diverse neighbourhoods, the arrival and presence of the new urban middle classes leads to mixed feelings amongst established residents. Negative perceptions are related to the fear for rising housing prices, the loss of identity and the clash of lifestyles, while positive perceptions refer to an improving reputation of the neighbourhood. When approaching diversity, policy-makers should be aware that conflicts around living in diversity do not only revolve around ethnocultural distinctions, but also around socio-economic and associated cultural distinctions.

Statement #8: Institutionalising diversity in public and private organisations by working with community representatives may work well as a transitional strategy, but should be avoided as a long term strategy since it tends to strengthen the social control of elites over all members of minority groups. Working with community representatives is less needed if minorities are fully socially integrated in society.

Statement #9: Local initiatives should focus on capacity-building in the community, e.g. by hiring or involving members of the target group, to generate long-term effects on social cohesion in diverse neighbourhoods. 1

Perceptions and approaches of diversity by policy-makers and civil society actors

Statement #1: Local initiatives that are concerned with urban diversity often work at the intersection of various policy domains, such as integration, culture, youth, sports and economic policies. Because local governments organise their contacts with other actors and their funding instruments mainly according to policy sectors, local initiatives often encounter difficulties when contacting local governments and applying for funding. Funding for and contacts with urban diversity initiatives should be organised across specific policy sectors.

Statement #2: Residents of disadvantaged and diverse neighbourhoods are not aware of most of the diversity policies and initiatives taken in their neighbourhood. Most of them are not active in bottom-up initiatives and there is a tendency to distrust politicians and public institutions. Policy-makers and civil society organisations should build trust and communicate more and in more diverse ways about what they are doing in the neighbourhood. They can also work with intermediaries, especially to reach the less educated and poorer people in the neighbourhood.

Statement #3: Local initiatives on urban diversity are more effective when they can focus on actual needs of diverse urban populations. They often experience tensions between their flexible approach and reliance on volunteers and the formal structures and legal status required to receive funding and the imposition by the government of strict policy priorities. Policy-makers should therefore be careful when imposing their policy priorities and leave sufficient space for local actors to respond to local needs.

Statement #4: Local initiatives are more successful if they combine their local base and social networks with supra-local networks and resources. Public institutions, big civil society organisations and umbrella organisations have an important role to play in this. Financial support is crucially important, but non-material support, such as expertise, enabling legal frameworks, the provision of qualitative public space and logistical support, should not be underestimated.

Statement #5: Local governments have a role to play in organising a platform for the exchange of experiences between local bottom-up initiatives around urban diversity, while local initiatives should invest more in their role as bridge-builders with public policy makers and service providers.

Statement #6: National governments across Europe are adopting an increasingly hostile tone towards ethnic and cultural diversity. At the same time, many cities, sometimes supported by the European Union, are adopting more pragmatic and celebratory approaches, highlighting how diversity contributes to economic competitiveness and a renewed sense of social cohesion. How well are cities positioned to be the drivers of a new culture of diversity recognition in Europe? Which role should national states play in governing diversity?

Statement #7: Local initiatives around urban diversity tend to make use of the positive potential of diverse urban populations, focusing on intercultural dialogue, encounter and promoting an inclusive urban culture, while top-down policy programs tend to stress cultural integration and assimilation. Although both approaches of diversity can contradict each other, policy-makers can learn about the positive potential of diversity from the more inclusive and pluralist approaches in bottom-up initiatives, while bottom-up initiatives may learn from top-down policies about the conditions that are required to make living in diversity possible.

Statement #8: The diversity in particular countries and cities can be the result of a colonial past, guest worker schemes, family reunification, asylum seeker provisions, etc. The position and trajectory of migrants in the host country therefore varies widely. Policy-makers need to adapt their expectations of migrants and migration to the on-the-ground realities of diversity and develop context-sensitive rather than ‘one size fits all’ policies and strategies. They also need to be careful when transferring ‘best practices’ from one city to another.

Statement #9: Policy concerns are increasingly focused on individual aspirations and responsibilities and downplay structural explanations for social and economic inequalities. This creates a bias towards the ‘successful’ aspects of diversity in cities, e.g. successful migrant entrepreneurs, while other parts of the urban diverse population are less valued by policy makers. Policy-makers and civil society initiatives should value all sections of the diverse urban population and should give more attention to equality of outcomes rather than just equality of opportunities.

Statement #10: Policies and policy changes, e.g. budget cuts, are not diversity neutral and often have strong impacts on vulnerable populations with a migrant background. An awareness and recognition of diversity should inform all welfare and planning policies (e.g. through an ex ante ‘diversity test’ of new policy measures).

Social mobility, economic performance and entrepreneurship in diverse neighbourhoods

Statement #1: Whereas most creative enterprises and highly skilled entrepreneurs in diverse neighbourhoods perform well economically, many ‘non-innovative’ immigrant enterprises often generate just enough money to make ends meet. Still local policies often have a one- sided focus on the highly skilled, creative or innovative enterprises and can therefore become more effective by taking into account the full variety of entrepreneurship in diverse neighbourhoods.

Statement #2: Although creative and high-tech enterprises receive substantial attention and support from local governments and often improve the image of deprived neighbourhoods and attract new customer groups, they are mostly not well connected to the diversity of the neighbourhood. Local governments should support the involvement of migrants in the local creative and high-tech economy, for example by supporting intermediaries, establishing platforms of exchange and dialogue or oblige new enterprises to employ a certain percentage of local (low skilled) residents.

Statement #3: Numerous small local enterprises such as retailers, pubs and restaurants play an important role in diverse neighbourhoods by providing affordable and specialised goods and services and employment opportunities for disadvantaged people, but they often feel underappreciated by governments. Smaller enterprises feel the impact of taxation and regulation more than larger enterprises and therefore expect more from local government in terms of the provision of legal and general advice, the organisation of ‘single points of contact’ and the fostering of connections with them.

Statement #4: The resources and background of entrepreneurs in diverse neighbourhoods vary widely, while the support provided is too often standardised and ‘colour-blind’. There is a need for local governments to provide tailor-made advice and training programs in diverse neighbourhoods and promote and support intermediary local organisations, such as training bureaus, consultancies and business associations to strengthen migrant entrepreneurs.

Statement #5: Immigrant entrepreneurs, especially from smaller enterprises, are not used to co-operate with public institutions, are seldom aware of governmental support programmes and policies and often mistrust public authorities. Public institutions should build trust and engage with migrant entrepreneurs through supportive actions and effective communication as well as by minimising bureaucratic procedures.

Statement #6: Local and central governments only seldom use diversity as an asset to foster entrepreneurship. Local governments and civil society organisations should reflect on the potential of diversity for entrepreneurship and the economic performance of the neighbourhood economy.

Statement #7: Migrant entrepreneurs often experience problems accessing finance. Micro- credit and financial advice are important for them, especially in the start-up phase. The high levels of taxation rates create negative impacts on the performance of enterprises.

Statement #8: Urban regeneration policies often generate displacement pressures on the small and migrant businesses in the area. Local policies should pay more attention to the impact of regeneration policies on small and migrant businesses and the vitality of street life and take measures to prevent displacement.

Statement #9: We found little evidence that diversity supports social mobility and out-of- poverty trajectories in diverse and disadvantaged neighbourhoods. When developing anti- poverty strategies, policy-makers and civil society organisations should not focus on diversity per se, but on direct investments in the poor (e.g. education, job creation, etc.).

Statement #10: Although valuable as a source of income and autonomy, migrant entrepreneurship will not address the newcomers’ structural problems on the labour market, which requires inclusive labour market policies.

Case Studies:
Antwerp, Athens, Budapest, Copenhagen, Istanbul, Leipzig, London, Milan, Paris, Rotterdam, Tallinn, Toronto, Warsaw and Zurich.

During the conference we asked ten representatives to tell us about the positive aspects of diversity in their city, and how they think DIVERCITIES research may manifest in the future. You can hear their responses here.

Image: Melissa Lee

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