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DIVERCITIES Newsletter #3

Welcome to the third issue of our newsletter! Launched in March 2013, DIVERCITIES brings together 14 accomplished partners to collaborate on a four-year research project funded by the 7th Framework Programme of the European Commission. The main objective of DIVERCITIES is to examine how diversity can foster social cohesion, social mobility and economic performance in European cities.

Interview with Walter Schenkel

synergo Mobility-Politics-Space GmbH

Leader of DIVERCITIES Work Package #5: Governance Arrangements and Initiatives

synergo is the only DIVERCITIES partner that is not a university or educational institution. What is synergo’s area of expertise?

synergo is a small company located in Zurich. We do a lot of work in various policy fields including urban planning, transportation planning, improvement of collaboration between municipalities, provinces, etc. We are involved in both national and international programmes and have a lot of experience in practical aspects such as giving advice to public authorities and working together with authorities and local inhabitants. For us, as a SME, it is important to transform empirical research results into practice, to make them useful for administrations and politicians.

What is your professional background?

Both myself and my collaborating colleague Larissa Plüss are political scientists. One of the projects I’ve worked on in the past is a research project called “Cities Regrowing Smaller”. It was a COST action project, a European programme about the exchange of research information. The project was about shrinking cities in Europe – why some cities are shrinking and how to deal with it, for instance to implement future-oriented regeneration strategies or to support innovation and education in shrinking urban areas.

Other projects we are busy with: to improve participation and collaboration in transportation, urban planning and neighbourhood regeneration projects. We elaborate participation and communication concepts and support their implementation – together with the responsible politicians and administrations. Relevant principles go back to a research project as well.

What is a ”governance arrangement”? Are they always bottom-up or can they also be top-down?

In the DIVERCITIES project, we understand a governance arrangement as a kind of network that treats diversity in a positive way. It’ll probably be a small initiative in a neighbourhood or an urban area designed to improve conditions, of the foreign residents, for instance. The aim of this kind of arrangement is to foster social cohesion, increase economic performance and social mobility in the context of urban diversity. The most important thing is to make a distinction between government and governance.

I also teach sometimes at universities and this is how I explain the two. Do you know the James Bond film “Dr No” from the 1960s? That’s government. James Bond knows what the problem is, who his friends and enemies are and who the boss is. He has a clear mission and he knows what to do. That’s government, and it’s top down. The boss tells him what to do and Bond solves the problem, usually by eliminating the enemy.

Now with governance, maybe you know the “Die Hard” film from the 80s? Bruce Willis plays a streetwise cop called McClane, whose wife, by coincidence, is held hostage inside a Los Angeles skyscraper. At first, McClane doesn’t have a clue what’s going on, who the kidnappers are or who can help him. He just knows that he has to piece together the information himself and formulate a mission to save his wife. He has to “arrange” his network. Step by step, he recruits the help of people inside and outside the building, including another policeman, and together they begin to solve the problem. That’s an example for governance – it’s much more complex. I think the “Die Hard” analogy is closer to reality than the James Bond one.

What are the key objectives of WP5?

WP5 is a collection of these governance arrangements. Each partner has to define 10-15 such initiatives in their urban neighbourhoods; arrangements that focus on using diversity in a positive way. So it can be integration projects, projects that work together with migrant children to improve their situation, etc. We collect these initiatives based on a certain criteria then analyse and compare all the initiatives including the success factors and failure factors as well as questions, for instance about financing. These initiatives are often bottom-up but when it comes to financing, a bottom-up project (or at least a part of it) can become a top-down initiative, as quite often there is some public money involved in such initiatives. We try to understand how diversity is conceptualised in these initiatives. For sure, the results will be interesting for the partner cities and the involved people on the policy platforms to see what is going on in other cities and countries. They can learn from each other.

Can you give us some examples of governance arrangements in Zurich?

There is an initiative called “Laureus Street Soccer”. It is an open, intercultural street soccer league that aims at integrating young migrants through sports. Another initiative is called “Mother-Child” which provides German language courses to migrant children and their mothers at the same time. There is also the “Intergalactical Choir” – an opportunity for migrants (especially refugees and migrants without a permit) to meet and interact through music.

Hungarian Policy Platform Meeting

18 November 2013, Budapest

ATTENDEES (L-R): Zsuzsa Galamb, Richárd Ongjerth, Ildikó Kassai, Ilona Bodonyi, Zoltán Kovács, Judit Gáborné Székely, Dániel Horváth, Ákos Czeglédy, Attila Molnár

On 18 November 2013, the University of Szeged hosted a meeting in Budapest, Hungary for its Policy Platform members.

Seven of its nine platform members attended the meeting along with DIVERCITIES researchers Zoltán Kovács, Dániel Horváth and Szabolcs Fabula. Project objectives, latest research findings and proposed tasks and responsibilities of the policy platform were discussed, as well as questions regarding research methodology and selection of the case study area in Budapest. Minutes of the meeting and photo material have since been sent to the platform members.

Second International Consortium Meeting

15-17 December 2013

Istanbul, Turkey

The second international consortium meeting was hosted by the the Middle East Technical University (METU) in Istanbul, Turkey. The three-day meeting took place at the Ramada Istanbul Taksim Hotel.

Two sessions were held with respect to Work Package 4: Assessment of Urban Policies, which aims to provide an overview of the political systems and governance structures in relation to diversity in each of the 14 research cities. In the first session, Claire Colomb and Mike Raco presented a general overview regarding progress of the research and held a plenary discussion. In the second session, general comments were shared about the draft chapters submitted by each of the 14 partners. The meeting was then divided into smaller breakout groups and partners gave in-depth feedback and reflections on each other’s work. Researchers also discussed provisional thoughts on cross-cutting themes such as assimilationist discourses, the effects of austerity and new economic challenges such as globalisation.

Larissa Plüss and Walter Schenkel led the sessions on Work Package 5: Governance Arrangements & Initiatives. WP5 investigates bottom-up initiatives that are related to the 14 case study areas and focus on using diversity in a positive way. The initiatives can be self-supporting or supported by public authorities. Prior to the meeting in Istanbul, partners had to submit ideas for projects or initiatives in their respective city that touched on at least one of the key concepts of the DIVERCITIES project: fostering social cohesion, increasing economic performance and enhancing social mobility. The first batch of proposed initiatives were discussed in more detail along with research objectives and methods and the criteria for the selection of governance arrangements. Tasks and responsibilities, next steps in the research process and upcoming deadlines were also reviewed.

Photos from the meeting in Istanbul can be viewed on our website:

The next international consortium meeting is scheduled for 30 June to 1 July 2014 and will be hosted by the University of Tartu in Tallinn, Estonia.

Masterclass: “Resilience Thinking in Urban Planning”

Why are existing planning perspectives not able to deal with contemporary problems?

Ayda Eraydin (METU) and Tuna Tasan-Kok (TU Delft) presented the second DIVERCITIES Masterclass on 17 December 2013 in Istanbul, Turkey.

There is consensus in literature that urban areas have become increasingly vulnerable to the outcomes of economic restructuring under the neoliberal political economic ideology. The lecture proposed a new theoretical approach called resilience thinking and how it can form the basis of an alternative approach to urban planning. The major characteristics of a resilience planning paradigm (eg. its adaptive capacity to new conditions, coping with change, and preparing the system to continue despite the unexpected threats and disasters) were compared with contemporary rational and communicative planning paradigms that tend to prioritise processes rather than substance, and more often reinforce the current status quo rather than resist it.

Using case study research in Rotterdam, the lecture explored the concept of resilience and its potential in addressing the vulnerabilities and shortcomings of contemporary planning systems and policies in an increasingly neoliberalising world.

A video of the Masterclass will soon be available to view on our website.

Field Trip: Taksim Square and Tarlabaşı

Tarlabaşı is a socio-spatially deprived inner city neighbourhood that lies adjacent to Taksim Square in the Beyoğlu district of Istanbul. Formerly the cultural and commercial centre of Istanbul during the Ottoman period, the area has been deteriorating since the 1950s. The neo-classical and art nouveau apartment blocks in Tarlabaşı, once the residences for the elite, have for the past decades housed immigrants, gypsies, artists and other minorities. The area’s demographic profile has always been diverse, however it has gradually been changing due to various urban renewal and gentrification projects.

A massive regeneration program is currently underway, to “turn Tarlabaşı Boulevard into the Champs Elysées of Istanbul”. Approximately 278 buildings in the area will be demolished to make way for new homes, offices, hotels and a shopping mall.

The Beyoğlu district (including Tarlabaşı ) is one of the case study areas of the DIVERCITIES project.

The field trips were attended by DIVERCITIES researchers and led by Sıla Akalp (Urban Strategy) and Cem Tüzün.

More photos can be viewed on our website:

Consortium Partners & Advisory Board

Consortium Partners:

University of Antwerp, Belgium
Aalborg University, Denmark
University of Tartu, Estonia
University Paris-Est Créteil, France
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ, Germany
National Centre for Social Research (EKKE), Greece
University of Szeged, Hungary
University of Urbino Carlo Bo, Italy
Delft University of Technology (TUDelft), Netherlands
Polish Academy of Sciences, Poland
synergo Mobility-Politics-Space GmbH, Switzerland
Middle East Technical University (METU), Turkey
University College London, United Kingdom

Advisory Board:

Jan Vranken, University of Antwerp, Belgium
David Hulchanski, University of Toronto, Canada

Project Coordinator

Prof. Ronald van Kempen
Utrecht University
Faculty of Geosciences
P.O. Box 80.115
3508 TC Utrecht
The Netherlands


© DIVERCITIES, Utrecht University, 2014
LEGAL NOTICE: The views expressed in this newsletter are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Commission