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Introducing DIVERCITIES

Welcome to the fifth newsletter of DIVERCITIES! 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.

4th International Consortium Meeting
8-10 February 2015
Athens, Greece

The fourth international consortium meeting was hosted by the National Centre of Social Research (EKKE) in Athens, Greece. The three-day meeting was attended by the principal and junior researchers of the 14 partners, project staff and the European Commission’s Research Programme Officer.

The main focus of the meeting was on Work Package 6: Fieldwork Inhabitants. The objective of WP6 is to clarify how urban diversity and policies affect different population groups in terms of social cohesion and social mobility. Each team is required to interview a minimum of 50 residents in their case study area regarding attitudes towards their neighbourhood, housing choice and residential mobility and perceptions regarding diversity and urban policies in the area.

Sunday 8 February was predominantly a meeting for the junior researchers who have been busy since September 2014 conducting interviews with residents. The junior researchers shared their interview strategies and experiences and gave in-depth feedback and reflections on each other’s work. They also reviewed NVivo (qualitative research data analysis software) coding issues and participated in an advanced training workshop.

All partners and researchers participated in the meetings that took place on Monday 9 and Tuesday 10 February. Work Package 6: Fieldwork Inhabitants dominated the agenda and these sessions were chaired by Thomas Maloutas and Nicos Souliotis, co-leaders of WP6. Presentations were given on research findings in Antwerp, Copenhagen, Istanbul, Leipzig, Rotterdam and Zurich.

Other agenda items included plans for future books and publications, a workshop on comparative studies, a brain-storm session on the final policy conference and PhD school and a discussion regarding recent political developments concerning diversity.

Photos from the fourth consortium meeting in Athens can be viewed on our website:
https://www.urbandivercities.eu/multimedia/photos/

The next international consortium meeting is scheduled for 24-26 June 2015 in Leipzig, Germany and will be hosted by the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ.

Conditions of Work: Local Initiatives Working for Social Cohesion in Leipzig, Germany

 

Local actors that work to improve social cohesion and increase the life chances of less privileged groups in urban societies today largely depend on external resources and funding. Under the current climate of increasing austerity politics, initiatives and governance arrangements are forced to organise their work in successive projects, financed through local, national, and European funding schemes.

In 2014, the DIVERCITIES project’s Leipzig team conducted two stakeholder workshops in their case study areas with local actors involved in governance arrangements. Participants included representatives of initiatives that advise small entrepreneurs and job-seekers, citizens’ associations such as the Office of Senior Citizens, local district management, youth and community centres and housing projects and initiatives.

The workshops were held in Grünau on 8 July and in Leipzig Inner East on 25 November. The main objective of the workshops was to discuss the conditions of work for initiatives and projects working to improve social cohesion. The aim was to also define factors of success and failure, and to discuss areas for improvement.

All of the stakeholders share the experience of a growing dependence on external, short-term, often project-based resources in order to carry on with their work, and a growing burden on achieving their actual goals. In summary, these are:

  • A growing competition for funding with increased workload and time to handle funding applications. New, inexperienced actors have much less chance of winning the competition for funding.
  • Arrangements have to work with an enormous precariousness under which established structures, teams and professional resources built up within one project face the permanent risk of not being able to continue their work once the project funding ends.
  • This is seen as a waste of material and human resources. Offices, infrastructure, local knowledge and valuable experience of the staff built up during the limited project period may be lost. Projects starting anew have to build up infrastructure and contacts from scratch. In the long run, without a continuity of personnel and places, the target groups lose trust in such initiatives and supporting arrangements.
  • The relationship between funding institutions and initiatives is characterised by bureaucratic, distanced procedures, reporting and evaluation often done “from a distanced desk in some institution”, without any contact or knowledge of the work conducted.
  • Failure and learning, a constitutive part of social work, are discriminated against. Projects are doomed to succeed from the very start, and success has to be reached within the duration of the project.
  • Calls for projects dominate the framing of local challenges when artificial adaptions are made between the work needed locally and the priorities set by funding calls.

Project structures might be an appropriate way to increase creativity and stimulate new ideas. The actors, who today depend on such structures, are confronted with long-term challenges and these can only be addressed effectively with long-term engagement with the local community. A predominantly quantitative, quasi-economic evaluation of social work leads to a decline in trust and a severe waste of resources.

The focus of the workshops was to compile information and feedback for different policy levels: city, federal government, and EU. The next phase will involve members of the Leipzig team and its policy platform discussing the results of these workshops.

Masterclass: “Rethinking Urban Diversity
10 February 2015
Athens, Greece

DIVERCITIES researcher Thomas Maloutas presented “Rethinking Urban Diversity” during the fourth international consortium meeting in Athens, Greece.

The masterclass examined concepts of diversity from four different angles: a genealogy of diversity; diversity and inequality; diversity and mobility; and diversity and democracy.

The definition of diversity can vary between authors, disciplines and context. However, more often than not diversity has been used interchangeably with the term ‘multiculturalism’, referring to the ‘melting pot’ society in an era of globalisation and mass migration. Thomas Maloutas explored concepts of diversity from a class-based framework, looking at recent changes in terms of the capital-labour relation.

“My argument today is that approaches to diversity that emphasise its increasing complexity and the increasing difficulties of its management, tend to overshadow issues of inequality and discrimination because they focus less on the structures and mechanisms that reproduce them and deal more with the ways they can be managed to produce positive economic and social effects.”

A video of the masterclass will soon be available for viewing on our website and YouTube channel.

Meet Our New Junior Researchers

What are your expectations of the DIVERCITIES project?

Johanna Holvandus, University of Tartu (Tallinn)
There is a saying “measure twice, but cut once” which I believe could be one of many mottos of the DIVERCITIES project. As my research interests lie mostly in planning and governance, I see great potential in discussing the needs of individuals and making sense of them in the bigger picture, therefore preparing ourselves to better plan lively and thriving cities.
Ingmar Pastak, University of Tartu (Tallinn)
On the surface, the concept of diversity looks like just another popular symbol of modern urban research. Dig deeper and the symbolism changes – it becomes an inspiring opportunity, challenge, and responsibility to find out positive aspects of living in diverse neighbourhoods. Finding such answers are my expectations of this project.
Anna Babel, synergo (Zurich)
I am happy to be part of the DIVERCITIES project, as it deals with a socio-political relevant issue of current interest. I expect interesting findings in Zurich and hope that the additional results will improve awareness and understanding together with the other case studies.
Clément Rivière, University Paris-Est Créteil (Paris)
As a young scholar interested in conflicts and inequalities in contemporary cities, I am both delighted and excited to be part of DIVERCITIES. I hope that the comparison of the areas of study, across very different local and national contexts, will lead to the production of original and important research results.

Open Access

All our reports are now available on Zenodo, an open-access science repository created by OpenAIRE and CERN, and supported by the European Commission.

Go to: www.zenodo.org and search for “DIVERCITIES” to find our full list of publications.

Contact

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

Email:         info@urbandivercities.eu
Website:     www.urbandivercities.eu
Twitter:       twitter.com/divercities_eu
Facebook:   facebook.com/urbandivercities
Linkedin:      linkedin.com/company/divercities
YouTube:    youtube.com/user/DIVERCITIES

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
Szeged University, Hungary
University of Urbino Carlo Bo, Italy
Delft University of Technology (TUDelft), Netherlands
Polish Academy of Sciences, Poland
synergo Mobilität-Politik-Raum 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

© DIVERCITIES, Utrecht University, 2015LEGAL 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.
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