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Welcome to the seventh DIVERCITIES newsletter. Launched in March 2013, DIVERCITIES brings together fourteen 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.

Work Package 7: Fieldwork Entrepreneurs

Ayda Eraydin, Professor at the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at the Middle East Technical University, Turkey outlines the expected outcomes from WP7.

Taksim Square, Istanbul.

For Work Package 7 focus switches to entrepreneurs with the aim of understanding how diversity can motivate entrepreneurs to start a business in their area. The research seeks to analyse how urban diversity, along with policies and arrangements, affects diverse population groups in terms of economic performance. It aims to clarify who profits and how, and what benefits diversity can bring to the good functioning of businesses.

In order to gain a comprehensive insight, about 40 interviews will be undertaken with local entrepreneurs in each case study area in an effort to understand which factors play a role in deciding to start a business. Our analysis is expected to reveal circumstances in which diversity has beneficial effects on economic performance, the role that policies may play in stimulating new forms of entrepreneurship, and the performance of existing enterprises.

Who are the entrepreneurs?

Broadly speaking, the entrepreneurs come from a wide-range of backgrounds including immigrants with different ethnic and cultural backgrounds, male and female entrepreneurs, creative people and many more who have initiated different types of enterprises in the fourteen research cities. Ventures will be selected that reflect their local circumstances and across different economic sectors.

Are there connections between economic performance and diversity?

Existing literature highlights diversity as an instrument for increasing the competitive advantage of cities and places. It argues that diverse cities attract a wider pool of talent based on nationality, race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation than those that are relatively closed. As a result, open cities are more likely to have dynamic economies due to their creative, innovative and entrepreneurial capacities. For some types of entrepreneurs, such as local shops, the diversity of the local clientele may be important.

The migration literature emphasises the positive contribution of immigrant entrepreneurs in relation to social cohesion and economic competitiveness. It points to the phenomenon of how immigrant entrepreneurship offers neighbourhoods win-win situations through the creation of job opportunities, increasing the attractiveness of neighbourhoods and contributing to diversity.

For WP7 a broad mix of entrepreneurs will be studied. We believe that diversity not only fosters creativity and innovation among various groups, but that it can also play a crucial role in urban economic growth. People from a range of backgrounds and education levels, both local and from other cultures, can foster creativity. They generate innovative ideas, activities and enterprises that contribute to the creative vibrancy of cities.

What do we expect to learn?

Our research will focus on what conditions and opportunities diversified neighbourhoods provide for entrepreneurs. We’ll be considering why they start their businesses there, how their personal backgrounds affect their success and what influence diversity has more generally for all entrepreneurs. For example, how do ethnicity, age, family background and previous experience determine the success of enterprises?
We aim to define the motivations behind starting an enterprise, for example, which factors are important for entrepreneurs and are diverse neighbourhoods attractive to them. What role does diversity play?

The attitude of local and central governments in relation to diverse forms of entrepreneurship is important, as are the types of support provided for them. Our research aims to discover: what incentives are offered; what policies are in place; and how do governments assist with innovation, capital and training in various cities. These are important aspects, which can assist with the design of new policies that foster entrepreneurship and economic performance in cities.

Work Package 7 promises to be another engaging chapter for the DIVERCITIES project.

Conference Report: Governing Social Diversity in Warsaw

Several researchers were in Warsaw in May for the Governing Social Diversity In Warsaw: Problems and Prospects conference coordinated by Ewa Karolina Korcelli-Olejniczak. The two-day programme included presentations by Ewa along with DIVERCITIES researchers Ronald van Kempen, Christine Lelévrier, Walter Schenkel, Anouk Tersteeg, Mike Raco, Katharina Kullmann and Özge Yersen.

The changing face of Praga Północ.

Ewa Korcelli-Olejniczak introduced the programme noting the multi-level studies and practice-based aims of the project and its relevance to a broad range of policy advisors, NGOs, political activists and researchers. While many presentations focussed on the problems facing the case study area of Praga, DIVERCITIES researchers presented relevant findings from their regions as way of contrast and comparison. We heard from Allan Cochrane of The Open University, who gave a keynote address concerning public policy and how it can be considered in relation to diverse societies.

Polish speakers provided impassioned discussion concerning Praga, a district with a rich history and currently undergoing a period of great change. Poland was under Soviet influence following World War II, with the centre of Warsaw almost entirely destroyed. On the other side of the Vistula River Praga remained largely untouched becoming a hub of activity as the city slowly began to rebuild. In 1989 the Socialist system was abandoned and capitalism embraced creating friction between Neoliberal ideology and post-socialist perspectives.

From the Outings art project featuring work by Julien de Casabianca.

Unlike many other European cites, Warsaw does not have major ethnic groups as such but it does have many people from other regions around the country moving into the city. The Praga Północ district attracts upwardly mobile residents in search of inexpensive property and those looking for cultural diversity: a melange of bohemian style, folklore and an atmosphere reminiscent of pre-war Warsaw. In general, 29% of the population have higher education degrees, many have poor social networks, don’t actively participate in the community and suffer high stress. Various initiatives are beginning to address these issues.

The divide between the social groups is clearly evident if you walk around the Praga district. Families who have lived in the area for generations reside in crumbling buildings, shops stand empty as the nearby new mall complete with Starbucks, Tesco and other chains brings in customers accessed via a spanking new metro line below. Gentrification is in progress, but behind the facades different narratives play out. Once you leave the high street boarded up buildings in varying states of disrepair appear, people linger on the street with an array of shops open to sell cheap alcohol. While banners advertise new apartment developments and talk turns to Google moving in, it’s clear the area is changing and that the poorer residents will in all likelihood be moved on. There is clear competition over the historic urban space, which is seen as an authentic vision of the old city.

The conference presented a wide range of perspectives from government ministers, the Vice Mayor, town planners and business groups. One of the conference’s keys aims is to find answers to questions pertaining to balancing and properly managing social diversity for the benefit of the city, improving aesthetics and reconciling conflicting interests.

In the weeks since the conference, Ewa Korcelli-Olejniczak notes “the choice of Praga as the case study area was a good decision, one confirmed through the results of field studies and the opinions of experts who presented at the conference. While the views of those representing city authorities were unsurprising, I would say that their engagement and the honesty with which they spoke at the conference made me believe that diversity policy is going to be on the agenda as an important aspect of urban policy. This is something that our project has contributed to greatly.”

As to directions of future research, challenges certainly lie ahead particularly with Work Package 7 approaching and its focus on enterpreneurs.

Read the abstracts and programme or see photographs from the field trip.

Policy Platform: Rotterdam Round Table

Resident experiences of living in a diverse neighbourhood. Lessons from Feijenoord, Rotterdam.

Anouk Tersteeg presenting research findings to the panel.

The second Policy Platform meeting in Rotterdam was attended by six members of the Policy Platform group along with five urban professionals all involved in the governance of urban diversity in Feijenoord, Rotterdam.

Following a short introductory to the DIVERCITIES project, Anouk Tersteeg launched into an in-depth presentation unveiling the research findings to date concerned with resident perceptions of living in a diverse area. Focus was given to the relationships between local diversity and housing choice, career development, awareness of neighbours and other local residents, activity patterns, social cohesion and understanding of local policies and policy priorities.

After Anouk’s presentation, discussion centred on the following two statements:

  1. By drawing a negative image of Rotterdam South, policy makers disadvantage residents of the area
  2. The social mobility of disadvantaged groups on Feijenoord and Rotterdam South needs to be addressed from within rather than by attracting middle classes
Regarding point one, it was generally agreed that negative media portrayals of the area do little to promote career opportunities for residents nor create a sense of cohesion in the community. The media’s focus on negative aspects overlooks the positive and contributes to a sense of alienation reinforcing discrimination based on ethnicity and place of residence. The National Programme of Rotterdam South (NPRS) actively works to promote positive images of the area and residents, yet it seems the media has little interest. A broader problem concerns attracting government investment, which appears to be linked to need in the form of ‘urgent’ problems. Municipalities benefit from negative images, and so negative narratives are communicated in an effort to gain government funds. However, panel members noted that this plays out poorly for residents and scares off private funders who may be able to improve the quality of life in these areas.As with the first statement, the second provided healthy debate through disagreement. One of the participants argued that attracting more affluent groups has the potential to enhance opportunities for people with low SES, and that a middle ground between the two positions may prove beneficial. While a more diverse socio-economic mix improves facilities, it doesn’t necessarily lead to more mixed social networks though it may provide healthier role models for disadvantaged children. The discussion moved to the municipality’s focus on the middle class through a range of policies directed at well-off neighbourhoods, to how policymakers can assist low SES people take ‘small steps’ in their career, and how to help those with high education levels achieve higher social mobility. A final point considered language, and how important it is to be able to speak the local language, in this case Dutch. The municipality cut funding to language classes several years ago, which means that migrants need to fund and find their own language courses.The roundtable concluded with refreshments and snacks provided by Neighbourhood Kitchen, an initiative from Work Package 5. Read the full report.

New to the DIVERCITES team

Christian Haid joins the DIVERCITIES team in Leipzig as a Junior Researcher. He shares his expectations here:

Recent debates around urban diversity instigated by policy makers and scholars have contributed to the rendering of diversity as a contested and ambiguous term. On the one hand diversity is celebrated but on the other hand it is seen as a threat to urban development. My expectation of working on the DIVERCITIES project is to learn about the potentials, challenges and pitfalls associated with this debate using a vast array of concrete empirical case studies. With a breadth of insight, I am convinced that a nuanced and cautious discussion about how pluralism can be both beneficial, and at times limiting, to urban societies can advance.

Johan van Driel joins the Utrecht team on a temporary basis where he will be working on the DIVERCITIES Education Programme. His task is to develop an inspiring and informative module-based course utilising research undertaken in all case study areas. The course will be directed at 12-15 year old students with the aim of educating them on all aspects of diversity through a range of engaging activities, lectures and discussion topics. Johan joins us from the Hogeschool Rotterdam, where he lectures in Geography.

David Wills is the new Communications Advisor taking over the role from Melissa Lee. He has spent the past couple of months  familiarising himself with the DIVERCITIES project. With the research at the halfway point, he is looking at ways to disseminate the information effectively: a website refresh and developing a blog to promote the outstanding work of all involved are just two ideas in progress.


Other News

Ronald van Kempen presented his paper Inequality and Urban Diversity: Different Discourses or a Crucial Connection? in Barcelona as part of the ISDUB Seminar. Click here for the PowerPoint or here for the lecture.

Mike Raco discussed urban diversity dividends in The Economist.

Following a strong response to our call for papers for Young Divercities, we’re pleased to announce that the upcoming symposium in Utrecht is set to engage and inspire.

If you have any news or tips for the following newsletter please email David.

Consortium Partners & Advisory Board

Lead Partner:
University of Utrecht, Netherlands

Consortium Partners:
University of Vienna, Austria
University of Antwerp, Belgium
Aalborg University, Denmark
University of Tartu, Estonia
University Paris-Est Créteil, France
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ, Germany
Fachhochschule Erfurt, 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, 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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