Seminar Workshop Themes

Read more about each of our interactive workshop sessions below. Choose one theme from each session when  completing the registration form.

Thursday 9 February 2017

Defining Diversity:
How Useful is the Term?

Coordinated by
Mike Raco

There are numerous definitions of diversity that inform policy-making and governance in cities. These definitions are often contested and draw from the writings found in management studies, the social sciences, and political studies. But how useful is the term? Does its use help in the creation of more effective policies or do references to diversity focus too much attention on what divides citizens, rather than what unites them?

Questions for discussion:

How could and should we best define the term ‘diversity’?

Would it be better to remove the term entirely from public policy discourses/initiatives? Or is it becoming even more important in the context of changing EU populations?

What might a post-diversity politics look like?

Diversity and social inequality in urban policies

Coordinated by
Nicos Souliotis & Thomas Maloutas

Research shows that, when asked about urban policies, people tend to prioritize issues of social inequality, unemployment, the consequences of gentrification and the quality of urban environment rather than diversity per se. How can policy-makers associate diversity-related with policies dealing with social inequality? Could this association increase credibility of diversity-related policies? What is more, could such an association be an answer to upcoming xenophobic politics which put the blame for increasing poverty on immigrants and refugees?

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Diversity, entrepreneurship and social cohesion

Coordinated by
Tiit Tammaru

Small enterprises fulfil important social functions in deprived neighbourhoods, although low purchasing power of local customers creates difficult conditions for small retail and service companies. However, various studies show that they play an important role in the neighbourhood in several ways. They offer affordable and specialised goods and services that cater for the needs of the local population and they provide employment for people disadvantaged people seeking for jobs. In some cities, they also create demand for a high proportion of the commercial buildings that are already vacant. In many deprived neighbourhoods they also function as spaces of interaction, which is important for increasing social cohesion.

Under this theme the main aim is to explore the role of entrepreneurship on social cohesion in diversified neighbourhoods.

Differing discourses on diversity between the public and the private sphere

Coordinated by
Ewa Korcelli-Olejniczak

Regarding the discourse on urban diversity, NGOs and small initiatives have a more pluralist and inclusive approach. While city policies often pursue a strategy of integration or assimilation, the private actors focus instead on interculturality – on cultural dialogue and spaces for interactions. They, for instance, sense the need to create spaces of encounter where people meet on equal footing and mutually learn from each other. While the complexity of diversity is not adequately mirrored and supported by public policies and bodies, local initiatives often do have an eye for the potential advantages of diversity.

Do these differing discourses on urban diversity matter for the cooperation between public and private actors?

What and how could the public authorities learn from the more positive, pluralist and inclusive approach of the NGOs?

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Growing intolerance in Europe: how can we deal with that?

Coordinated by
Annegret Haase & Katrin Großmann

Growing intolerance, rising support for right-wing populist parties, and a shift to immigration policies with a clear focus on assimilation constitute recent phenomena in many European countries. While debating the positive impact of urban diversity, we should not disregard these current tendencies and the potential impact on the social cohesion in our societies. How can we deal with that?


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Diverse neighbourhoods in the classroom (educational project)

Coordinated by
Tine Beneker, Utrecht University & Johan van Driel, Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences

The Diverse Cities educational programme was developed as part of the DIVERCITIES research project. DIVERCITIES conducted research and findings have been translated into an educational programme for classroom activities in schools. The educational programme gives students the opportunity to conduct research on diversity within their own community. Students are introduced to neighbourhood-initiatives from around the world which, using diversity as an asset, aim to make cities more liveable and harmonious. The students work with the broader definition of diversity, including lifestyles, attitudes and activities. In the workshop you will learn more of the experiences with the educational programme, in lower secondary education (in different urban contexts, in the Netherlands and abroad), primary education and teacher education. Moreover we would like to discuss the type of learning promoted in the programme. And explore the possibilities to improve and expand the programme.

Thursday 9 February 2017

Progressive Cities?

Coordinated by
Claire Colomb

The DIVERCITIES researchers found that it is at the sub-metropolitan scale where some of the most progressive and innovative policies and understandings of diversity are now to be found in Europe. Local projects are working with the day-to-day effects of economic and social change on the ground and in many cases have adopted pluralist and open approaches, in contrast to national governments who have become increasingly hostile to in-migration and the ‘threats’ that migration poses.

To what extent are issues of diversity first and foremost urban issues that should be resolved at the urban scale?

Is the local/urban scale the best place to find new types of policy innovations and good practices in relation to diversity?

How might local/urban programmes be scaled up so that they become a model for diversity policies at a variety of levels?

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Diversity, residential composition and gentrification

Coordinated by
Rikke Skovgaard Nielsen
with the Polish and Estonian teams


In several of the case study areas of DIVERCITIES, processes of gentrification seem to be under way, even if they are currently only at an early stage. In some cases, the positive political framing of diversity as an advantage and a positive characteristic of the neighbourhood leads to a budding popularity of the area which in turn can lead to gentrification. This process can be sped up by rising housing prices in some major cities. In other cases, regeneration projects in the area changes the housing conditions, the surrounding urban areas and the residential areas eventually leading to potential gentrification. The purpose of the workshop is to analyse and discuss the link between diversity, residential composition and gentrification. One aspect could be to discuss the desirability and the implication of gentrification as well as whether it is possible to start a gentrification process but also somehow stopping it again before a total change of residents is brought about (is gentle gentrification possible?).

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Restoring the relations between inhabitants and urban policies

Coordinated by
Nicos Souliotis & Thomas Maloutas

An impressively common finding of research in different European cities is that inhabitants are not aware of the policies which are implemented in their neighborhood (urban regeneration projects, initiatives fostering multiculturalism etc.) and they have a rather vague idea of Municipal action and are not in position to evaluate it. Similarly, the participation in local associations of any kind is rather low mainly as a result of the general alienation from politics. As an expression of wider difficulties of social integration, immigrants tend to participate even less to municipal actions and local associations. Is this is a situation that can be reversed? Could local associations, as the most active part of local communities, play a particular role in this process?


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Social solidarity

Coordinated by
Stijn Oosterlynck

Place-based forms of solidarity in diversity

In many Western countries, there is a common belief that solidarity – the social phenomenon of group loyalty and the sharing of resources – requires cultural homogeneity. International migration and increasing ethnic and cultural identity are seen as challenging both formal mechanisms of redistribution within national social security systems as well as informal acts of solidarity, personal support and care. In contrast to such pessimist accounts, this session aims to explore the potential of innovative forms of solidarity that transcend ethnic and cultural differences. We are particularly interested here in forms of solidarity that emerge from everyday place-based practices in which citizens jointly engage in schools, parks, factories, sports fields or neighborhood centers.

This session aims to explore:
The potential of place-based solidarities and diversity in empirical and theoretical terms;
 the conditions under which they emerge or fail to emerge;
 interrelationships between direct and institutionally mediated forms of solidarity;
the interrelationships between solidarities in particular places and across space.

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Professions, skills and volunteering. Balancing roles for effective initiatives?

Coordinated by
Eduardo Barberis

Between professionalism and volunteering: staffing effective initiatives

Grassroots initiatives and neighbourhood actions have often to piece together actors from civil society organizations, local institutions and informal community involvement.

Complex interactions may rise in balancing roles and skills between professionalism included in public institutions and local organizations, and activism and volunteerism provided by grassroots mobilization.

Even, in the structuring of successful initiatives the dilemma between going on voluntary or professionalising can be a heated debate within neighbourhood movements. The dilemma between skills and motivation, liberal commitment and paid work may have different angles: who profit from (self-)exploitation? What’s the effect of institutionalizing knowledge?

In this respect, this session is aimed to answer to the following questions:

How to balance professionalism and volunteering to achieve effective initiatives?

Do initiatives focussing on (hyper)diversity have a specific configuration of professional and/or volunteering action?

Which balance help greater accessibility, inclusiveness and protection of rights?

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The role of hyper-diversified places as seedbeds of new enterprises

Coordinated by
Ayda Eraydin

Diverse and deprived neighbourhoods are defined as new milieux for different types of enterprises, although the findings indicate only a few entrepreneurs deliberately settled in diverse and deprived neighbourhoods, at least not because of the diversity per se. In relation to the motivations for choosing the location of their business, the immigrant/ethnic entrepreneurs mentioned the proximity to potential customers, other businesses and their homes. Ethnic entrepreneurs tend to start businesses where there were high concentrations of co-ethnic residents and where networks form among ethnic groups. Besides ethnic entrepreneurs, others were attracted to these neighbourhoods because they are home to a wide range of social groups in terms of lifestyle, race, ethnicity, culture or income, to which they can cater their products and services. Recently, it is possible to observe increasing number of creative businesses in such neighbourhoods. If diversity is not the main concern, what are the important factors in choosing to locate to one of these neighbourhoods?

This theme aims to provide to discuss to what extent the entrepreneurship is connected to increasing diversity of neighbourhoods and the role of hyper-diversified places as seedbeds of new enterprises.

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Friday 10 February 2017

Local authorities vs. NGOs: how can we enhance the positive impact of urban diversity together?

Coordinated by
Walter Schenkel & Larissa Plüss

NGOs and small bottom-up initiatives often fill important gaps in public services and complement the governments’ policy instruments. From the local authorities’ perspective, one possibility of enhancing the positive impact of urban diversity is to tap the great potential existing within smaller NGOs and bottom-up initiatives. The initiatives’ added value consists of providing spaces of interaction and encounter where people meet on equal grounds without hierarchical structures. This approach may be more effective than traditional integration measures since people do not feel patronised.

However, NGOs and small initiatives often suffer from scarce financial resources and from the lack of a certain appreciation by the local authorities.

How can we achieve effective and satisfactory cooperation between public and private actors?

What is the recipe for success for smaller NGOs and initiatives to survive despite uneven public funding?

How can the local authorities contribute towards successful and solid NGOs and initiatives? What sort of support or infrastructure could the local authorities provide to support the private actors in strengthening the positive impact of diversity?

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Diversity and social capital at the neighborhood level

Coordinated by
Christine Lelévrier
with the German team

Diversity fuels the formation of social relationships at the neighborhood level in various ways: for individuals who are socialized in diverse areas, diversity is an ‘organic’ part of social life; for others diversity may be a background element of everyday life; relations in diverse networks sometimes operate as ‘weak ties’ which provide opportunities in professional life; diversity may be associated with bottom-up solidarity initiatives. However, at the same time diversity may be associated with fear towards the other and conflicts between ethnic groups. Policy-makers should be able to recognize the different types of relations between diversity and social capital formation and the conditions upon which this relation depends and distinguish how they can integrate local social networks in policy implementation.

Hyper-diversity and young people

Coordinated by
Gideon Bolt
 & Kirsten Visser

young people hyper diversity

There is both an optimistic and a pessimistic view on the effects of hyper-diversity on the social inclusion of young people. Some scholars point out that hyper-diversity might lead to more social exclusion . As a result of hyper-diversification individuals might increasingly segregate themselves from individuals belonging to different class or ethnic backgrounds or with different lifestyles. There is a concern that particularly young people with a minority ethnic background are increasingly marginalised and isolated from the rest of urban society. Other scholars argue that young people are now subject to a much wider range of ways of living and being than all preceding generations. This exposure to otherness may have the effect that young people embrace more progressive and cosmopolitan values than previous generations, resulting in better opportunities for social inclusion, even for marginalized groups.

In this seminar, we are particularly interested in the tension between hyper-diversity as a source of conflict on the one hand and as a resource at the other hand. We will pay attention to how young people perceive and encounter hyper-diversity in their everyday lives.

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Regeneration projects and gentrification processes and diversity in entrepreneurship

Coordinated by
Zoltán Kovács

Regeneration projects and the processes of gentrification have different impacts on entrepreneurship and neighbourhood diversity. The general idea is that gentrification usually weakens the position of small enterprises, which along with the falling number of older, long-standing residents would see a loss of their traditional customers, who move to other neighbourhoods due to increasing property values and premises. Similarly, most of the migrant entrepreneurs face difficulties in sustaining their activities following the gentrification process, since their customers are often forced to move to suburbs. SMEs are particularly vulnerable to changes to the built environment. In some cases, firms become dependent on local factors that are subject to fluctuations and significant change, such as the availability of suitable premises or the presence of consumers.

However, there are also different perspectives. Several case studies reported that their firms had benefited from an increase in their customer base, new and wealthier clients and the changing image of the neighbourhoods as a consequence of a wider gentrification process. They consider that the recent immigration focused on highly skilled labour, the rising relevance of the creative class and ongoing gentrification mutually reinforce each other. The different evidence on the impact of regeneration projects and gentrification necessitates a closer look to this issue. Under what conditions do the regeneration and gentrification projects can enhance entrepreneurship without damaging the diversified character of the neighbourhoods?

Refugee Accommodations, (Dis)connection to the City, and Urban Encounters

Coordinated by
Ilse van Liempt, Utrecht University

Asylum seekers are allocated to particular settlement forms, often collective accommodations in isolation, but increasingly also to smaller scale accommodations with more attention to possibilities of encounter and access to work, education and the local social life. In this workshop we want to discuss daily life experiences of refugees in different types of accommodations, the social and spatial consequences of these different accommodations and in particular how various set ups enable or prevent encounters in the urban context and what this means for social cohesion and prejudices towards refugees.


The Campisation of Centres in European Migration Regimes. Rene Kreichauf, Cosmopolis, Centre for Urban Research, Brussels

How ‘inclusive’ is inclusive asylum accommodation? The case of the Grandhotel Cosmopolis in Augsburg, Germany. Marielle Zill, Urban Geography, Utrecht University


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Hyper-diversity and place-making

Coordinated by
Tuna Tasan-Kok and Sara Ozogul

The focus of spatial planning is moving beyond the built environment and an increasing emphasis is placed on the connection between space and social life. Place-making refers to a wide range of collaborative efforts, which aim to turn spaces into meaningful places by adding meaning and function to them. How can this aim be achieved in cities with increasingly complex diversity? This session invites both academics and practitioners to examine place-making in hyper-diverse communities as a contemporary spatial planning effort. Hyper-diversity refers to an intense diversification of the population, not only in socio-economic, social and ethnic terms, but also with respect to lifestyles, attitudes and activities (Tasan-Kok et al., 2014). This approach brings us to understand spatial processes through daily life actions, activities, and dynamics of people in the city. By using this approach, this session aims to link relational understandings of place to perceptions of space as social constructs by joint efforts of participants. The intention is to discuss policy, planning and place-making instruments to reflect lifestyles, attitudes and activities of people to understand their needs. Possible questions for discussion include:

How can diversity be constructively approached by using space and place?

How do processes, dynamics and relationships between various actors (individuals, communities, organisations, institutions, etc.) influence the social and spatial construction of place?

How can we create inclusive places in a society in which people have different, changing and dynamic values, norms, ideas, identities, lifestyles and attitudes?

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