As the DIVERCITIES Research project draws to a conclusion this week, three lead researchers give their perspective on the experience and what the future holds:
Gideon Bolt, Utrecht University
It has been a pleasure to work together with so many people on our research project in 14 different cities. The research consortium consisted of around 60 people, in various stages of their academic career, who met twice a year to discuss our approach and findings. Each research team was supported by a national Policy Platform. That means that we have been enriched by the insights of roughly 150 stakeholders, representing a variety of public and private organisations, working in our cities or on higher (regional, national) policy levels. in each city for our research we interviewed dozens of policymakers, other stakeholders, and leaders of bottom-up initiatives. Moreover, we interviewed in each research area at least 50 residents and 40 entrepreneurs. Altogether, we have made roughly 1,700 interviews. It has been a very rewarding task for our consortium to synthesize this enormous amount of rich information in our Policy Briefs, our City Books and our forthcoming Handbook.
Mike Raco, University College London
In an era in which the enlightenment project based on principles of openness and engagement are coming under unprecedented attack, and new barriers between people and societies are being constructed by reactionary groups, the need for greater understanding of what urban diversity is and how it impacts on cities and citizens has taken on an unprecedented importance. The extraordinary levels of active participation and engagement at our final conference in Rotterdam demonstrated clearly just how important issues of diversity remain to practitioners, community groups, and academics. Our research has shown, categorically, that many of the fears about diversity in European cities have been exaggerated. We have presented evidence that shows that city authorities have been particularly adept at finding positive ways of working with diversity and that for many residents the presence of diversity enriches their quality of life and their opportunities for employment and economic advantage. What is now required is a more informed, honest, and open debate over the appropriate direction of diversity policies in European cities and what their core principles and objectives should be.
Tuna Tasan-Kok, University of Amsterdam
I believe that, having this project as a basis, future policy in this field needs to pay more attention to two important points: First of all, diversity focus in European urban policy making should not be used to bypass systematic issues such as racism or social, economic or spatial inequalities. On the contrary, by creating stronger political awareness at all scales with regards to the presence of urban diversity, it should target the systematic inequalities in our urban societies. And secondly, having a new political economic climate within the EU and increasing tension among the member states to deal with the increasing number of immigrants and refugees in mind, more attention should be given to operationalize policy approaches such as hyper-diversity. New operational approaches are needed to connect people in an inclusive and just way based on their needs but not to divide them along presumed identities, and to prevent the increasing tension and polarization in European urban societies.
Image: Participants on the Rotterdam West Walk as part of the Governing Urban Diversity Conference earlier this month by Demi Verbraeken.