Oxford Berlin Partnership supports initiative to understand integration in smaller cities and towns

Published 26 September 2019 / By COMPAS Communications

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As part of Oxford University's new partnership with four Berlin universities, COMPAS is working with TU Berlin on a knowledge exchange project on the dynamics of integration and inclusion in smaller towns and municipalities in the UK and Germany.

Whilst there is growing interest in the role of the local level in integration and inclusion, this has mainly focussed on larger cities with those considered to be 'super-diverse' often engaging in wider Europe wide networks to share best practice. This growing gap between ‘cosmopolitan’ cities and smaller cities is the focus of this project, which brings together researchers, policy makers and practitioners from the UK and Germany.

The project aims to identify the needs, opportunities and traps of the urban governance of migration, inclusion, and cohesion and to find ways for  smaller cities to develop their own strategies in this field.

A workshop hosted by TU Berlin in September 2019 launched the project and brought together representatives from UK and German smaller cities alongside academic researchers. Officials from Luton, Barnsley and Cottbus highlighted their specific contexts and this was contrasted with findings from both research and networks of peer learning between cities.

Strangers to this town

Research from the University of Chemnitz, set out the specific context for smaller cities which generally have lower diversity than their larger neighbours. It showed that very often differences are stressed in a way which means that newcomers stay ‘strangers’ for a long time. Smaller municipalities often have fewer local networks and little infrastructure and so are more reliant on the buy-in of a ‘major public stakeholder’ like a Mayor or council leader. However, there are also advantages for smaller municipalities, where there is higher potential for mutual help and personal acquaintance.

Success of local approaches

Welcoming International focused on a number of approaches which could support local authorities to develop their approach – including developing a clear narrative which includes both newcomers and longer standing communities. The work of HOPE not Hate emphasized the importance of this approach – which understands the stark differences between the way that migration impacts smaller towns with a focus on the impact of rapid migration on smaller towns, in particular how it relates to the delivery of public services at the local level.

Professor Felicitas Hillmann, at TU Berlin, said

"currently we lack research on how migration is entangled with urban regeneration and on how cities can learn from each other. Still, what we see is that migration-led regeneration is always related to other forms of mobility and that it depends on how the administration connects with the civil society and the private sector. Also, we have observed that the role of the mayor has changed."

Jacqueline Broadhead, Director of the Global Exchange on Migration and Diversity at COMPAS commented that

"this seed funding has enabled us to focus on the vital but often under-acknowledged area of integration in smaller towns and municipalities. By combining relevant research findings with learning policy and practice in the UK and Germany it is hoped that we can develop new approaches on the topic as well as contributing to new research agendas and the development of the Oxford – Berlin partnership."

This first event will be followed by a workshop in Oxford in 2020. At the end of the project a briefing for municipalities will include analysis of relevant data on migration and integration for smaller municipalities and will highlight the key learning from the partnership. It is hoped that this will mark the start of a longer collaboration on this topic.

Read more about the Oxford-Berlin Research Partnership.