Attitudes to Migrants, Communication and Local Leadership (AMICALL) 2011 – 2012


AMICALL was a transnational action research project, co-ordinated by COMPAS, exploring the role of Local and Regional Authorities (LRAs) in communicating with their citizens about the difficult questions raised by migration. Led by a partnership of six European research institutions, with the Council of Europe as an associate partner, the project provided a platform for the sharing of good practice and the development of new strategies for the communication of positive attitudes towards migrants and migrant integration at the local and regional level.

The research was undertaken in the United Kingdom, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain. Work began in early 2011 with each partner identifying the context within which LRAs in the six target countries are working, producing country context reports to ground the comparative research. The partners then embarked on fieldwork, including desk research and interviews with key LRA officials, NGOs and experts to ascertain what, if any, communications activities have been undertaken by local government in each of the countries, focusing on a series of in-depth case studies. Each partner sought to identify successful initiatives as well as barriers to success in each country, region and city involved, which were reflected on in technical workshops with practitioners. The second half of the project focused on the policy lessons that can be drawn from the initial research.

Principal Investigator

Ben Gidley


Sarah Spencer
Michael Keith
Vanessa Hughes
Hannah Jones (University of Warwick)
Liz Collett (Migration Policy Institute, Brussels)


European Union Fund for the Integration of Third Country Nationals

Professionals' Advisory Group

Central European University (CEU), Budapest
European Forum for Migration Studies (efms), Bamberg
Erasmus University of Rotterdam
Complutense University of Madrid
FIERI, Turin
Council of Europe

News & Media

Creating the Conditions for Integration
Blog | COMPAS Communications

Five principles of integration: policies and inclusion
Blog | COMPAS Communications

Integration: a European research agenda
Blog | COMPAS Communications


Germany, Hungary, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, UK


CitiesDiscriminationEuropean UnionIntegrationPublic Opinion




This project started from the assumption that integration is a multi-directional process in which not just migrants and minorities have a role and responsibility, but also the institutions and wider public in receiving contexts. Framed in this way, public attitudes in the receiving context make a profound difference to the possibility of integration, especially in the domains of local and national belonging, civic participation and social interaction. A number of theories (contact theory, conflict theory, social identity theory, etc.) have attempted to explain this, but in all these models it is clear that, as many of these processes take place at a local level, local leadership can make a critical difference to how they unfold.



The project’s central independent variable was LRA activity, while its central dependent variable was attitudes towards migrants in the LRA area. It sought to identify what factors can determine outcomes, such as local or national media, resources, inconsistency in messaging, poor implementation, tracking how these factors may provide the necessary conditions under which LRA communication activities have any effect, mediate or moderate the impacts of LRA communication activities, or actually initiate LRA communication activities. To understand this, a series of case studies were developed, which were researched through documentary analysis and stakeholder interviews.


Although public attitudes to migration vary across Europe, negative attitudes prevail in most countries and examples of local tensions and conflicts are widespread. The research found that context matters, at both national and local scale, with significant differences across countries and between cities within countries – but there are also resonances and commonalities in different locations. How integration is framed in public debates also matters, and again varies across contexts, with municipalities in some countries not yet focusing on migrant integration while others are moving away from the paradigm and framing their work in terms of cohesion, inclusion, participation or citizenship. Different catalysts have given rise to initiatives, including critical incidents as well as national and EU funding.

LRA activities identified by the project included communication campaigns, as well as hands-on projects which facilitated intercultural communication between groups in a community or face to face communication between individuals. Different forms of activities give rise to different design considerations. LRAs everywhere see a need for strategic development beyond ad hoc responses to critical incidents or one-off programmes in response to funding streams; such strategic interventions are the exception not the rule, but there is evidence of a shift to longer term approaches emerging. A lack of evaluation has left LRAs struggling to clearly identify outcomes and impacts of their work, but several factors influencing success or failure were clear from the research. These included fiscal austerity, the lack of political will, personalities and individual commitment and regulatory frameworks.

The research also found that there was a clear demand for learning opportunities with regard to communication and shaping attitudes towards migrants expressed by LRAs, including platforms for sharing learning both within and across national borders.


AMICALL: Final Transnational Report Executive Summary
Reports | Ben Gidley, Elizabeth Collett | 2012

AMICALL: Final Transnational Report
Reports | Ben Gidley, Elizabeth Collett | 2012

AMICALL: Final Evaluation Report
Reports | Marjorie Mayo, Alison Rooke | 2012

AMICALL: Country Research Report – United Kingdom
Reports | Hannah Jones | 2012

AMICALL: Country Report – United Kingdom
Reports | Hannah Jones | 2012

AMICALL: Country Context Paper – UK
Reports | COMPAS Communications | 2011

Diversity, Super-diversity and Belonging
Presentation | Sarah Spencer | 2 Mar 2012

Partner country materials

Country context papers


Final country research reports


Executive Summaries



The project’s innovative knowledge exchange platforms – in each country (with local practitioners at technical workshops and with national policy-makers at round tables) and transnationally through work visits – created the potential for local authorities to exchange learning. The peer-to-peer interlocal learning generated in these events was valued by participants, as recorded by our independent evaluators. Their report included the following.

“The AMICALL partners have been very successful in engaging high level representatives at the national level including city mayors and deputy mayors, senior civil servants, including representatives of national government ministries, national offices responsible for Immigration and naturalization, and national local government federations. Feedback from the roundtables demonstrated the value of this participation.”

There are a number of ways in which the project results are being used or further developed. We have given a number of academic and policy-oriented presentations, at national and international events. We are developing an ambitious programme of scientific publications.

Sarah Spencer (COMPAS) raised AMICALL at the launch of the OCSE Ljubljana guidelines on the integration of national minorities and at Metropolis Canada. Both of these received press and on-line coverage, e.g. from the Maytree Foundation’s Cities of Migration. We also discussed this in the COMPAS blog. The project was also highlighted at a policy roundtable at the UK’s Department for Communities and Local Government.