Mayor’s Advisor on Inclusion at Bristol City Council
Q: Which projects did you partner with the Inclusive Cities initiative on?
A: Inclusive Cities is a place where different projects can be catalysed and started up, but they are then run by different organizations in the city. The Inclusive Cities initiative provides a guiding framework for cities, and we’ve used that framework for a number of different projects. The #WeAreBristol campaign, which is a public communications campaign to promote inclusive Bristolian identity, is one of them. The campaign generated videos and flyers, which we distributed via social media and at numerous live events happening across the city. We also installed highly visible banners in the most prominent locations in Bristol, and ran adverts on buses.
We wanted to target the so-called ‘movable middle’. This is a large and diverse part of our community that is neither pro nor against migration, but some residents do have concerns about it, and we think it’s important to communicate the benefits of inclusivity to them.
It’s difficult to measure the impact of such work, but hundreds of thousands of people watched the videos and visited our website for more information. We observed that most of the engagement with our message was positive. We also haven’t seen a rise in hate crime in Bristol after Brexit, in contrast with the national trend.
Q: What are the local community groups you collaborate with?
A: The Inclusive Cities approach is to instigate collaboration between the key organizations in the city. We have stakeholder meetings every couple of months that normally have around 25-30 different organizations represented. They range from public sector organizations, to educational organizations and universities, third sector charities, and also social enterprises. Among them are groups that are focused on refugees, those supporting EU citizens, and some arts and culture organizations.
The RefuLingua project trains refugees to teach Arabic to local Bristolians. We encourage our long-term residents to engage with newcomers through language classes, food, and though buying products from migrant-run businesses. It’s important to present migrants and newcomers as assets to our cities. We create the opportunities where this can become apparent for people.
Q: How are you supported by the Inclusive Cities program?
A: The Inclusive Cities initiative regularly brings together stakeholders in Bristol to join forces on issues around migrant inclusion. We have focused collectively on a number of different areas—for example, public narrative and economic inclusion. These discussions led to the creation of the #WeAreBristol campaign, and the Inclusive Cities project provided intellectual resources and practical support to help us design the campaign, which was very helpful for us.
They also shared ideas and approaches around, for example, supporting refugee and migrant entrepreneurship, that we’ve since worked to establish in a local setting.
The Inclusive Cities project regularly brings together representatives from different cities. This has been useful in creating relationships between the cities, and starting conversations about common policy issues. For example, we learned how different local authorities relate to government-contracted accommodation providers for asylum seekers.
We take part in a series of structured sessions, but for me the key benefits of the program are the conversations that develop in between those sessions. This is where you get to ask follow-up questions about different projects, and have the opportunity to hear more about a particular approach.
Q: How does your partnership with the Inclusive Cities initiative impact your community?
A: Inclusive Cities supported us in standardizing and centralizing the process of learning English in the city, making the ESOL process much more accessible for migrants. Previously, we had different providers using different assessment criteria and different measures of people’s progress.
The Government wants to increase asylum dispersal in the Bristol area. We’ve been working with the other cities involved in the Inclusive Cities project to develop a good strategy for welcoming new asylum seekers to Bristol, and identifying what provisions we should have in place. The city of Cardiff currently accommodates a much higher number of asylum seekers than Bristol, and we are in conversation with them to learn from their experiences.
We have also realised that we can use the Inclusive Cities program to bring a wide range of different organisations together, to create connections that didn’t exist previously. That leads to the organic growth of opportunities which are just very practical, tangible things, that change people’s lives.
Q: What is your long-term vision for Bristol?
A: We want to see Bristol as a city of hope where everybody is, and feels, included. The Inclusive Cities project is making sure that the inclusion of migrants and newcomers to the city is part of that. The framework that the Inclusive Cities project has created, with its clear thematic areas, helps us make concrete progress towards that.