Jacqui Broadhead Director of the Global Exchange on Migration and Diversity at COMPAS, University of Oxford
Q: Can you tell me about your work on the Inclusive Cities initiative in the UK? A: One of the key features of our program, which chimes with the work of Welcoming International, is that we stress the importance of working with both communities of newcomers and longstanding communities. Work around integration and inclusion has to be a shared responsibility. Our strategy is to encourage long-term change in practices and policies, and at the moment we are seeding ideas.When cities examine migrant integration, they usually focus specifically on groups of migrants that they are already working directly with: unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, resettled refugees, and in some cases asylum seekers. All of these groups are really important to work with, but they obviously don’t constitute the full newcomer community in the city. We are encouraging local authorities to take a wider perspective, and we back up our suggestions with research evidence.In Glasgow, for example, our partners have been looking at the role of the international student population; asking how to work with them, and how they can be invited to contribute to the life of the city. In London there has been a lot of work done with EU nationals, who haven’t really been on the radar in other programs previously, though obviously Brexit has brought this group to the fore.
Q: What is it like to do this work as a University? A: Our aim is to facilitate social change, not just study it. It means that we are stepping outside of the traditional activity of universities, and while everything is grounded in research we are experimenting a little bit, particularly through this idea of knowledge exchange. We’re not just disseminating our research, we’re really co-producing this activity with the cities themselves, and that’s really exciting!
Q: How does your work change the UK’s ecosystem? A: Scotland has a New Scott strategy and a dedicated team in their devolved administration, but there is no overall national strategy for integration in the UK. Through our Inclusive Cities program we have involved individual local authorities from all over the country in the Welcoming process, and we have seen those that have participated demonstrating stronger leadership.The leader of Glasgow City Council attends many of our events, and has been a champion of the program. The Deputy Mayor of Bristol, and the Deputy Mayor for Social Integration in London have also actively participated, among many other senior elected officials from other cities. Integration and inclusion haven’t been high on the political agenda in the UK for quite a long time, and the issues get less attention than migration itself. So, to have this kind of engagement from local authorities is a really huge step forward for us.Under austerity, UK local authorities have lost, on average, about 60% of their budget since 2010. This has created a huge retrenchment in what they’re able to do, and presented a huge challenge for our program. We think it is important to continue to support positive leadership within struggling local authorities, so we encourage them to use their convening power to build partnerships. Within each city, the local authority is required to set up a task force of stakeholders and partners. They then convene a staff stakeholder group, and lead on the project. We provide support, resources and knowledge exchange.
Q: Why do they want to come on board your initiative? A: The impact of the Brexit referendum was a big motivator for cities to join us when we started recruiting in 2017. Brexit was a big challenge for our cities on many levels: funding, workforces, managing the EU Settlement Scheme, questions of polarization, and rising hate crime. Local authorities realized that silence was not the same as neutrality , and the subject of integration was becoming a significant fracture point within their communities. They wanted to be more proactive, but they didn’t really have any resources, and with the lack of a wider strategy they didn’t know exactly what they should be doing to improve integration.We were able to provide a structure and small amounts of resources to enable them to meet other partners, and learn from each other. I think this was a key factor that led them to join the program. Many cities were also keen to learn from the work done in the US.
Q: How does the Inclusive Cities Initiative help transform communities in the UK? A: It plays out differently in each city depending on what the local priorities are. The program is quite flexible, but the main change is about increasing the salience of integration as an issue, and providing the impetus for change to happen. The local authorities and the cities themselves define what they would like to do in the form of an action plan, and then work to achieve it.For example, in Bristol, asylum seeking children weren’t getting access to English language lessons at a local college in a timely manner. We identified that there was a communications issue between different partners, and they were able to respond and fix the problem.In Liverpool they focused on developing a broader strategy towards refugees, through the Our Liverpool initiative. We looked at how to work with refugees, and simultaneously tell the story of this work to the wider public in the city.The focus in Glasgow was on understanding how newcomers fit into their Increased Economic Growth Strategy.
Q: How does it make you feel to see the Welcoming movement growing through your network in the UK? A: We were very keen to expand the network to cover all four nations in the UK, so we are really delighted that two cities in Northern Ireland recently joined, as well as our second Welsh city—we are very much looking forward to working with them!Having a diversity of cities and areas is very important to us, so in addition to major cities we are working with smaller cities such as Newport and Peterborough, and also in rural areas. We are not proprietorial; we are happy to see other initiatives springing up because we champion all community approaches to integration.
Q: Does your partnership with Welcoming International impact your work in the UK? A: The support and input from Welcoming International has been really helpful. The examples of work happening in other countries–particularly New Zealand and Australia–have also been incredibly valuable in helping us to develop our framework. This sense of broader international solidarity and understanding–that other people are in the same situation as they are–was very powerful for our cities, and gave them a lot of energy. Welcoming International attended quite a lot of our meetings, and provided inspiration and advice. We draw from the work they have done on developing common standards, and used their feedback to develop the Inclusive Cities framework.Through Welcoming America, all our cities took part in a 2018 exchange visit to Montgomery County, Maryland and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. There was definitely a lot of practical learning and inspiration that was taken from work done in the US. We visited the Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh, and I know that some of our cities took that idea of very practical Welcoming services as inspiration for things that they wanted to do. In Montgomery County, we visited some English language provision that inspired thought processes about how we could develop those services in the UK. You can read a report from that exchange trip on our website.
Q: What is next for Inclusive Cities? A: We’ve just doubled the number of cities we are working with, and at the moment our main aim is to support them to develop their action plans. In the longer term we would love to see the integration of newcomers be much more embedded in the mainstream of what local authorities do in the UK, so that it becomes a core part of their business. We know that a lot of our local authorities’ main focus for the coming weeks and months will be orientated around their response to the Covid-19 pandemic. We are working with them to understand how we can support them best in doing this and using the support through Welcoming International to draw on international learning and expertise as well as developing our own research base.