Intercultural Cities: How it works?
The successful cities of the future will be those best able to harness the talent and energy of their diverse citizens. A city can minimise the threats and maximise the potential of diversity by developing, negotiating and implementing a comprehensive strategy to realise its diversity advantage.
The Intercultural Cities programme helps cities to devise such strategies cutting across institutional silos and mobilising leaders, policy officers, professionals, businesses and civil society behind a new model of integration based on the mixing and interaction between people from different ethnic, religious and linguistic backgrounds.
The programme helps cities to:
- Create a sense of pluralistic identity based on the pride and appreciation of its diverse population and minimise ethnic tension and conflict.
- Set up a governance model empowering all members of the community, regardless of their origin or status, and thus benefit from their talents, skills and links with developing markets.
- Break the walls between ethnic groups, build trust and thus ensure cohesion and solidarity
- Make the public space and services accessible to all and end the vicious circle of poverty and exclusion which goes hand in hand with ethnic segregation.
- Empower intercultural innovators in public institutions and civil society and through them ensure that policies encourage intercultural interaction.
- Build a positive discourse and encourage a balanced approach to diversity in media to foster positive public perception of migrant and minority groups.
The Intercultural cities network provides expert and peer support to cities which chose to learn how to better manage diversity and benefit from the diversity advantage. It offers an internationally tested and validated methodology and a set of analytical and learning tools, as well as help with re-shaping city policies and services to make them more effective in a diverse context, and to engage citizens in building an understanding of their diversity as a competitive advantage.
Below is a set of examples of services and activities cities can benefit from. It should be noted, however, that the programme works in a very open, flexible way, adapting to the needs and expectations of individual cities.
Initial analysis of the level of intercultural development through the Intercultural cities index
The Intercultural cities INDEX is a benchmarking tool consists of around 70 indicators which allow to assess where a city stands in the different policy and governance areas and assess progress over time; to indicate where efforts should be concentrated in the future and identify “good practice” cities and city learning clusters; to communicate results in a visual, graphic way the level of achievement of each city and progress over time in comparison with other cities or the network as a whole.
The tool involves a combination of facts: demographic data in particular (primarily quantitative); inputs: policies, structures (primarily qualitative); impacts: attitudes and behaviours (primarily qualitative).
Data is collected through a questionnaire to be completed by city officials. Additional information on structures, policies and actions is to be provided through the Policy assessment grid (several departments will need to be involved). The results are then analysed by an expert team and the resulting baseline report will provide a SWOT analysis and a series of recommendations.
Introductory expert visit
Following the initial diagnostic through the ICC Index, a team of experts and the programme manager visit new member cities to meet a wide range of stakeholders (politicians, key officials, civil society & trade union leaders, business & media professionals, faith leaders etc. to assess their understanding of the intercultural approach and readiness to engage in the development of a local intercultural strategy. The visits results in a first review of city governance and policies from an intercultural perspective and a set of recommendations.
International meetings of Intercultural cities co-ordinators
The annual meetings are an opportunity for an exchange between cities and experts on the Intercultural city concept and method, on specific issues and concerns, build bilateral and multilateral connections, imagine common initiatives, and discuss strategic matters such as impact evaluation and sustainability of local intercultural strategies.
Policy development workshops
This involves a series of meetings with policy officers in different fields such as integration, education, culture, city planning/urban development, social services, as well as discussions with NGOs and media professionals in order to gain a deeper understanding of the specific diversity challenges and potential of the city. The workshops also serve as a way of engaging key policy officer and elected officials in the process of development of an intercultural strategy.
A report with recommendations on the processes to put in place will be provided following the workshop.
Two experts will work in parallel with groups of people of different administrative and professional backgrounds and milieus (policy officers, city planners, education, culture and social service professionals, representatives of migrant and faith organisations and media. The workshops will bring these people to imagine they work/activities differently by applying the “intercultural lens” (how can change our work in order to increase intercultural interaction, mixing and trust). The result will be an overall vision paper which will serve as a basis for the city intercultural strategy
In addition, a public debate on diversity advantage for cities can be organised, with the Mayor and other officials
Study visits to other cities
The study visits represent the key peer learning pillar of the programme. One study visit will take place to a “mentor” city which has already completed the “curriculum” and has made significant accomplishments. Another visit will take place to a fellow city which has compelling experience or advantage in an area which the member city seeks to develop or learn more about.
Assistance with intercultural strategy development
Expert advice will be provided (from a distance or on the spot) whenever the city requires it in the process of development of its intercultural strategy. In some cases, the “experts” could also be integration officers of Intercultural co-ordinators from fellow cities which have significant experience and understanding of the issue (peer mentoring). In particular, assistance will be provided with developing indicators to monitor the strategy, as well as to identify specific results which will increase the overall community well-being, and the way of measuring success (based on the methodology of results-based accountability, designed and tested by the Intercultural cities programme with the help of experts from the Washington Center for the Study of Social Policy).
Official presentation of the Intercultural city strategy to the local community
Once the strategy has been validated by the relevant city offices and political bodies, a public presentation of the strategy to the media and the community can take place to highlight and celebrate the achievement; a high-level Council of Europe official can be present to give an international dimension to the event; the media networks of the Council of Europe will be happy to publicise the event.
Evaluation of the implementation of the Intercultural strategy
The city will be asked to provide information on the implementation of the strategy through a instrument which will be tailor-made to match the specificity of the strategy. In-depth discussions with politicians and practitioners involved will result in a report and recommendations with a view to ensuring adequate implementation and sustainability.
Managing public perceptions of diversity and busting negative myths
The Intercultural cities programme has developed know how about public discourse and campaigns which help the public understand the benefits of diversity for the local community and support diversity and inclusion policies. Following an experiment in several cities, the effectiveness of awareness-raising strategies has been assessed via representative polls and focus groups. The learning of this process will be shared with cities to support their efforts in engaging the citizens positively with diversity management. Actions and approaches to busting negative myths will be suggested, in particular based on the Barcelona-born anti-rumour approach which has now been adopted by dozens of cities Europe-wide.
Conflict prevention and resolution
Conflicts based on cultural and faith differences and misunderstandings are inevitable. The ICC experts and experienced practitioners from member cities can provide advice and guidance in such situations, and suggest particular techniques, eg. the Dilemma Workshops invented in Botkyrka.