Purpose: Oslo Municipality undertook a research initiative to gather data on experiences of discrimination, alongside an initiative to develop indicators to measure progress made in response to the research. The purpose of these initiatives was to enable an effective focus on diversity in strategic policy documents, secure a high standard of equal services in service delivery, and respond to the high levels of under-reporting of discrimination.
Stimulus: Political commitment to equality and non-discrimination drove this initiative, as part of detailed commitments made in relation to equality and non-discrimination on the political platform of the parties governing the City. The Black Lives Matter mobilisation in the city was a further stimulus. While there had been much discussion of discrimination in the city over the previous decade, a civil society drive for delivery on this issue, rather than just talk, further assisted.
Process: A research team with the necessary expertise was contracted by the Municipality. The research involved a survey, focus groups and workshops involving people from a minority ethnic background. Young people, civil society organisations, employees, agencies, and districts in the city were engaged in the focus groups and in the workshops
The research found high numbers of minority ethnic people reporting discrimination by the Municipality. In this, there was a significant focus on individual level forms of discrimination. However, this output informed the focus on systemic forms of discrimination that emerged in subsequent seminars and discussion on the research, and in action planning in response to the research.
Alongside the research, the municipality sought to establish indicators for the progress to be made on this issue by its services, in achieving the delivery of equal services, and its workplace, in securing a diversity of its employees at all levels. An expert institution was contracted by the municipality to prepare a report on the indicators required. This report encompassed minority ethnic groups, groups based on religion, LGBTI people, and people with disabilities
The process for this report on indicators included a series of workshops that involved agencies and civil society organisations. A framework for indicators was applied that encompassed: celebration of diversity, and making the situation and contribution of minority groups visible, and making the Municipality strategies for diversity visible, to the public and to its employees; competence and training, establishing expectations of managers and employees in this field and bringing this focus into strategic policy documents; and inclusion and protection from discrimination, ensuring effective instruments in place to address this experience.
Impact: This initiative has enabled acknowledgement that discrimination is a problem, on the basis that if so many people recount this experience of discrimination, the municipality is not able to deliver quality services. The initiative has informed a new shared understanding of the issue, with a common language to discuss and respond to the issue. The necessity for action on the issue is seen at senior levels, enabling access to people at this level to discuss the issue and the responses required.
The initiative has brought the municipality to the point of action on the issue. There is an interest in training managers on the issues, and making this training more of an obligation. Action planning is enabling a focus on organisational systems change as being central to the action required. An action plan has been developed on recruitment of leaders, managers, and Board members with a minority ethnic background. There is a requirement that when making plans, the problem is established based on facts, and the planning process involves the population including people of minority ethnic background.
Key reference document: Sindre Bangstad, Netta Marie Rønningen, Edvard Nergård Larsen, Tony Sandset and Prisca Bruno Massao, Mapping of Racism and Discrimination Encountered in Oslo Municipality, Report 2022/2, KIFO, 2022 (Norwegian).