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, while ensuring real equality, non-discrimination, and meaningful intercultural interaction.
Realising the Diversity Advantage involves a commitment by the public authorities to recognise and preserve diversity as an intrinsic feature of human communities; and to pursue the ‘diversity advantage’ that accrues from the presence of diversity when coupled with specific policies and strategies that enable diverse contributions to shape the cultural, economic and social fabric of the city, and to manage conflicts which may threaten community cohesion.
Ensuring Real Equality involves a commitment to non-discrimination in all public actions, towards cities’ own workforce, in their relations with partners and suppliers, including civil society organisations and enterprises; and to direct policies and resources to everyone, based on need.
Promoting meaningful Intercultural Interaction involves creating conditions for positive and constructive everyday encounters across cultural as well as gender, sexual identity, age, socio-economic status and other differences, where active engagement across difference, rather than benign indifference, is the necessary building block of a thriving society.
Cities 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 and regions 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 embracing cultural pluralism and the complexity of identities through leadership discourse and symbolic actions based on the pride and appreciation of the city diversity.
- Set up a governance model empowering all members of the community, regardless of their origin or status, to develop their potential, realise their talents and enable them to contribute to local prosperity.
- Promote participation and power-sharing, involving people of diverse origins in decision-making in urban institutions, be they political, educational, social, economic or cultural.
- Open up spaces and opportunities for deep interaction and co-creation between people of different cultural origins and backgrounds, to build trust, cohesion and solidarity, and thus realise the creative potential of diversity.
- Foster intercultural competence and empower intercultural innovators in public, private and civil-society organisations.
- Manage conflict, busting stereotypes and engage in a debate about the impact and potential of diversity for local development.
The Intercultural cities programme provides expert and peer support to public authorities 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, and helps with re-shaping city policies and services to make them more effective in a diverse context.
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 which consists of around 83 indicators that 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 an analysis and a series of recommendations.
The ICC Index Charts allow for the graphical display of all ICC members’ index results, including the level of achievement of each city, progress over time, and comparison with other cities through filtering by size, demographic diversity, population, country and policy areas. Besides, the ICC Charts also compare results obtained by a city in the “extended intercultural index” which encompasses the assessment of the original (core) index as well as the new questions added in 2019. Moreover, the ICC Facts and Figures provide a quick, visual, and simplified overview of the ICC member cities composition and main results in the implementation of the Intercultural integration policy model.
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.
The Intercultural Academies are capacity-building sessions customised based on the needs of the selected target group; they combine practical exercises with theory on the main features of intercultural inclusion. The largest benefit is achieved when participants have the opportunity to prepare beforehand and the training can integrate real life examples from the cities involved.
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.
Fostering Intercultural competence
Public officials in an ideal intercultural city should be able to detect and respond comprehensively to the challenges posed by cultural differences, and modulate their approach accordingly, rather than trying to impose a single model of behaviour on all actions. The ICC programme provides city officials with a series of tools, training and policy guidance to build intercultural competence across the city departments.
Managing public perceptions of diversity and busting negative myths
Successful intercultural strategies require changes in the mind-set, attitudes and behaviour of both migrants and receiving communities. Building trust and a feeling of belonging to a pluralistic community with shared fundamental principles is key to achieving cohesion. The difficulty of gaining access to reliable information or grasp the real impact (both negative and positive) of migration on communities is a major obstacle in achieving this goal, and people often tend to form their views on the basis of “myths” or stereotypes.
The “Anti-rumour methodology” has been developed precisely to counter diversity-related prejudices and rumours that hamper positive interaction lay the foundations of discriminatory and racists attitudes. The Anti-rumour methodology promoted by the ICC programme, and understood as a public policy, is composed of a number of elements: identifying major rumours existing in a city; collecting objective data and also emotional arguments to dismantle false rumours; creating an anti-rumour network of local actors from civil society; empowering and training “anti-rumour agents”; and designing and implementing anti-rumour campaigns to raise awareness.
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.
Promoting multi-level governance of integration
One of the crucial challenges that both cities and states need to address in the coming years is the development of an effective framework for dialogue and co-action between local, regional, national and European authorities in order to ensure than migrant inclusion policies at all levels reinforce each other.
To assist both cities and states, the Council of Europe has set-up a multi-level governance working group, that aims to ensure policy consistency and complementarity and enable transfer of innovation and good practice from local to regional and national levels and vice-versa. More information >>
The ICC programme helps member cities amplify their voices to share jointly the message of real equality, the diversity advantage and intercultural interaction. More information >>