“Cities are the places where integration happens. They offer great opportunities for migrants and non-migrants to interact, be it through working, studying and raising their families, but they are also faced with challenges regarding integration and inclusion.”
European Urban Agenda
Migration policy represents a national and European responsibility, but integration happens at the local level. It is in the neighborhoods, schools, and workplaces that people integrate in communities.
In this sense, local authorities play a key role in integrating newcomers and empowering them to contribute to their new communities. However, due to a lack of coordination among stakeholders across the different sectors of labor, health, housing and education, local integration strategies show weaknesses.
MUST-a-Lab project aims at bringing together stakeholders and migrants in order to innovate strategies for effective integration at local level, building more resilient communities, through the establishment of local Policy Labs.
In our approach, integration means hybridisation, since cultural identities and cultural differences are seen as contingent products of social negotiation in which they mix together. In this negotiation, cultural identities can be constructed and narrated as fluid and loose, namely as hybrid identities. The PLs can implement and/or improve negotiation of hybrid identities, by transforming cultural differences from blocks of dialogue to dialogic threads.
MUST-a-Lab proposes a systemic and long-term involvement of migrants and asylum seekers in 6 European municipalities through installing Policy Labs, where existing local integration strategies are discussed and improved. Each of these cities has its own history with migration and has developed significant good practices in integration strategies. The Policy Labs strive for a direct impact in each city by improving and adjusting the implementation of their integration strategies by a joint effort of all relevant stakeholders, including the migrants themselves. In fact, Policy Labs bring together different types of local stakeholders: one side, stakeholders normally involved in local policies and, on the other one, grassroots and migrant stakeholders.
Participated policies in the field of migration means to mobilize different stakeholders and to activate a fruitful exchange at different stages of development in the fields of social inclusion, education, employment. For this reason, Policy Labs enables the different stakeholders involved to discuss, review and improve existing integration local strategies through the input of all participants.
The use of Policy Lab methodology aims at creating and/or enhancing the habit of inclusive and participatory approaches in decision-making processes for local authorities.
The measures discussed in each Policy Lab are focused on a topic previously chosen according to the local needs in terms of migrant and asylum seekers communities integration.
Policy Labs impact
Policy Labs methodology, strictly connected to participatory practices, will encourage their participants to generate innovative interactions. On one hand, migrants and asylum seekers become active actors in local integration strategies, who are able to influence the implementation of those strategies by sharing their views and experiences with relevant stakeholders. On the other hand, local stakeholders evolve into collaborative actors who have the necessary information to implement strategies that work.
Therefore, Policy Labs result in the development of stakeholders’ actions that are complementary to those of other stakeholders while the Policy Lab practice allows the optimisation of existing and new integration strategies.
- Migrant and asylum seeker communities
- Local authorities
- Relevant stakeholders belonging to the world of labor, education, non-governmental organizations, local associations
- Policy makers at local national and European level
The Local Stakeholders Reference Groups
The successful implementation of the Policy Labs approach hinges on the active involvement of stakeholders. This is exemplified by the Local Stakeholders Reference Group (LSRG), a collective of local stakeholders who play a pivotal role in the PL process by actively contributing to its implementation through the provision of ideas, expertise, and insights at the local level. The LSRGs constitute the stakeholders’ pools from which the participants of the Policy Labs are identified, as well as the natural groups in which the Policy Lab participants check the feasibility of the new solutions drafted during the sessions. They serve, in this latter sense, as a “second circle” around the Policy Labs, facilitating the experimentation of new solutions and the validation of success criteria for the proposed innovations through both substantial support and technical analysis.
The International Stakeholders Reference Group
The MUST-a-Lab project foresees the creation of a stakeholders’ body willing to help the project to reach new geographic areas and potentially interested parties: the International Stakeholders Reference Group (ISRG). Composed of representatives of relevant international networks and organisations, the body has been operational since the second year of the project (2023) and assumes both an advisory role and an impact-maximisation function in the different project development phases. The ISRG actively contributes to project communication efforts, promoting the MUST-a-Lab approach as a participatory decision-making process and highlighting its innovative elements in social integration strategies. Several support actions are assigned to the ISRG, including providing inputs for the project’s activities, aiding the DCE WG (Dissemination, Communication, and Engagement Working Group) and enhancing the project’s visibility. The ISRG is also responsible for sharing the project’s results and outcomes within their respective national, European, and international networks.
All the project partners were invited to suggest prominent practitioners working in the field of migration, integration and social inclusion on an international scale. The selection resulted in a list of nine professionals based in Greece, Spain, Belgium, Austria, United States (California), Croatia, Cyprus and The Netherlands:
- Dionysia Lambiri - Project Coordinator of Athens Coordination Center for Migrant and Refugee Issues (ACCMR)
- Pantelis Dimitriou - Monitor, Evaluation & Quality Control of HELIOS Programme in Livadia, International Organization for Migration
- Razan Ismail - Founder and director of Asociation Kudwa in Barcelona and member of the European Coalition of Refugees and Migrants
- Sophie Van Haasen - Coordinator - GFMD Mayors Mechanism
- Adrijana Višnjić-Jevtić - OMEP (Children’s Rights World Organisation)
- Michael Fanizadeh - VIDC Global Dialogue, Vienna Institute for International Dialogue and Cooperation (VIDC)
- Bernhard Perchinig - International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD)
- Mary Tupan-Wenno - Executive director of ECHO, Center for Diversity Policy in Utrecht
- Ona Schyvens - PhD – Hannah Arendt Instituut