UNITES: Cities fostering inclusion through co-design
How can cities foster the participation of migrant people? Can co-design processes enable cities to build more efficient integration strategies?
UNITES (UrbaN InTEgration Strategies through co-design), aims to train and accompany local authorities towards co-design integration strategies while involving stakeholders and migrant groups.
On 23-25 May, the eight city partners – Athens, Bologna, Dusseldorf, Grenoble-Alpes Métropole, Oulu, Prague, Zagreb and Zaragoza – met in Brussels to learn from each other and check the project progress. Moreover, the meeting allowed cities to learn from experts working on other projects and initiatives on co-design: CAMIM, MILE, MUST-a-Lab and Yorkshire & Humber Refugee Integration Strategy & Forum.
Whole of society approach & co-design
UNITES is based on the “whole of society” approach. This refers to an inclusive and participatory methodology involving all stakeholders within a society – including migrant people – in the process of co-design.
This approach acknowledges that migrant people are valuable contributors to the development and improvement of policies and services that directly affect their lives and the communities they live in.
UNITES involves migrants as active participants, alongside local governments, NGOs, civil society organisations, and other relevant actors. In fact, migrant voices are incorporated into decision-making processes that shape their everyday life in the cities where they live.
Hence, UNITES promotes empowerment, ownership and the development of sustainable solutions that benefit both migrant people and the whole society.
Room for the voices of migrant-led organisations
UNITES works alongside two migrant-led organisations. Among its partners, UNITEE and New Women Connectors have an indispensable added value for this project. Both organisations play an advisory role in the research and training phases as well as the peer support programme. In addition, New Women Connectors and UNITEE provide cities with methods and examples to achieve meaningful participation of migrant people.
UNITES interim meeting: lessons learned
Exchanges with peers and experts during the meeting helped cities assess what are the essential elements to consider when creating coordination mechanisms including migrant people in their local contexts.
- Cities’ flexibility is an essential element to allow the creation and development of consultative bodies representing migrant groups;
- The best way to include everyone when setting up coordination mechanisms is investing in capacity building and stakeholders involvement;
- Having an overall view that includes the project’s sustainability is key when cities engage with migrant organisations and other stakeholders;
- A two-way approach is required when including citizens through co-design: on the one hand, cities can ask them what their needs are and whether they have suggestions for addressing them. On the other hand, information about what the city offers them should be more visible.
On the second day, UNITES partners visited VIA, a reception office for newcomers based in the Brussels Capital Region and learned about their CAMIM project, “Co-creating a better welcome and integration for migrants in Brussels”, focused on volunteering, informal French courses and newcomers’ empowerment.
In addition, the interim meeting was a chance for the project partners to hear from representatives of the Yorkshire & Humber Refugee Integration Strategy & Forum. Rawand Ahmed, Co-chair, and Dr. Ibtissam Al-Farah, Forum Member, shared the success story of the strategy they put in place following the consultation workshops covering a wide range of integration areas (e.g. economic, health & wellbeing, housing, community safety, refugee women, young people and the voluntary and community sector).
“As a city, we ask people’s advice. However, very often citizens do not see what happens in cities. Therefore, in Mechelen we highlight the processes to show that what cities hear from their citizens can impact the activities behind the scene”.
Tamara Stojanović, Mechelen
In the autumn, UNITES partners will start travelling to the eight partner cities to learn more about the implemented activities.
MigrationWork and Eurocities are working on a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) to share the lessons learned from UNITES. The MOOC will be presented at the Integrating Cities Conference XI, taking place in the autumn 2024. The Integrating Cities Conference is a two-day high-level event and part of the Integrating Cities process.