MPI Europe report: The future cohesion of communities depends on innovation from integration policymakers
BRUSSELS — The arrival of hundreds of thousands of migrants in Europe during 2015-2016 catapulted integration policymakers from the periphery to the center of debates shaping the European continent but gave them few tools to support their change in status, argues the Migration Policy Institute Europe in a new report.
Integration officials have been under minute and constant media scrutiny since 2015 and face the daunting challenge of convincing often skeptical colleagues and the public that vulnerable people—many needing help with housing and job training, while experiencing mental and physical health problems—are worth greater investment, the authors of Doing More With Less: A New Toolkit for Integration Policy suggest.
Still now, policies in this area are most often tailored to helping migrants get into the workforce rather than addressing more complex needs such as social integration, cultural accommodation and community building.
MPI Europe researchers discussed these issues with integration policymakers from around Europe, and clear messages emerged: finding reliable evidence on what works was intensely difficult, managing relationships at all levels of government and with outside partners was draining and planning for the future amidst constant firefighting was impossible.
The report, written by Meghan Benton and Alexandra Embiricos, argues that innovative tools—already tried and tested in other policy areas—would allow integration policymakers to do more within tight budgets. These include:
- Behavioral insights. Small interventions, or nudges, based on evidence from behavioral economics and psychology could reduce segregation in schools or help people develop the skills to live in diverse societies.
- Innovative financing. Ideas such as social impact bonds, whereby a private investor funds projects and is reimbursed by the government depending on results, could fund effective skills training programs for refugees.
- Horizon scanning and foresight. Engaging experts and officials to consider how future geopolitical, demographic, economic and social trends could affect migration flows or integration could help stem growing problems of social exclusion or public unrest.
- Cost-benefit analysis. Commissioning economic modelling that captures the benefits of community cohesion and the integration of the second generation could help target investments in new arrivals.
Although public officials tend to be afraid of failure, they can begin with small experiments to judge the effectiveness of an intervention, so, for example, run small-scale pilots designed to reduce segregation in the classroom based on behavioral research. They could also approach potential investors who may be interested in social impact bonds or engage with the mushrooming number of public-service design agencies to help update and re-evaluate users’ experiences of public services.
The authors argue that these and other tools could improve the performance of integration officials across Europe, but they caution: "A new approach to integration policy is not about new tools alone; it also requires a more collaborative approach to problem-solving, drawing on relationships with the private sector and civil partners, as well as the whole of government."
The report and two more forthcoming papers next week are the culmination of two years’ work by the MPI Europe's Integration Futures Working Group, which brings together policymakers and experts, civil-society officials and private-sector leaders to create a platform for long-term strategic and creative thinking. The Working Group is supported by the Robert Bosch Foundation.
Read today’s report here: www.migrationpolicy.org/research/toolkit-integration-policy.
And earlier ones in the Integration Futures series here: www.migrationpolicy.org/programs/integration-futures-working-group.
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MPI Europe provides authoritative research and practical policy design to governmental and non-governmental stakeholders who seek more effective management of immigration, immigrant integration and asylum systems, as well as better outcomes for newcomers, families of immigrant background and receiving communities throughout Europe. MPI Europe also provides a forum for the exchange of information on migration and immigrant integration practices within the European Union and Europe more generally. For more, visit www.mpieurope.org.