‘Nudge’ approach could offer a quick and cost-effective way to promote social mixing in multi-ethnic societies, MPI Europe research suggests
BRUSSELS — Virtual reality, simple writing exercises and football games between mixed teams could all help migrants to settle into new societies and foster connections among diverse groups, according to research by the Migration Policy Institute Europe and the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT).
The joint report, Applying behavioural insights to support immigrant integration and social cohesion, urges governments to use ‘nudges’ to encourage people to make better choices for themselves and society, grounding policy in a nuanced understanding of how people make decisions.
Governments across the world are already applying this approach in a wide range of areas. For example, making organ donation opt-out rather than opt-in has hugely increased the number of donors, and changing the wording on tax letters has been successful in bringing forward government revenue.
The MPI Europe-BIT report investigates whether similar approaches could be used by integration policymakers. ‘Promising approaches such as perspective-taking activities and highlighting shared identities between newcomers and existing citizens can start to expand the concept of us, and reduce the concept of them’, said report co-author Antonio Silva, a BIT senior advisor. For example, writing about a day in the life of another person, prompting people to recount discrimination they themselves have faced before thinking about someone else’s experience or even playing virtual reality games where they walk in the footsteps of migrants could all help to boost empathy and understanding.
Because citizenship acquisition marks an important milestone in civic integration, mentoring programmes and volunteering opportunities could also be used to encourage eligible immigrants to naturalise, and citizenship ceremonies could be made more meaningful by encouraging existing citizens to attend and connect with new citizens.
These innovations are generally cheap and quick to set up. Pilot schemes could be designed across countries, and once tested, they would be easy to scale up, meaning governments could make a big impact with a relatively small investment. As European leaders gather for another summit in Brussels this week to thrash out migration initiatives, they could benefit from investigating the potential of an approach based on behavioural insights.
‘The arrival of large numbers of migrants and refugees into Europe in the last few years created chaos in asylum and settlement systems’, said co-author Meghan Benton. ‘Many countries are now looking to the future—ensuring the migration crisis doesn’t leave long-term scars by helping newcomers settle in and bridging social divides. The behavioural insights approach offers fresh, evidence-tested ideas for improving access to services, promoting social mixing and reducing barriers to work and education—all fundamental tenets of integration’.
The report was produced for 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 the report and earlier ones in the series here: www.migrationpolicy.org/programs/integration-futures-working-group.
# # #
MPI Europe provides authoritative research and practical policy design to governmental and nongovernmental 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.