The social innovation that has emerged in European cities to aid the integration of migrants and refugees faces challenges but also opportunity in era of pandemic
BRUSSELS — Many cities in Europe have developed a fragile ecosystem, made up of untraditional partnerships between government, businesses and grassroots organizations, to expand capacity and more effectively provide services to the large numbers of migrants and refugees who arrived during 2015-16.
This burst of social innovation, which includes exploration of new models to finance integration measures, inclusive strategies for engaging migrants and refugees in the design and delivery of services, and creative approaches to community engagement, now must incorporate a new reality: the COVID-19 pandemic. As cities begin to emerge from lockdown, a major question is how they will support their migrant and refugee populations amid ongoing social distancing and related measures. In this new normal, cities facing rising social challenges and the need to support vulnerable groups—all while grappling with tight budgets—may find that the social innovation infrastructure born out of the 2015–16 crisis could be the ticket to a more cost-effective and politically viable response.
Yet, as a new Migration Policy Institute Europe-International Organization for Migration report explores, these nascent structures risk crumbling under the tough economic situation and impending budget cuts. And the personal interactions at the heart of their success have been rendered extremely difficult by social distancing measures.
"The pandemic could be a make-or-break moment for the innovative architecture for social inclusion that has developed in the wake of the migrant and refugee crisis," said the report’s author, MPI Europe Policy Analyst Liam Patuzzi. "It is also a major test of European cities’ crisis resilience, and numerous lessons can be drawn from the experiences of the 2015–16 period."
The report, Driving Migrant Inclusion through Social Innovation: Lessons for Cities in a Pandemic, is mainly based on research conducted as part of the ADMin4ALL project on "Supporting Social Inclusion of Vulnerable Migrants in Europe" carried out largely in cities and towns in Southern as well as Central and Eastern Europe that have faced particularly challenging situations.
The report examines the potential of social innovation to support migrant and refugee inclusion, explores promising practices and persistent challenges, and offers reflections on how these lessons can help diverse cities advance inclusion and social cohesion in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and amid the associated economic, social and political uncertainty.
"Cities will need to tackle the hard questions of effectiveness, sustainability, efficiency and scalability if social innovation is to turn from a novelty into a robust tool for transforming local government," the report says.
Commissioned as part of the ADMin4ALL – Supporting Social Inclusion of Vulnerable Migrants in Europe project, the report can be found here: www.migrationpolicy.org/research/migrant-inclusion-social-innovation-cities-pandemic
ADMin4ALL, which aims to enhance the capacity of local governments to develop sustainable strategies and inclusive services for the successful social and economic integration of migrants, is a project administered by the International Organization for Migration and funded by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion. For more on ADMin4ALL, visit: https://admin4all.eu/.