Oct 29 2014 | Category: Conferences UNITEE - Image 2013 © UNITEE

Melting Pots as Cradles of Innovation

Modern life is undoubtedly urban. Already half of the world’s population lives in cities, and by 2050 the total urban population is expected to double. Diversity is the main constituent of cities, at least of successful ones, and that is what makes them the true beacons of innovation, of change. Cities are where the future is made. But increased diversity often also brings along tensions and contradictions, linked to the conditions of marginalisation and exclusion of some groups of people.

With the publication of the third edition of its magazine The New European, ‘Divercities’, UNITEE organised the conference ‘Divercities: Melting Pots as Cradles of Innovation’ on the 19th of November 2014 in Brussels, to discuss how European cities can best take advantage of their diversity to become cradles for competitiveness and innovation, thus helping re-launch the European economy.

The panel included:

  • Meghan BENTON, Policy Analyst at the Migration Policy Institute, author of “The immigration innovators”
  • Thomas JÉZÉQUEL, Policy Advisor for Social Inclusion at EUROCITIES, author of “Cities as inclusive employers”
  • Goffredo Maria BETTINI, Italian MEP, S&D
  • Tõnu KARU, Representative of the city of Tallinn to the EU

The conference was opened by a speech from Adem KUMCU, President of UNITEE, and moderated by Giovanni COLLOT, Editor-in-Chief of The New European.


Cities as Integration Innovators

Meghan BENTON stressed how big cities usually have to deal with a higher degree of multiculturalism than the national average of the country they belong to. Thus, they need to develop innovative integration policies to deal with such diversity. In particular, there are three trends that are to be identified concerning the migration policies of cities. First, cities tend to focus on a skills based migration policy in order to attract high skilled migrants from all over the world to increase their innovation potential. Second, since the urban economy is dealing with issues of diversity and high turnover, there is a tendency to develop a flexible job market. Third, cities are promoting new forms of identity and urban citizenship which are often stronger and easier to build than national identities.


Cities as Inclusive Employers

Thomas JÉZÉQUEL underlined how integration is a never-ending and delicate process in which cities play a big role. In particular, in their role as employers, they have the possibility to foster integration and implement concrete measures that guarantee the representation of their increasingly multicultural citizenship. The case of Copenhagen is relevant, as the city does not only employ people form ethnic minorities but also offers trainings in order to increase the professional qualification of migrants.


Rome – A Missed Opportunity?

Goffredo Maria BETTINI presented the case of Rome which, notwithstanding the fact that it is the city with the highest amount of immigrants in Italy, has not achieved a satisfactory degree of integration. According to the speaker, this is not due to a cultural problem, as Rome has never been hostile to migration, but is rather a structural and infrastructural issue. Although Rome is possibly the most universal city of the world because of its history, it is also extremely provincial and needs to tackle this problem with urgency because it is missing the opportunity to be enriched by multicultural diversity.


Tallinn – A Story of Integration Success

Tõnu KARU stressed that Tallinn is a particularly relevant case of integration because of its history. A very big percentage of its population is ethnically Russian and its integration has been successful for various reasons. In particular, this has been the case because of the democratization process after the independence from the USSR which has been, and still is, very inclusive thanks to technology. Tallinn’s case is in fact remarkable for its easy and widespread access to the internet and high reliance on IT services, especially concerning the bureaucratic and political domain.


Click to access our magazine The New European ‘Divercities’ here.

View the picture gallery here.

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