How do local authorities deal with the increasing diversity of their clients and residents?

By Ben Gidley

In the 1890s, philanthropist Charles Booth and a team of assistants – the pioneers of sociological research in the UK – walked the whole of London, visually noting the wealth of each street’s inhabitants, to construct their Maps Descriptive of London Poverty. The maps coded streets by colour, with scarlet red and gold marking the “well-to-do” and the “wealthy”, dark blue and black representing the “casual poor” in “chronic want” and the
“vicious and semi-criminal” “lowest class”. Southwark, just across the Thames from the City of London, was a mass of dark colours.

A hundred years later, the New Labour government created an Index of Multiple Deprivation to map new forms of poverty, dark blue for most deprived and gold for least. Again, the northern wards of Southwark were swathed in darkness, with the area around Elephant and Castle especially dark blue.



More recently, the estate agents Savills has produced a different map of London, with dark blue representing areas where house prices were declining, and Booth’s scarlet red now used to mark zones moving “upmarket”. This time, in what the Economist called “the great inversion”, the former dark zones of Southwark had become vivid red property hotspots.

Elephant and Castle, in the heart of this area, exemplifies London’s sharp changes: commercial student housing, warehousing study migrants from the rising powers of Eastern Asia; luxury pied a terres in developments in a rebranded “South Central” quarter; social housing redevelopments that result in the decanting of long-term residents out to London’s far suburbs; a growing hub for Latin American enterprise.

Super-diversity at the local level

Elephant and Castle is also the site of a COMPAS project, Welfare, neighbourhood and new geographies of diversity. This project, along with an ESRC Knowledge Exchange Fellowship, were the source for February’s COMPAS Breakfast Briefing, presented by my COMPAS colleague Mette Louise Berg and me. We asked “How do local authorities deal with the increasing diversity of their clients and residents?” The Powerpoint presentation is online, and podcast and summary are coming soon.


Mette opened by describing the concept of “super-diversity” at the heart of our project, the intensifying diversity of forms of difference concentrated in one place, as defined by COMPAS founder Stephen Vertovec. Vertovec’s work has opened up a research agenda that I have been pursuing with Nando Sigona, Mette Berg and other colleagues in the last half decade, with a conference in Oxford, a workshop in Birmingham, and an edited collection. It also informed a Home Office study on the varying impacts of migration in local areas (subject of a previous Breakfast Briefing by Jon Simmons), which included “super-diverse London” as one of its geographical clusters.

The Welfare, neighbourhood and new geographies of diversity project, which also involves Caroline Oliver, Hiranthi Jayaweera and Rachel Humphris, as well as photographer Simon Rowe, takes this agenda forward by piloting ethnographic research on how diversity is patterned differently at different stages of the life course, and how this impacts on service provision in a super-diverse space.

Understanding Elephant

figure for BB blogpost

My contribution to the Breakfast Briefing was to present detailed census analysis done as part of the project by Anna Krausova, exploring different patterns of diversity across multiple axes of difference in an area circumscribed by a 1 mile radius from Elephant and Castle. Mette then presented some of the findings from the education and housing case studies of our qualitative research.

Mette also described some of the “promising practices” we have seen operating in Southwark – examples of social innovation (partnerships between local authorities and charitable and voluntary sector to develop areas, long-term bottom-up approaches, building inclusion, skills, and relationships), as well as promising practices in schools (seeing languages and diversity as a positive resource, celebrating diversity as well as emphasizing shared values across faiths and cultures rather than taking an either/or approach, and support for home-school support workers) and in housing (tenant management organisations, sports projects and community gardens). One of the key promising practices in schools was the development of “an ethos of inclusion”, which nurtures all children, regardless of their ethnicity, immigration status or other markers of difference. (These findings resonate with promising practices identified by our colleague Ole Jensen in COMPAS’ Upstream project on municipal integration strategies in education and social cohesion.)

Finally, Mette summed up five key findings of the research.

  • Inequality, deprivation and poverty constitute more of a challenge to service delivery than “diversity” understood as “ethnic diversity”. Inequality is exacerbated by central government cuts to funding and restructuring as service delivery becomes patchy and fragmented, creating greater risks to resilience at a local level.
  • Diversity is differently patterned across age groups, which means there are different implications for different areas of service delivery, which will change slowly over time as demographic ripples pass through the population. Schools already have significant expertise and experience in dealing with super-diversity, for example, but elder care less so. (Again, this resonates with the Upstream project, which has found that super-diversity is already mainstream in education contexts even in areas of relatively new diversity.)
  • Broad brush approach to minorities is not very helpful; it is important to understand needs of “hidden communities” and micro-populations.
  • Developing a reflective style of working is vital in context of rapid change. Frontline staff and middle managers often accumulate rich, grounded understandings of their areas over time, which are important in service delivery in super-diverse contexts. Excessive institutional restructuring and staff turnover can be detrimental to this as, making local authorities less able to support resilient communities.
  • Different areas of policy are linked; changes in one area can have impacts in others. For example, what happens in the housing domain impacts on a school’s ability to recruit and retain teachers as well as on the composition of the pupil population.

Community nodes

IMG_3577_RESPECCTEXISTENCEOREXPECTRESISTANCEThe discussion after the briefing focused on three big issues. Participants spoke about what a “reflective style of working” might look like, and how this can be better promoted and supported in local authorities – as well as how vulnerable it is in a time of cut-backs. Relatedly, participants discussed how local authorities can combine informal and formal modes of engagement. Key individuals in different populations come to act as “community nodes” – opening doors for local authorities who manage to identify and engage with them, but also acting as gate-keepers in ways that can silence the most marginal voices.

Participants spoke about how local authorities and researchers can better work with data to understand different sorts of hidden communities, including how we can better use the knowledges held by reflective staff in local authorities and the voluntary sector. IMG_3524_CHANGEISHERENOWOften, qualitative data is dismissed as “anecdotal” and “unrepresentative”, thus missing the rich insights it generates. Arguably, this final point shows the need for on-going partnerships between researchers – and particularly ethnographers – and local stakeholders.

We are seeking funding to deepen the research in Elephant, as well as writing a series of working papers and articles on the work we have done so far – so watch this space!

Share this:
Facebook Twitter Email
Posted in Citizenship and Belonging, event, immigration, integration, research, Urban Change and Settlement, Welfare | Leave a comment

What do I know about quantum mechanics?

By: Emma Newcombe, Head of External Relations

This weekend I went to see ‘Copenhagen’, by Michael Frayn. It was a production put on by ElevenOne and staged in the newly built Mathematics department.

For those who have never seen the play, it is about two atomic physicists who began a collaboration in quantum mechanics in the 1920s. By the Second World War, one researcher, Werner Heisenberg, headed Germany’s nuclear reactor programme. The second, Niels Bohr, Heisenberg’s senior, was living in German-occupied Denmark and continuing to work under very difficult conditions. The play centres around the ghosts of these two and Bohr’s wife Margrethe, who come back to debate the work and in particular the reasons why Heisenberg chose to travel to Copenhagen during the war to meet with Bohr.

By now you are probably wondering where I am going with this blog post. Where’s the migration angle? Well, I have to admit the migration relevance is limited.

Instead this play made me think about the capacity of theatre to convey complex theoretical principles and arguments and the international exchange of knowledge that underpinned the research.

Theatre as a medium

It would be fair to say Physics wasn’t my strongest subject at school. Which might, in part, have been down to the way that it was taught. ‘Copenhagen’s script however, and ElevenOne’s staging, managed to explain hugely complicated theoretical concepts that even I managed to understand.

For instance, the play explained Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle.

Wikipedia’s entry starts with this: In quantum mechanics, the uncertainty principle, is any of a variety of mathematical inequalities asserting a fundamental limit to the precision with which certain pairs of physical properties of a particle known as complementary variables, such as position x and momentum p, can be known simultaneously.”

Sorry, I still don’t get it.

Photo by Simon Vail. Heisenberg in ElevenOne Theatre's "Copenhagen"

Photo by Simon Vail. Heisenberg in ElevenOne Theatre’s “Copenhagen”

For me the actor explaining the principle made much more sense.  He used the analogy of himself walking down the street at night and a telescope catching glimpses of him lit by streetlights in regular intervals. He explained, by placing whiskey glasses in a row, that those glimpses give only a partial explanation of the journey. Apparently the trajectory of an atomic particle is the same. We can only see a series of snapshots and so can never be certain of the whole journey because of the fixed nature of the telescope.

Just goes to show how powerful a medium theatre can be.

Theatre is just one of the ways the Global Exchange is using to set up dialogue and communicate about evidence on migration and diversity.

COMPAS is lucky enough to have the multi-talented Ida Persson on its staff. She can act, teach, produce, direct and these are all skills she is using in ‘Exploring Migration: Research and Drama in schools’, together with project partner Vanessa Hughes.

The project’s first production, led by a group of year 6s from Thame showed how powerful it can be to speak and imagine yourself in someone else’s shoes. After a brilliant performance based on testimonies collected during COMPAS research, the performers themselves answered the audience’s questions, just as eloquently as the researchers.

Different audiences, different languages

‘Copenhagen’ is based on highly complex, esoteric physics theorems and research concerning atomic energy and nuclear fission. The work that the play explains was conducted during a time when academia was very different. Knowledge exchange wasn’t in vogue and nor would it have been appropriate given the ongoing war.

Photo by Simon Vail. Heisenberg, Margarethe and Niels Bohr in ElevenOne Theatre's "Copenhagen"

Photo by Simon Vail. Heisenberg, Margarethe and Niels Bohr in ElevenOne Theatre’s “Copenhagen”

Nevertheless knowledge exchange of a kind was crucial. The play showed how the development of theories and technologies depended on bouncing ideas of one another and boiling the technical language down into plain speech.

It showed that there must be a relationship between the collation of evidence, analysis and theoretical interpretation and the ‘real world’.

The two physicists, Heisenberg and Bohr, were very much aware of the national and political ramifications of their work and benefitted from distilling their ideas in to simple terms that could be understood by anyone.

On stage this was done by the physicists wanting to include Margarethe Bohr in their conversation. So they spoke in ‘plain language’ in her presence. (Margarethe, by the way, was presented as an intelligent, perceptive woman whose reflections were highly respected by the two men.)

exchange_logo_concept2_r1This is what I would argue knowledge exchange is all about – the reciprocal sharing of ideas, experiences and viewpoints. The Global Exchange, at COMPAS, aims to facilitate and maximise the benefits of this type of dialogue.

For example, we have already run a number of knowledge exchange events and roundtable meetings that have brought researchers together with groups of health professionals, city leaders and government officials.

We are also planning exciting new initiatives that include organising 3 European City Forums on education, homelessness and city branding and a summer school on migration and diversity in cities. Please visit the Global Exchange website for more information on the full programme of activities.

Is it worthwhile exchanging knowledge?

In any of the activities I have described knowledge flows between real experience, analytical interpretation, presentation by different voices and audiences. It seems to me that everyone benefits along the way by the questions asked and interpretations made.

Discovering innovative and interesting ways of bringing different groups together is what The Global Exchange on Migration and Diversity is all about.

Share this:
Facebook Twitter Email
Posted in event, immigration, media, migration, research | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Immigrant Investor Programmes: Navigating Economic and Political Tensions

By: Madeleine Sumption, Migration Observatory Director

Immigration policies offering residence rights to wealthy investors have existed for decades. Australia, New Zealand and the United States have all had special programmes admitting immigrant investors for over 25 years. Historically these routes have been small and attracted relatively little attention in policy circles.

Maltese PassportBut over the last few years, the investor immigration field has become rather active. The US EB-5 investor programme, a little used immigration route until the mid-2000s, suddenly took off in 2008 and is now for the first time bumping against its 10,000-person cap. Several EU countries have started to offer temporary residence permits in return for investments in property or other assets. Most controversially, “citizenship by investment”—previously the terrain of a handful of Caribbean islands taking cash donations in return for passports—arrived in the European Union with a programme announced by Malta in 2013.

Continue reading

Share this:
Facebook Twitter Email
Posted in labour markets, migration, policy, The Migration Observatory | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Foreign fighters: time to recognise and study a new type of migration

By: Franck Düvell, Associate Professor and Senior Researcher

On 30 October 2014, the Washington Post reported the flow of over 15,000 foreigner fighters to Syria and probably also to Iraq. They suggested that each month around 1,000 people travel to Syria, mostly with the intention to join the fights, and thus to join the killing. A map shows the countries where these people have been coming from and their numbers: Tunisia (3,000), Saudia Arabia (2,500), Jordan (2,089), Morocco (1,500), Lebanon (890), (Russia (800), Libya (556), UK (488), France (412), Turkey (400), Egypt (358), Pakistan (330), Belgium (296), Algeria (250), Australia (250), Germany (240) (Washington Post). About 5,000 came from the Middle East, another 5,000 from Northern Africa and 3,200 from Western and Northern countries. In total, 53 countries are listed, suggesting a global phenomenon.

This information is based on sources from the CIA, the International Centre for the Study of Radicalization and the Soufan Group research (2014). How accurate these figures are is certainly disputable, national estimates are sometimes higher. For instance, German sources refer to ‘at least 600’ (Der Stern 16/1/2015), and French sources to 930, people who went to Syria and Iraq (RFLRL 25/1/2015). A related feature is the return of fighters to the countries where they have been coming from. The returnees may be disillusioned and they may be traumatised but they may also be radicalised and aiming at taking the fight back to the perceived enemy countries in the west. In the UK ‘about 250 are believed to have returned’ (BBC News, 14/11/2014), in Germany, their number is put at 200 (Der Stern 16/1/2015).

A figure of a Shooting ManHowever, foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq are not isolated occurrences; foreigners also join fights in other parts of the world. Most notably, in Ukraine, Russians and other nationalities are joining the separatists to fight against the Ukrainian central government (BBC News 1/9/2014). Foreign fighters are also reported from the conflicts in Libya (All Africa 6/1/2015). The current situation is not new.,In the recent past volunteers have joined foreign guerrillas and fights in other countries, like in the 1980s and 1990 in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Palestine and Kurdistan, and more recently in Afghanistan and Chechnya. For instance, some German leftists joined the PLO or PFLP, the PKK or the Sandinistas and FMLN and others. Most of these, however, were individual cases and there was no large scale trend. Historically there are numerous cases of volunteers and mercenaries joining fights like French and Germans who joined the American independence forces.

Continue reading

Share this:
Facebook Twitter Email
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Life of a Multiple Migrant

By: Ayumi Takenaka, Research Officer

As immigration has grown in volume, so has its complexity. Today, people do not simply move once and settle. They increasingly keep on moving, twice or more, not just between their country of origin and destination, but to multiple destinations. This onward migration, or multiple migration, is supposedly on the increase, according to the burgeoning research on the subject.

Why multiple migration may have grown

moving boxIn theory, it makes sense. Once one migrates, subsequent movements become easier (just like learning new languages). Networks established through initial migration reduce the risk of re-migrating, while newly acquired experience provides more options to venture out further. Financial and legal resources  gained through initial migration also help.  This may particularly be true when initial migration is directed from poor countries to richer ones. Acquiring citizenship in the initial rich country opens up possibilities to move on to other (rich) countries, as does familiarity with labor market practices in the “First World.” Since more and more destinations adopt stricter immigration policies favoring the skilled and educated, this also facilitates the multiple movements of the resourceful.  Resource-constrained migrants, on the other hand, may also find it necessary to navigate the systems of multiple countries to reach their preferred destinations.

Continue reading

Share this:
Facebook Twitter Email
Posted in emigration, Flows and Dynamics, immigration, journey, migration, policy | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment