Key concepts: placing migrants in the centre, evolving from participants to protagonists, mutualising support between new and more experienced structures, learning to work together, stronger resilience and creativity as a result of the COVID 19 pandemic, a real place in the centre of society for ex-migrants and ex-refugees.
The MiFriendly Cites project formally closed in May 2021. The partners have written reports and have submitted all the financial elements to the managing authority (Coventry City Council) which in turn has directed these documents to the Urban Innovative Action (UIA) secretariat in Lille.
As expert for the MiFriendly Cities project, I have been asked to concentrate my work in this final ZOOM-IN 3 on the unexpected results of the project, of which, there are many. They are surprising and show how strong individuals, associations and foundations as well as
local authorities can be, especially in very difficult times, such as those caused by COVID 19.
The energy produced through the collaboration of many persons, structures and institutions has empowered potentially active persons and structures, to become almost “hyper active”, in the positive sense, evolving from being “participants” of the project to becoming it’s “protagonists”, as says Mark Russell from Migration Work.
Positioning migrants and refugees in the centre of information, of the debate about their role, and in general in society, has been the backbone of the work done by the Media Lab. This has empowered the participants/protagonists to become community journalists, speaking up from the posture of someone who has been through the experience themselves, thereby shedding a more original light on past experiences, and proving the added value of migrants and refugees for the country here and now. The situation has been strengthened by direct contacts with MPs, who have taken a particular interest in the situation of migrants and refugees. Such meetings between migrants and refugees and national politicians would not have been possible without the MiFriendly Cities platform.
A protagonist acts and goes forward. This is a common feature of many of the initiatives taken by persons linked in one way of another to the MiFriendly Cities project. For example, some have co-created the “Network of Migrant Innovators” (NOMI), others have developed to cover new areas of work and help, which needed to be filled during the COVID 19 crisis as did the African Caribbean Community Initiative (ACCI) with its furniture factory and home makeovers.
The three city protagonists of the project, Birmingham, Coventry and Wolverhampton are also exploring new common territories…they have initiated new collaborations between themselves, and with other local authorities (Sandwell) and have largely opened up to new forms of partnerships with associations and foundations, creating networks of complementary structures, which together can take on the challenges for the needed two-way integration of migrants/refugees and the resident populations in a multiplicity of ways.
This ZOOM-IN 3 will look at some of these unexpected results and show how spaces of positive liberty can be filled by those who can lead others, making cities better places for all to live in together. Should this ZOOM-IN 3 miss some important unexpected results, this was not the intention of the author, who in any case had to make choices in what is presented below.