Zoom-in
Modifier 07 November 2020
by Daniel De Torres, UIA Expert

U-RLP Zoom-in 3: A look at Plan Einstein through the intercultural lens

U-RLP Zoom-in 3: A look at Plan Einstein through the intercultural lens
U-RLP Zoom-in 3: A look at Plan Einstein through the intercultural lens
This third and final zoom-in on the Plan Einstein project aims to provide a view of the project from the perspective of the intercultural approach. Although there is no single definition of what interculturalism means, nor do I intend to address all the elements that are specific to this approach, I believe that we can use three principles on which there is currently a reasonably broad consensus to synthesise the key ideas of interculturalism.

The intercultural approach proposes some principles that I consider to be well suited to this project, understood as a long-term process that requires the effort of many different actors. On the other hand, this exercise can contribute to a better understanding of the practical application of the intercultural approach from local policies, beyond the reception policies for refugees and asylum seekers and from a more global and transversal vision on how to tackle the challenges posed by socio-cultural diversity.

The aim is not to carry out an academic exercise or to evaluate the results or impact of the project. The team of external evaluators has done a great job in this sense, and the evaluation report can be consulted based on the fulfilment of the objectives and results foreseen in the initial definition of the project.[1]

The last 15-20 years, there has been a surge in the academic literature on diversity and integration models of how to address the challenges of living in more diverse and complex societies.

One of the significant weaknesses of theoretical approaches is their difficulty in demonstrating their effectiveness or usefulness in the real world. If there is one thing that is lacking in the academic debates on the various models, it is how they are translated into specific policies and actions. It is in this sense that I propose to contrast the premises of a theoretical framework with the practice of an innovative and complex project such as Plan Einstein.

[1] Oliver, C. Dekker, R. and Geuijen, K., 2019. The Utrecht Refugee Launchpad Final Evaluation Report. University College London and COMPAS: University of Oxford. https://www.compas.ox.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/041219-Final-evaluation-report.docx.pdf

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Conclusions

In this zoom-in, I wanted to analyse the approach of the Plan Einstein project from the principles of interculturalism of equality, recognition of diversity and interaction.

There are several reasons for this decision. On the one hand, the intercultural approach has been gaining ground in the academic debate as a possible alternative to models such as assimilationism or multiculturalism. Many European cities are adopting this approach as a conceptual framework to inspire their diversity policies[1]. On the other hand, it is still necessary to go deeper into how this approach is put into practice in local policies, especially in areas such as the reception of asylum seekers.

In the case of Plan Einstein, it is evident that its approach is closely related to what the perspective and principles of interculturalism propose. That is why I believe that looking at the project from this approach can help to enrich the project's contribution and reinforce the narrative it proposes.

In this analysis I have not focused so much on the results as on the approach, taking into account that there is an external evaluation that provides data and assessments of the concrete results of the project and that an impact assessment on these three principles was not foreseen.

It is essential to highlight the complexities that the project has had to deal with since its inception. However, this is common in innovative projects that address issues regulated by competences at different levels of government, such as the reception of asylum seekers. For this reason, I believe that the city's commitment to promoting such a complex process, which involves a change in the reception model that is primarily determined by the state level, should be assessed very positively. The cooperation between the local and state level has been a positive effort, but it has not been free of complexities and conflicts of interest and priorities.

The project has shown that if cities are committed, and if there is political commitment and the necessary technical expertise and know-how, there is a field of action beyond their competencies in the reception of refugees and asylum seekers. In this sense, the project has contributed in a very appropriate way to put the focus on the importance of taking into account the principles of equality, recognition of diversity and promotion of positive interaction in the design of reception policies.

Today, it is important that this view is taken into account when adapting the Project at Haydn's centre because the context has changed, and so has the council's ability and freedom to define specific criteria and work methodologies. In this sense, it would be important that, from the cooperation with the central administration, the aspects of the project that can contribute in a more decisive way to equality, recognition of diversity and interaction are strengthened.

The importance of having common and flexible open spaces for diverse uses; to continue opting for training offers that are relevant to both refugees and residents; to reinforce the figure of young people who can act as a bridge and try to recover the idea of co-housing; to promote cultural, social and sporting activities with the involvement of many local agents; to design initiatives that allow for cooperation together to achieve a common goal that also has a positive impact on the city; to take advantage of all these activities to recognise the diversity of the city as an essential and positive reality of its identity; to continue working from different approaches to challenge the negative stereotypes and prejudices by reinforcing the inclusive narrative of the project or to continue evaluating the project to identify weaknesses and strengths and to adapt the approach on the basis of the accumulated know-how... all these elements must be maintained and reinforced in order to continue to clearly commit to the inclusive approach of the project.

I believe that this commitment to integrating the principles of the intercultural approach is the way forward not only for reception policies but for all municipal policies, to build a more inclusive, dynamic and creative city, in other words, a more intercultural one.

Plan Einstein bis

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