Top Ten Bountiful Ideas for Shared Urban Prosperity

September 5th, 2014

CoM2014 inBerlinMary Rowe, Director, Urban Resilience and Livability, Municipal Art Society of New York City, gave the closing address at the 2nd International Cities of Migration Conference in Berlin. In closing, Mary asked an audience of ‘city builders’ what they had learned.

What Have You Learned?

Mary invited participants to share takeaways from the event and its Marketplace of Good Ideas. What did participants plan to share, adapt or replicate? Audience response was enthusiastic – here are the top ten great ideas they shared with us:

1. Hamburg’s Naturalization Campaign. The crowd was unanimous in its endorsement of the personal interest shown by Olaf Scholz, Hamburg’s First Mayor, in his letter-writing campaign to help the German city make a success of its “Ich bin Hamburger” naturalization campaign. Scholz wrote letters to eligible immigrants urging them to become citizens as he believes that full status is the key to inclusion for long-time residents. “Naturalization is much more than an administrative act. It is the declared belief in our state and our society,” he said on the Mayors Panel on Re-Imagining the City.

2. Toronto’s Youth Empowering Parents, better known as YEP.  Mohammed Shafique, the co-founder of the YEP project was on hand in the Marketplace to showcase how YEP’s unique approach has already served over 800 participants with a retention rate of over 80% for both youth and adults. Hans Thieleman, of the City of Ghent said he would  be sharing the YEP idea with the department of youth in his city. “I also wrote an article in the newsletter of our department with the ideas I picked up and the interesting quotes I heard at the conference. I plan to hand over the book with Good Ideas to my mayor and talk about the conference,” said Thieleman.

3. Blind Spot: The Hidden Biases of Good People. The keynote and workshop by Mahzarin R. Banaji, Professor of Psychology & Social Ethics at Harvard University, found its mark among participants ranging from seasoned advocates to those just entering the field. Uncovering of the “blindspots” that unconsciously inform our behaviour was a profound learning experience for many and  a precious take home to reset their minds at a personal and organizational level.

4. Nashville’s Welcoming Tennessee initiative also resonated at a personal level with the audience by anchoring notions of ‘welcoming’ in the expression of local values. Eben Cathey, Communications Coordinator, Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, described the initiative’s success at the Marketplace. It is now being replicated across the U.S. by Welcoming America and is ripe for adaption by any city that attracts migrants.

5. Racism and Sport. The Big Debate on football and racism was a timely topic after the European Parliamentary Elections  and right before the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, inspiring one audience member to suggest that all cities should show the red card to racism.

6. Toronto’s Connect Legal. Czarina Wilpert of Initiative Selbständiger Immigrantinnen, Berlin found the Pro Bono Law for Immigrant Entrepreneurs idea from Toronto, Canada worth replicating. “I am a founder of an organisation that supports the self-employment and economic independence of immigrant women. I will communicate this potential to future projects specifically with new arrivals and refugees,” she told us.

7. Ghent’s Youth Ambassadors. “The idea of the Youth Ambassador Project [from the Belgian city of Ghent] is similar to my “Round the World Trips through Living Rooms.” I will also talk about Making Connections [ Halifax, Canada] and We are Hamburg! with our mayor and business network,” said Catrin Geldmacher of Rheda-Wiedenbrueck, Germany.

8. Christchurch’s Emergency Response. Anna I. Vey of the German Red Cross wants to find out more about Christchurch’s Emergency Response so she can share this with “the persons who are responsible for strategic development of diversity in emergency response. When they are interested in this approach, we can plan further steps.”

9. Sharing Ideas Across Borders. Teresa Buczkowska, Immigrant Council of Ireland, was also impressed: “We are planning on partnering with the Ghent Ambassador Project in Ireland as we have something similar in our organization. We would like to create a space for learning exchange and further development across borders.

10. Incubating New Ideas. Mary Dawson, Auckland Regional Migrant Services Trust, found a basketful of new ideas at the Marketplace of Good Place. Dawson said her organization would be using Cities of Migration Good Ideas as “starter topics” at local settlement network meetings across Auckland. “The Refugees in Sport and YEP are ones that I will be sharing with relevant organizations. The Making Connections idea[Halifax] will feature in our deliverables for the coming year. I will also be raising the We are Hamburg idea with the Auckland Council. DiverseCity OnBoard and Diverse Counts, both from Toronto, are other ideas that will be given consideration hopefully by Committee for Auckland and other agencies. “

Good Ideas are on the move! With participants taking home such a bountiful, diverse cross-section of Good Ideas from cities around the world, it’s easy to see how an event like the Cities of Migration Conference in Berlin can ignite new thinking and connect local actors in cities across the world to share good practice and move the  agenda for inclusive cities and shared urban prosperity.

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