Copenhagen: How do we Retain Skilled Immigrants?

May 18th, 2011

It’s the question asked in cities around the world: It may be one thing to attract skilled immigrants, but how do cities ensure they stay and not leave for other jurisdictions?

In Copenhagen, the Danish government asked MindLab to investigate this issue. MindLab describes itself as a “cross-ministerial innovation unit which involves citizens and businesses in developing new solutions for the public sector.” Made up of designers, sociologists, anthropologists and others with a public sector background, the group aims to create new ways to examine such problems.

By using media like video to interview recent immigrants about the problems they faced in adjusting to life in Denmark, MindLab was able to show policy-makers the challenges faced by newcomers at a human level. One problem was the inability to find free Danish-language classes easily in Copenhagen neighbourhoods; another was the Danish system of approved names for newborn babies – a name too “different” would not be on the list!

MindLab found another reason why many skilled immigrants left: they felt isolated and lonely. Listen as Christian Bason, head of MindLab, tells the story of an Indian engineer in Copenhagen and the solutions they offered (this section of the talk runs for approximately 5 minutes).

Christian Bason was invited to speak presented as part of Toronto’s MaRS Global Leadership Series at the MaRS Discovery District on May 9, 2011. The full talk includes an introduction as well as a Q&A. He is also the author of Leading Public Sector Innovation: Co-creating for a Better Society (2010).

Social Innovation Generation also has a blog post about Christian Bason’s visit which includes his slide presentation.

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