Frankfurt , Germany

Diversity Moves Frankfurt

City of Frankfurt am Main

December 13, 2011

Hitting the virtual highway for a public consultation on integration

indexIn Frankfurt, immigrant integration is not just good for business, it’s everybody’s business. The internationally-known “City of the Euro” has built a solid reputation on more than balancing its books. Frankfurt has played a pioneering role in developing and implementing the earliest integration policies In Germany.

In 2009 when the city decided it was time to review its 20-year old policies, its methods were equally forward-looking.  The city launched its  Diversity Moves Frankfurt (Vielfalt bewegt Frankfurt) campaign to canvas its citizenry about what integration meant to them. Recognizing that “every idea deserves a chance,” the campaign emphasized participation and welcomed a diversity of opinion as an expression of a healthy democracy that was essential to framing a common vision of the city’s future. The campaign was accompanied by a community participation process unprecedented in its scope. Its principal medium: the Internet.

By the end of the consultation, over 47,000 people had participated in the process from a wide cross-section of Frankfurt society. A broader view of integration could now inform public discourse, including the idea that Frankfurt’s diversity was even more varied than once assumed.

A changing city

The city of Frankfurt was the first city in Germany to grapple seriously with the issue of migrant integration in the 1980s. In 1989, it opened the  Office of Multicultural Affairs (Amt für multikulturelle Angelegenheiten, AMKA), the first of its kind in the entire country.  Controversial in the beginning,  integration initiatives such as Mama lernt Deutsch – Papa auch (Mama learns German – even Papa!) are today regarded as exemplary at both national and international levels.

Frankfurt’s approach was a model of success. However, with a population that included international migrants from over 170 countries representing a population of 670,000 (37% have a migration background), by 2009 the levels of diversity in the city were far from the once-held image of  a migrant population mainly from Turkey and Italy.

For Dr. Nargess Eskandari-Grünberg, Head of the Department for Integration and city councillor, it was time for a new concept for integration and diversity that moved away from the idea that integration only involved “foreigners.”

“We live in a city, but Frankfurt is a city with no walls. We do not decide on who comes to us,” said Eskandari- Grünberg in a speech at the time. “Therefore we must not rest on our laurels. We must decide how we want to live together.”

Asking the academics

Starting in 2009 and led by AmkA and the Integration Commission, the project launched with an invitation to two prominent academics to provide a sort of ‘blueprint’ for the public discussion. One was Steven Vertovec, Director of the Max Planck Institute, who had coined the term “super-diversity” to describe how many large cities had changed in their populations due to “new migration” patterns.

Among their recommendations was the idea that integration “should take into account the realities and the special potential of Frankfurt as a European metropolis of global culture.” In other words, Frankfurt was both a city of migration and an international financial capital, but needed to seek “renewed engagement, improved cooperation and better coordination” between the relevant players.

“These are like two different planets so now it is our task to bring together the two separate spheres,” said Helga Nagel, Head of AmkA.

I am a Frankfurter, because…

Critical to the success of the campaign was public participation in the consultation process. The medium for framing this issue and motivating the wider population to participate was the Vielfalt bewegt Frankfurt website.

The website included public information and core documents, such as the 236-page study, but more importantly, it actively invited audiences to provide their feedback in various ways throughout the campaign. Key was the idea that “integration was everyone’s business.” Visitors to the site could ask questions about the process, add to a “diversity map” of Frankfurt to highlight locations and neighbourhoods of interest, and login to register a personal profile that linked to all their posts on the site.

The online engagement component of the campaign took place in three phases, from October 2009 until February 2010. To start, people were invited to send in videos or blog posts on the subject, “I am a Frankfurter, because…” Next, the public was invited to answer five surveys to help determine important issues and  priorities  for the project. The final phase asked for new ideas that may have been missed in the process. Together, all three phases were completed in less than six months.

To ensure the process truly worked, old-fashioned outreach was also included.  This involved a “road show” approach where students armed with web-enabled netbooks from Goethe University and the University of Applied Sciences visited government offices, schools, institutions and city squares to ask the public for their opinions. Local advisory councils, citizens’ associations and other informal networks also participated and spread the campaign deeper into city neighbourhoods and sectors. In total, over 46 project-specific events  brought out the people and opinions of Frankfurt, including a live chat show with the Integration Commissioner.


Reflecting on this unprecedented city-wide consultation, Helga Nagel observed: “We have become a true cross-cutting department [i.e., AmkA, the campaign hub]. What has always been our philosophy is now binding policy.”

In September 2010, the Frankfurt am Main City Council adopted the new Integration Concept that was developed by AmkA, and made an authentic expression of the people of Frankfurt through the Diversity Moves Frankfurt process.

Making it Work for You:

  • Ask your city’s leading academics in the field to develop a baseline study of integration.
  • Provide an online forum that is time sensitive to demonstrate the urgency of the project.
  • Follow up with in-person outreach to ensure the project gets attention.

For this Good Idea contact:

Dr. Armin v.Ungern-Sternberg , Stadt Frankfurt am Main, Der Magistrat Dezernat XI – Integration
Lange Str. 25-27
Frankfurt am Main, Germany,

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