Copenhagen , Denmark

Engaging in Copenhagen

City of Copenhagen

November 22, 2011

Taking a diversity charter to the business community

When the City of Copenhagen was updating its local planning documents and policies for immigrant integration in 2010, it made an important discovery. Policies and planning alone were not having much, impact on the city’s diversity agenda.

The percentage of Copenhagers with an immigrant background doubled in the previous decade, jumping from 11.5% to 22.2%. As an employer, the City of Copenhagen appeared to have been successful in matching the diversity of its workforce to that of the city’s population. However, a deeper analysis showed a troubling reality. The majority of these public employees were working in low skill jobs such as cleaning.

Diversity without equity was not the commitment to inclusion that the City was looking for. The city challenged itself to ensure that its future work force would reflect the city’s diversity across all area, and levels, of work.

The earlier 2006 Integration Plan was comprehensive in its scope and included all the important sectors – education, employment and housing. What it lacked was the actual participation of non-municipal actors, such as major companies, educational institutions and cultural organizations. The City recognized that an effective strategy would require all sectors and all stakeholders to be part of the work of making immigrants feel part of Copenhagen.

Living in Copenhagen must be easy, and Copenhagen wants to be the most inclusive city in Europe. An actively engaged city is a better city.
– Engage in CPH

Copenhagen’s new Integration Policy (2011-2014) includes an action plan for engaging all sectors and stakeholders. A key component of this progressive program is a Diversity Charter and Board that actively invites business and institutional leaders outside the local government to assist the city in its ambitious goal of becoming “the warmest and most welcoming major city in the world.”

I’m not a Dane, but I am a Copenhagener

When the city embarked on updating its original integration plan it followed the usual steps to engage community by holding focus groups and asking for input through a dedicated website. Additionally social media were used, and the municipality decided to hold an online forum with a popular tabloid newspaper.

What they learned surprised them. People didn’t want to hear about integration (which was associated with assimilation), but wanted to use words like inclusion and diversity. Over and over again, city officials heard the desire to see Copenhagen as an inclusive, open-minded city at odds with media reports and outsider perceptions about the country’s growing xenophobia.

One statement was often repeated in various ways: “It is difficult to become a Dane, it should be easier to become a Copenhagener.”

Citizenship is for Everyone – Engage in Copenhagen

The input had an enormous impact on the integration planning process, leading to the new inclusion policy (2011-14), Engage in Copenhagen. Monitoring immigrant employment or school scores remains important, however the Plan’s new focus is on belonging, inclusion and citizenship for all Copenhageners.

“Inclusion is a feeling of belonging,” says Anna Mee Allerslev, Mayor of Employment and Integration. “That is, if you feel like a Copenhagener, you are included in the city.”

To engage all Copenhageners, City Council committed to building new partnerships across the city. For the city’s Office of Employment and Integration this meant reaching out to employers and signing them up to an innovative Diversity Charter, the city’s roadmap for engaging business and institutional leaders.

Diversity Charter

Inspired by the diversity agenda set by the city of London for the 2012 Olympic Games, as well as the seminal French Charte de la diversité, now replicated in Germany and Spain, the city developed a Diversity Charter that seeks to actively engage the business community in the work of making Copenhagen “must inclusive city in Europe.”

The Diversity Charter and its Diversity Board are central to the Engage in Copenhagen campaign. Signatories ‘affirm’ the three guiding principles than inform the Copenhagen approach govern the campaign:

  • Diversity is a strength.
  • Everyone should have the chance to participate.
  • Being an involved citizen is everybody’s concern.

Companies, educational institutions and other non-profit organizations who sign the charter pledge to “promote the quality of life and growth in Copenhagen” by making diversity the norm in their organization; contributing so that diversity is seen as an asset in the public debate; and by supporting initiatives that promote diversity and inclusion and which fight discrimination in Copenhagen. Diversity Board members make a further commitment to speak about the program publicly and in the media.

The aim is to have one hundred companies and organizations sign the charter. As of October 2011, the City was well on its way to its goal with a roster that includes CEOs from Microsoft (Denmark), Copenhagen Airports, the Confederation of Danish Industry, Save the Children Denmark, and the Danish Institute for Human Rights.

Related projects include Diversity Plus, a collaboration between the municipality and the Organization for New Danes, which promotes ethnic minorities in employment. Thirty participating companies receive a diversity analysis with advice on how to make diversity an engine of growth.

Moving Forward with Diversity

The city’s vision may sound ambitious, Copenhagen’s Mayor for Employment and Integration, Anna Mee Allerslev, believes the city is ready for a ‘diversity movement’ similar to what happened regarding the environment.

“Just like the climate movement, the diversity movement has a severe impact on our growth and quality of life,” she says. “And just like there is no reasonable alternative to green energy, there is no reasonable alternative to growth through diversity.”

In the meantime, the city is making sure to measure the outcomes of the various parts of the campaign including checking in with the Diversity Charter companies. The main question: Are they starting new initiatives within their organizations and with new partners?

Monitoring and reporting is critical to the project’s potential with annual report and action plan for the following year. The success will be measured against a 10-point Intercultural City Index.

Addendum: Cities as employers and buyers of goods and services

Copenhagen’s long tradition of working closely with employers and unions on job creation was first documented in its 2006 Integration Policy. As the country’s largest employer, the city of Copenhagen has always been keenly sensitive to the opportunity to model a positive approach to diversity and to provide leadership through good recruitment and diversity management practices in its own offices.

Cities are not only major employers, but also a major buyer in the local economy. So in 2007, when a city of Copenhagen audit revealed that 15,000 private-sector suppliers with a total turnover of approximately 6,5 billion DKK, were accounted for in sales to the council, the City responded with a proactive procurement policy. The municipality instituted the insertion of mandatory `social clauses’ in any municipal contract with suppliers of goods and services that exceed the value of half a million DK (source: CLIP Case Study on Diversity Policy in Employment and Service Provision: Copenhagen. 2008).

This Good Idea was identified by the Open Society Foundations’ At Home in Europe project as a good practice promoting inclusion, social cohesion and nondiscrimination. For more on this practice and the At Home in Europe project, read Living Together: Projects Promoting Inclusion in 11 EU Cities (OSF, 2011)

Making it Work for You:

  • Keep your diversity charter simple. Working with busy people means that you will be more effective if you keep it short and simple.
  • To change institutional culture, a diversity charter has to do more than invite management and staff to ‘approve’ of diversity. To ensure success, set realistic targets and measurable goals.
  • Engage all stakeholders directly in planning and implementing diversity program activities.
  • As an employer, be proactive about recruiting diversity into your organization and support your workforce with training and development opportunities

For this Good Idea contact:

Thor Ridderhaugen , Employment and Integration Administration; The Office of Inclusion and Diversity
City of Copehagen
Bernstorffsgade 17, st
Copenhagen V 1592,

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