Barcelona , Spain

From Neighbours to Citizens: the Barcelona Interculturality Plan

Ajuntament de Barcelona

April 23, 2012

A roadmap to the intercultural city based on common values, civic participation and everyday interactions.

A working plan on immigrant integration does not happen overnight. In Barcelona, a sustained commitment from city leadership and a willingness to experiment contributed to a winning strategy for the intercultural city.

Unveiled in 2010, the Barcelona Interculturality Plan is the result of more than a decade of work by Barcelona City Council. Intended to serve as a road-map for the Council’s desire to address the challenges of “coexistence in diversity in Barcelona,” the plan represents a new kind of city policy that makes interculturalism, with its focus on the relationships and interaction between citizens, a fundamental and integrated part of city practice across all departments and services.

The model that we have begun to develop in Barcelona has its roots in what unites us, not what separates us.” – Barcelona Interculturality Plan (March 2010)

Rapid Response

In a period of ten years, the immigrant population of Barcelona jumped from 3.5% in 1997 to just over 17% of the city’s residents. It was an important trend that Barcelona City Council was prepared to address, especially since more than 150 nationalities were represented in the city.

In 2001, the Commission on Immigration Policy was established by the Barcelona City Council to identify a pragmatic set of policies that would have the support of all stakeholders, from politicians to local citizens. Chaired by the Mayor, the Commission produced the first Municipal Immigration Plan in 2002, approved unanimously by all the political parties. The Plan was to provide a framework for monitoring the city’s immigration policies and the integration of immigrants at every level of civic life in Barcelona and in Catalan society.

Next, in 2008 the Barcelona Intercultural Dialogue was initiated to engage the wider community on these issues through a programme of collaborative community projects, consultations and public debates aimed at bringing city institutions, organizations and residents into a conversation about the importance the city’s new diversity and its impact on the city’s responsibilities, from town-planning to social participation.

By 2010, this deliberate, broad-based process of community consultation culminated in a new vision for the city. Barcelona’s revised Interculturality Plan was launched to foster “positive interaction, contact, dialogue, and mutual familiarity” amongst immigrants and long-time residents alike and to provide a shared foundation for community life that would transcend cultural differences

Developing the Plan

The Barcelona Interculturality Plan was developed in three stages (2008-2010). The first stage included studies that defined the plan’s concepts and goals as well as an analysis of how Barcelona fared regarding diversity. The second was participatory, based on public opinion surveys (“Five Questions on the Plan”) for both city departments and citizens; survey themes included: “valuation of diversity, difficulties identified for interaction, factors facilitating interaction, common elements shared by all Barcelona residents, and identification of real spaces of interculturality in the city.” Finally, all inputs were brought together to form the core content of the plan itself.

The public consultation was a critical part of drafting the plan. A new website ( was designed to host public discussion on the plan and to let visitors follow its development through news updates. Submissions ranged from 1,200 fresh ideas for the Mayor from students aged 14-18 to in-depth interviews with experts to interviews with 170 people across all sectors of the city. Social media like Facebook helped get the word out while nearly 40 public working sessions were held in different territorial and sectoral councils with over 400 participants.

Specialized software was used to analyze all of the data, including text, video and audio. The results showed that 34.5% of respondents saw cultural diversity as an asset while another 21.2% believed it was a threat to society. This analysis also provided a benchmark for monitoring the city’s commitment to developing public consensus around its intercultural goals.

Interaction is at the heart of the strategy

A key outcome of the consultative process was a ‘strategic commitment to interaction’ in all municipal policy — from economic promotion to education. Putting interaction at the centre of the Plan was identified as key to building a shared sense of belonging and a common set of civic values.

The Barcelona Interculturality Plan provides a detailed list of principles, strategies and targets for implementation ranging from the promotion of trilingualism (Catalan, Spanish and the language or origin) to ensuring that new immigrants have easy access to entrepreneurial start-up and business incubation support. The BCN Anti-Rumour campaign addresses discrimination directly while inclusionary policy ensures local services support the ordinary pleasures of daily life, such as sporting and recreational facilities.

Barcelona City Council’s commitment to interculturality – from Council leadership and voice to its action plan, budget allocation for implementation, dedicated cross-departmental co-ordination structure and systems for accountability – is paying off. In August 2011, the Council of Europe ranked Barcelona 6th among 29 cities in its Intercultural Cities Index.

Making it Work for You:

  • Enlist local leadership to gain support for your campaign.
  • Ensure your public consultation process includes all sectors, ages and institutions by using a range of communication strategies and channels, from social media to face-to-face meetings.
  • Provide mechanisms for getting feedback on the consultation process and its findings.
  • A public commitment to inclusion means benchmarking the current situation, monitoring and accountability.

For this Good Idea contact:

Ramon Sanahuja, irector of Immigration and Interculturality, City of Barcelona
Passeig de Sant Joan 75
Barcelona, Spain,
+34 93 256 46 20

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