Oslo Extra Large
Making city leadership accountable to its policies for inclusion.
Oslo, like other new “gateway” cities, is more likely thought of in terms of mountains and fjords than for its urban scene, or its success in integrating newcomers.
Geographically isolated and without a colonial past, Oslo is not a natural recipient of historic migration trends. In fact, until recently, Norway was a country of net emigration.
However, this is no longer the case. Oslo has become an important receiving centre for asylum seekers and refugees and, for its size, one of the largest in Europe.
The municipality of Oslo has also made diversity and the ideals of inclusiveness and harmony part of the city’s identity.
OXLO – Oslo Extra Large
In June 2001, after a racially motivated murder, the City of Oslo began a high-level campaign to cultivate and promote cultural diversity. The city unanimously passed a resolution and adopted a charter that recognized the equality of all citizens and entrenched a commitment to tolerance, mutual respect and understanding.
The result was OXLO, the Oslo Extra Large Campaign.
Based on the City of Oslo’s special values document, “Oslo – a city for all,” the OXLO campaign became an essential part of larger city planning strategy. It became a cornerstone documents to the City of Oslo’s Plan of Action Against Racism, Nazism and Intolerance as well as the Action Plan for Equal Treatment in Municipal Employment – all measures designed to make the city more tolerant and free from racism and prejudice.
OXLO – Oslo Extra Large is a long-term awareness-raising campaign designed to make Norway’s capital a more tolerant city through a focused effort on both citizen and municipal activities: “The municipality of Oslo aims to mirror the diversity of its population, among its public servants and leaders and in the service it provides.”
Originally focused on youth, activities included subsidized kindergartens, school-based activities, immigrant recognition awards and cultural newsletters, among others. Preparing the next generation for the intercultural city of the future was part of the initial strategy, along with the recognition that child and youth social networks were vast – friends, families, schools – and that schools themselves are important community information hubs.
In 2005, the OXLO campaign and its large-hearted, “one size fits all” approach to diversity received a renewed mandate from the city to move beyond good will and symbolic gestures to make the city accountable to its policies. The city introduced a number of city-wide measures to increase cultural diversity through active city governance, such as addressing city government hiring criteria, emphasizing political participation through active citizenship and supporting increased co-operation among agencies, local government and other service providers.
Oslo – a city for all!
Today Oslo is a city of approximately 600,000 inhabitants. Over 26 per cent of the population and 50 per cent of the children have a minority background. Diversity is a comfortable part of the city landscape and, thanks to the city’s standards-based approach, an increasingly important part of its structures and institutions.
In 2009, 20% of the Oslo city council (12 of 59 members) had minority background, and five out of the seven political parties in the council included minority representation. A new OXLO campaign poster (above) depicts representatives from the five political parties holding hands around the slogan: ” We want to be the city of Oslo for all. A city of tolerance for differences and diversity. Let us stand side by side, not back to back….”
Oslo’s Council of Immigrant Organizations (RiO) has been in existence since 1988. The leader of this consultative body is elected by the city government, and its 300 members are elected by migrant-serving organizations to represent community interests. Since 2004 all municipal agencies, city districts and the city
government itself are obligated to consult RiO in all matters regarding the development of public services to ensure the needs of users with minority backgrounds are met.
Further, non-citizens who have resided legally in Norway for three years have the right to vote in local elections, and Oslo’s City Hall has been used for citizenship ceremonies since the revision and expansion of the Citizen Act in 2006.
Other changes that have occurred under the OXLO campaign include:
- Public agencies must address 15 mandatory criteria when recruiting, including the requirement to interview at least one qualified ethnic minority for the position;
- A city-wide crisis management task force was established in 2005 with representatives from 15 different organizations to provide rapid response to incidents of youth, violence and racism;
- The establishment in 2005 of the Office of Diversity and Integration (EMI) provides oversight to the OXLO Campaign and supports consultations with minority groups and NGO service providers;
- A proactive approach to city-wide intercultural competence, including tools such as the “Diversity Mirror”, a benchmarking device used by public services to develop an organizational culture and profile representative of a diverse society. The DM is now used by schools, kindergartens and offices for employment and social welfare to develop a diversity profile which can be used to monitor and improve attitudes and non-written codes of action and plan how to make their services better suited for users with minority backgrounds.
- Dedicated communication tools such as an Internet-based newsletter called the “OXLO Bulletin” highlights OXLO campaign successes and a city website for “Cultural diversity in the media” that features concerts, exhibitions and festivals organized by artists with minority backgrounds.
A consistent city effort is made to recognize, monitor and celebrate diversity, from the weekly OXLO bulletin featuring theatre performances to community information booths to the annual OXLO Prize awarded by the municipality for special achievements in anti-racism activities.
In 2005, the City of Oslo reaffirmed their commitment to the OXLO campaign, and subsequently embedded principles that underlie the OXLO manifesto in a major chapter of its Municipal Master Plan 2008, “Oslo Towards 2025.”
In February 2010, the mayor of Oslo became a signatory to the first EUROCITIES “Charter of Integrating Cities,” and a third party expert review by Intercultural Cities, a joint programme of the Council of Europe and the European Commission, noted:
“The commitment of the City of Oslo to the integration of migrants is undeniably sincere and the expertise of its officials in putting this into practice is admirable. Oslo scores highly in comparison to many other cities across a wide range of integration policies and practices… and a broad range of partners from civic society are included in the development and implementation of policy.”
Most importantly, the success of the OXLO campaign is matched by that of the city’s ethnic minorities.
The level of unemployment is low – about 5% – and the level of education is high, with second generation students out-performing their native peers in some districts and moving on successfully to tertiary education; 13 % of the University of Oslo and 17 % of the University College of Oslo are from minority backgrounds.
Making it Work for You:
- The support of local municipal leadership, from the Mayor's office down, is important to securing a wide base of support for an umbrella campaign that includes numerous actors, initiatives and organizations from across the community;
- Review your campaign goals regularly so that they continue to align with community needs;
- Review and revise campaign activities and messages to keep them fresh, meaningful and to easy to achieve;
- Community campaigns are most successful when they engage the whole community in their design and implementation, and not just their results. How do you know your approach is inclusive? participatory?
- When was the last time you measured diversity in your organization, project or department?
For this Good Idea contact:
Senior Adviser, Education and Cultural Affairs,
City of Oslo
0037 OSLO, Norway,
toralv.moe (at) radhuset.oslo.kommune.no