MigrationWork CIC, in collaboration with Praxis, organised an exciting event, Migrant Voices in the Future of Our Cities, for a wide variety of people including migrants, refugees, community activists, local government officials, academics, community artists on Tuesday 26th June at Coin Street Neighbourhood Centre in London.

Feedback from participants was overwhelmingly positive: “Great to work on practical positive solutions in a participatory way”, “A wonderful day – so refreshing to meet other passionate people who look to welcome refugees and migrants”, “Common sense speakers” and “A marvellous mixture of culture origins and thoughts, all together for a common mission.”

The thought behind the event was simple, and was inspired by the unfolding economic crisis, and the tough consequences it is bringing for city communities of the UK and beyond. Many feel they have no power over events. Refugees and other migrants are amongst the hardest hit, yet are still typically excluded from debates that affect them. In many parts of Europe, politicians even try to blame them for the crisis. Our event opened up a different perspective.

Experience of cities worldwide shows that migrants constantly demonstrate creativity and leadership. As politicians search for ways to ‘promote growth’, we know migrants often bring the innovation and energy that can help to deliver it.

Our event asked: Where are the opportunities to use the ideas and the adaptive skills of migrants, in re-shaping our cities for the future which will emerge from the current crisis? We looked at this issue in four areas: what’s changing in people’s daily lives; local economies; cohesion; and power and leadership in our cities.

Our two keynote speakers were

  • Professor Danny Dorling, one of the UK’s leading analysts of population change and inequality, on Britain’s migrant past, the current economic crisis and cities’ futures.
  • Hala Akari, director of the European Forum of Muslim Women, who’s Syrian – now in Athens where she’s a leading migrant activist – speaking on The role of refugee and migrant civil society as agent of change.

The main input however was from participants. This was not a conference providing pre-packaged answers, but a consultative event for a time of crisis. An interactive, action-learning event bringing key actors together within a creative process, it aimed to produce concrete ideas about how they can make a difference in their own city, organisation or community.

The most important outcome of this event was the development of three ‘initiatives’, which MigrationWork is currently in the process of discussing with colleagues and possible partners, with a view to taking at least two further into action.

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