Over more than a decade, MigrationWork and Eurocities have created a wide array of support material coming out of projects for transnational learning on local integration policies: from benchmarks identifying key factors of successful local policies to toolkits and guides helping cities, in particular those that have less experience in the field of migrant integration, to apply lessons learned in transnational projects with cities. Many of them are available on the Integrating Cities website, and we are particularly proud of the “How To Guides” we have recently finished for the Connection project.

In Eurocities latest peer learning projects CONNECTION (2020-22) and UNITES (2022-24), in which MigrationWork is an expert partner, we also decided to go beyond publications and to involve project participants more closely in the legacy of the projects. In the CONNECTION project, MigrationWork trained 9 European city practitioners to be able to support less experienced cities. The main content of the training comes from the How-to-Guides that were developed in the project, which took people step by step through “how to”

  • design integration strategies
  • build in a gender dimension in local integration policies
  • build pathways to employment
  • set up one-stop-shops for migrants

In November 2022 the “champions” from Cluj-Napoca, Dortmund, Madrid, Prague, Stockholm, Tampere, Utrecht, Zagreb and ANCI Piemont provided pilot training sessions at the Integrating Cities conference in Utrecht on these topics that were very well received.

In the UNITES project, 4 more city practitioners will be trained to become “Champions” supporting other cities in applying co-design in the development of integration strategies. The project will also see the champions pilot support in a way that corresponds more closely to what we think is needed most: personalised support on site and remotely that will be given over a longer period of time to two cities that will be selected in a dedicated call.

In order to prepare a long-term vision for this new group of Integration Champions, Eurocities and MigrationWork are currently speaking with stakeholders from European institutions, think tanks, civil society, cities and city networks and the champions themselves to pick their brains on how this initiative could be turned into a sustainable support mechanism – a sort of task force that would offer support whenever cities need to find responses to new challenges they face. The current Ukrainian refugee situation in which many cities are confronted with a significant inflow of newcomers for the first time only demonstrates how timely this initiative is.

So the promise of the Integration Champions task force is to bring personalised support (and not just best practice files and publications) to cities. It is based on a simple idea: successful integration of migrants happens at the local level, and where it works well, it is led by local authorities. The city officials doing this work are real experts, but that expertise is often not recognised. It is a key resource, and the aim of the task force is to build, support and mobilise it to radically widen the circle of cities that benefit from transnational learning funded through the European Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund and other programmes.

One of the elements that stakeholders highlighted in our first interviews is that the initiative needs to be “docked” to a permanent structure and be accessible and visible to be successful. Keeping the integration champions engaged, e.g. through regular training and recognition is another requirement. It will need the support of experts like ourselves. But the biggest challenge will be to find resources for the initiative that can guarantee its sustainability in a context that is dominated by short-term funding. We hope that we can find ways to develop this as a project that will do that. So watch this space: the Integration Champions Taskforce may be the resource you need!