Bristol wins bid for £1m Everyday Integration Project

I’m delighted to announce that Bristol City Council will be partnering with the University of Bristol and 30 community organisations from across the city on a £1m research project on integration, supported by the Economic and Social Research Council.

This innovative project develops a bottom-up approach to how integration works in Bristol, and how it can be improved upon with inventive and timely policy interventions. It’s the culmination of two years of hard work bringing together Bristol City Council, the university and partners across the city to collaborate on how best to tackle integration in Bristol.

We all know that Bristol is an amazing place to live, but also a city that struggles with inequality and division. Bridging those divides is at the heart of our One City approach, and this project will add further resources and expertise to this critical issue.

The approach of the project turns conventional understandings of integration on its head. Rather than thinking of integration as a ‘problem’ that names immigrants, refugees, and ethnic minorities as the face of that ‘problem’, we will approach integration as a process and goal involving everyone – not just immigrants or minorities.

Rather than approaching integration as something the Home Office should be responsible for, we see integration as something that cities – and the people living in them – are responsible for. And rather than viewing integration as happening through bureaucratic tests and checklists, we view integration as (already) taking place through routine interaction and exchange in everyday life in Bristol. The approach asks us to completely rethink integration in ways that will have a real impact on people’s lives in Bristol.

The project will proceed in two main phases. In the first phase, we will explore how integration works, and sometimes doesn’t work, in Bristol. Working with and through our many collaborators, we’ll go to different neighbourhoods, work with different community and interest groups, and talk to people from different backgrounds to develop a solid evidence base of integration in Bristol from the ground up.

In the second phase, we’ll develop an Integration Strategy for Bristol. This will be a co-production involving the Council, our partners from across the city, and the University of Bristol. Our goal with this strategy is not to tell Bristolians how they should integrate but to come up with creative new spaces, processes, and ideas that will allow and help people to come together in meaningful, real-life ways.

And we won’t stop there. Once we’ve fleshed out our own approach to integration, we’ll distil its key insights into an Integration Toolkit that we can share with other cities across the UK. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to integration, which is why we want to develop our own approach for Bristol. But there will be key insights that we can share with others to learn from, becoming a leader in this national challenge. We’ll work with different local authorities to help them develop their own approaches to integration.

Integration isn’t going to work if we keep naming and shaming certain communities as being in need of integration, or if we impose integration policies on people from the top-down. With this project I’m excited to see how we can develop a different approach to integration which gets to the heart of our challenges and helps us take practical steps towards our vision of Bristol as a city of hope where nobody is left behind.

For more information on this project and to get involved please contact Jon Fox, Professor of Sociology at the University of Bristol, at Jon.fox@bristol.ac.uk.

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