By completely rethinking how integration is explored, a new project aims to bridge Bristol’s divides and build a city where nobody is left behind.
The first of its kind in the UK, the research will take an “inclusive, bottom-up” approach that focuses on all communities – rather than just immigrants or minority groups – and how they share spaces and get from place to place.
The University of Bristol has secured £960,000 from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and will work with the council, as well as 29 partners across the city, to identify existing best-practice and better understand how to overcome the barriers people currently face.
Giving his support, mayor Marvin Rees said: “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.
“I am delighted that, following two years of work with the University of Bristol and partners across the city on how best to tackle integration, this project will take an innovative approach to how integration works in Bristol.
“By completely rethinking integration and looking at it through the lens of routine interaction and exchange in everyone’s everyday life– rather than just focusing on immigrants or minorities – 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.”
The two-year project starts on October 1 and will ultimately lead to a co-produced ‘Integration Strategy’ for Bristol and an ‘Integration Toolkit’ which can be used by cities across the UK.
Bristol has a variety of spatial, social, cultural, civic, and economic divisions that often lead to poor integration and inequality.
Researchers intend to look specifically at how people move around the city and share spaces; their experiences of precarious work and consequences for integration; where and how citizens engage with decision-making forums; and how Bristolians learn about and interact with people from different backgrounds, communities and lifestyles.
Public transport links have already been identified as a barrier to integration.
Early work included a survey of journey times from Lawrence Weston to the city centre. Despite its relative proximity to the centre, the journey takes an hour by bus because the route heads north to Avonmouth before circling back.
Part of the research will involve ‘flash focus groups’ with people on buses and data collected via GPS logs to build a picture of how people move across the city. Uber drivers will also be interviewed in order to understand the impact of insecure work.
Professor Jon Fox, from the University of Bristol’s School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies, is leading the project.
He said: “We view integration as a process involving everyone, not just immigrants and ethnic minorities. Integration is about making it possible for everyone to come together,” said professor Jon Fox, from the University of Bristol’s School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies, who is leading the project.
“This project is an attempt to shift debate on integration from its top-down immigrant focus to a more inclusive local bottom-up approach – one which brings people together in the routine contexts of their everyday lives.
“Bristol is an ideal place to look at how integration works or doesn’t work for its residents. Its ethnically diverse population contributes to its civic, political, economic and cultural life.
“We hope to learn more about existing best practice, as well as the barriers faced by some of its citizens, in order to ultimately establish a strategy to improve integration in Bristol and other cities across the UK.”
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