A small city with an unexpected research site

Reflections from a council officer from a Communities up Close research study area

When you think of words like ‘migration’ or ‘ethnic diversity’ then our small city might not necessarily spring to mind. At the time of the 2011 Census, the percentage of residents here from BAME backgrounds was only half the national average, and way below the figure for other large Yorkshire cities like Leeds and Sheffield. But the unique thing about the Communities up Close project is that its focus was on areas which have experienced a significant change due to migration; meaning it could, in theory, encompass urban centres, small rural villages, areas of gentrification or, in our case, areas of high deprivation. Migration doesn’t have to have happened in huge numbers to have an impact at a community level; and we shouldn’t assume that any affect it does have is a negative one.

Hence why the early stage of collecting statistical data at a neighbourhood level was crucial in identifying a range of areas of focus for the project. By using a robust, repeatable process, taking into account recent change in the relative population at low geographies, means that every local community is considered on an equal footing. Quite often we, in local authorities, focus on the same specific areas when it comes to projects relating to migration, especially those which experience visible ‘problems’ or ‘issues’. In our city, the methodology identified areas beyond these, and communities whose life and experiences in relation to new migration were less understood.

The result is a rich narrative and insight into our residents. In my role, working within the corporate Insight Team, what I find most interesting is the story it tells of migration in a wider social setting. What we have learnt isn’t just about migration or community cohesion; it’s a story of place that has learning opportunities for services and teams across our organisation. We now have a greater understanding of the shared frustrations of the community [austerity, environmental issues, housing and feelings of safety] and potential tensions [often based on mutual misconceptions]. We also have a better understanding of the gaps in our approach to a changing city, and – most importantly – have been able to identify both a desire for the community to come together, and the opportunities where we can facilitate this.

 

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Page last updated: 28/08/2020 07:16:34

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