Cities Doing More with More | Welcoming America

Cities Doing More with More

Rachel Peric | March 7, 2016

Cities don’t just become great, and then people move there – they become great because they intentionally design themselves to be places that attract and incorporate diverse people, ideas, and talent, and ensure that their residents, regardless of background, can participate, thrive, and belong.

This past week, I had the opportunity to speak at the Third International Cities of Migration Conference in Toronto, hosted by the Global Diversity Exchange at Ryerson University. A gathering of local government and community leaders, practitioners, experts, activists and policymakers, the event was an opportunity to explore themes of diversity, prosperity and migration at a time when these issues are at the forefront of international discourse and policy.

The roster of speakers was impressive and, speaking from an American perspective, provided an inspiring glimpse into Canada’s compassionate response to refugees.

We heard from Canada’s new Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, The Honorable John McCallum, who spoke about the federal government’s significant commitment to resettle Syrian refugees, and the fact that this was a national project of great importance – one that would be lived out in cities large and small, in partnership with government, civil society, businesses, and local residents.

 I had the pleasure of joining a panel on Welcoming Refugees, where I was inspired to be surrounded by some of the entrepreneurial efforts being led by Canadians - efforts like Lifeline Syria in Toronto, which is working to recruit, train and assist sponsor groups as they welcome and support Syrian refugees coming to Canada.

This entrepreneurial and pragmatic spirit of welcome wasn’t limited to the Canadian experience. Wolfgang Spelthahn, District Mayor of Landrat, Kreis Düren, Germany, spoke about efforts in his city to create a welcoming culture, and – as a city with a declining population – the demographic imperative of doing so.

Mary Stagaman from the Cincinnati Regional Chamber joined with other business leaders to offer a forward-looking perspective around inclusion and systems-level efforts being led by the Chamber to create an economically competitive city by attracting and retaining talent, and making the city “Diverse by Design.”

These were just a few of the ideas being shared by Cities of Migration, whose efforts to showcase good ideas in immigrant inclusion and help them to cross borders never fails to inspire. In fact, the conference site features this brilliant quote from the IOM’s William Lacy Swing: “Cities rarely shrink to greatness. They get better by growing and to grow they must welcome migrants.”

Indeed. Cities don’t just become great, and then people move there – they become great because they intentionally design themselves to be places that attract and incorporate diverse people, ideas and talent, and ensure that their residents, regardless of background, can participate, thrive and belong.

If cities fail to grow without immigrants and inclusion, than they certainly can’t grow without the concurrent growth of the organizations and champions who engage on this issue. That means we need an abundance – not a scarcity – mentality to not only be our guiding view on migration, but also our lens for how smart migration gets managed in cities. As local welcoming efforts are proving, communities can grow their capacity to meet the short-term challenge, and prosper from the long-term benefits.

We’re often told that we should be doing more with less, but in this case, it’s all about doing more with more. More resources, more partners, and more recognition of the importance of migration in shaping the social and economic destinies of cities around the world.

And as the field of immigrant inclusion widens to encompass the globe, it’s conferences like this one that show just how much we can accomplish when good ideas travel.

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