The Challenge has welcomed today’s proposals from the Government to promote social integration in the UK.
The Government’s Integrated Communities Strategy Green Paper was launched this morning by Secretary of State for Housing, Communities & Local Government, Sajid Javid MP, and will be subject to a 12-week consultation.
It outlines several measures for consultation in five areas where the Government wants to focus on improving integration in the UK – Blackburn with Darwen, Bradford, Peterborough, Walsall and Waltham Forest. The Challenge currently provides services in each of these local authorities, except for Peterborough.
Oliver Lee, CEO of The Challenge, said: “Today’s announcement recognises the importance of taking proactive steps to bring our diverse communities together. At The Challenge, we have long known that social mixing is central to building strong relationships and trust among people from different backgrounds, so we’re pleased the Government has listened to our calls for action.
“The Integrated Communities Strategy has real substance and we welcome this robust and evidence-based approach. The challenge of creating meaningful and real relationships in mixed communities isn’t just unique to particular towns - it is a national issue that warrants a national response. Therefore we hope this strategy expands beyond the areas in this report in the future.
“We look forward to contributing to this vital conversation and seeing how it can make a real difference to people’s lives.”
The green paper’s suggested measures include an integration innovation fund to promote and support social mixing programmes, based on principles designed by The Challenge.
The Challenge argues that the nine principles - including making sure programmes or groups foster a culture of unity, give people a reason to join in and are inclusive - are vital for effective social mixing. Read more about the design principles below.
The social mixing design principles
A - Establish a socially mixed space:
1. Give people a reason to join in: People have to want to take part in the programme because they know they’ll get something out of it. It might help people develop skills to help them get a job or into university. This increases the chances that people involved in the programme are mentally and emotionally prepared for the activities and to meet new people.
2. Make sure you are inclusive: To get people from different backgrounds mixing, you have to make sure people from all walks of life take part in your programme. To create a mixed space, your identity and brand must be inclusive, for example, by making sure your brand isn’t associated with only one faith.
3. Choose your moment wisely: We are most open to new things, like relationships and changing habits, during moments of change. For example, when we join a new school, start a family or move to a new area, that’s when we’re less likely to fall back into our comfort zones.
B - Create active and intense mixing experiences:
4. Challenge the ‘people like us’ preference: We are naturally drawn to people we think are similar to us. To challenge this tendency, positive interventions can help stop people forming into groups from similar social and cultural backgrounds. For example, randomly assigning people teams to work in during the programme can help with this.
5. Make sure everyone is equal: We are more likely to get on well with other people when we see them as peers - good friendships are often based on a foundation of equality and understanding.
6. Create a sense of shared challenge: When faced with a challenge that’s easier to overcome as a team than on our own, we tend to lean on and support each other. Focusing our attention on a difficult activity, like a long hike or creating a community campaign project, can distract us from our differences as we work together as a team to complete the challenge.
C - Foster sustainable bonds:
7. Foster a culture of unity: Include an element of ‘ritual’ to help create the feeling of a shared culture. For example, a graduation ceremony at the end of the programme can help celebrate our own and others’ successes and bring people back together.
8. Make sure people can stay friends after the programme: People need to be able to make their new friendships part of their everyday lives. For example, this won’t work if they live halfway around the world from the people they met on the programme.
9. Allow time to reflect: People should have the opportunity to reflect on what they do and don’t have in common with other people and what they’ve learnt through the programme. This could be in a guided reflection session as a group or writing a journal as an individual. This helps them think about walking a mile in another person’s shoes.