Making the everyday ordinary extraordinary – integration rethink continues.

The message from IPPR’s policy paper, Rethinking Integration is Let’s think more about the everyday when we’re talking about integration.  That’s welcome when the debates about integration (cohesion as was) have been polarised between complex and competing perspectives on multiculturalism and liberal citizenship. At the same time isn’t it extraordinary that we rarely hear this message? It is in the everyday that we get on with getting on with each other – it is the everday ordinary extraordinary.  Everyday integrative actions have long been taking place on the ground[1], but we have rarely heard about this in policy circles, Beider’s work for JRF being one exception[2].

It is of course messy this act of communities going about their lives. Indeed the apparent difficulty the Government had in agreeing what to include in its Integration Strategy[3] is just one reflection of how each of us has to negotiate within our own  relationships, let alone how groups of people do it.

What is still missing is a recognition that local government has long grappled with this issue, sometimes successfully, others not. This ought to give us a greater confidence in the ability of organisations in local places to come up with solutions that enable services to help people go about their daily lives more easily. As austerity bites we need to remind ourselves about this constantly.

Throughout the 2000s local government has given much reflection to improving its service delivery to address inequality. Using the LGA’s (formerly the IDeA) Equality Framework for Local Government individual authorities have assessed their performance and explored the good practice of their peers. While this kind of national performance measurement has fallen out of favour since the General Election there is a still an appetite to get this aspect of public sector provision right. There are now a handful of councils deemed ‘Excellent’ at how they understand the diversity of their communities, target the inequality that may arise in their services and develop the partnerships with providers and residents to deliver services effectively. What characterises those ‘excellent’ places is a clear(er) understanding of their local communities. This does not mean that everything is sorted out – far from it. However it denotes a willingness to engage in the business of negotiating solutions with diverse communities.

Dialogue about resources, with diverse communities, are going to get harder[4]. Reducing the public deficit is a long-term battle, so the contest for resources and the provision of services isn’t going to end anytime soon. These are everyday experiences – and where integrating different needs and perspectives has to happen. Talk for a Change has extensive experience of supporting local services to deliver fairly assigned and appropriate services to diverse communities, and to facilitate the difficult debates required.

When is the local going to be given more recognition for its ability to make things work? What are we doing this for anyway? To make the everyday more extraordinary?

Michael Keating, Talk for a Change Associate

[1] Talk for a Change. (2012) We Need to Talk About – can discussing controversial issues strengthen community relations? .

[2] Beider, H. (2011) Community Cohesion: the views of white working class communities, neighbourhoods, cohesion and change. JRF

[3] DCLG (2012) Creating the Conditions for Integration

[4] Talk for a Change. (2012) We Need to Talk About – can discussing controversial issues strengthen community relations? .

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