Friday, 22 July 2016

‘Where the Rivers Meet’: Welcoming immigrants in Dayton, Ohio

Jacqueline Housel, Colleen Saxen and Tom Wahlrab

Compared to 1970, the size of the immigrant population in the United States quadrupled by 2014, growing from 9.6 million (4.7% of the population) to 42.4 million (13.3%) (Zong and Batalova 2016). With this surge in the immigrant share of the population, public attitudes towards immigrants have been mixed. In fact, the environment was largely unfavorable towards immigrants nation-wide in 2011 when the Human Relations Council in Dayton, Ohio discovered that some considerable numbers of immigrants to the area, as well as others, were being denied their rights for housing because of ethnicity or race. This discovery led to a community-wide effort to engage in conversations about local immigration.  This conversation centered on the question: “What is possible if Dayton became a city that intentionally welcomed immigrants?”  These conversations helped produce a consensus that Dayton “wanted” to be immigrant-friendly. After ninety days of work, the community completed a welcoming plan, “Welcome Dayton,” endorsed by the Dayton City Commission. This plan was an invitation to all – the receiving community and immigrants – to commence new welcoming initiatives and strengthen those already in place. 

Welcome Dayton immediately brought a great deal of attention to the city. National media outlets wrote stories about Dayton’s new policy, often characterizing Welcome Dayton as a laudable and strategic move by a post-industrial city to revitalize itself economically. Cities from around the country began looking to Dayton to learn how they could enact similar policies. Even The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (2013), a popular American television show featuring political satire, got in on the action, airing a spoof about US immigration policy featuring Dayton’s city manager. 

Meanwhile, we observed an outburst of home grown initiatives, many of which were never explicitly planned or sanctioned by the city, but seemed to emerge organically through the actions of individuals involved in the ongoing conversation within the nascent Welcome Dayton movement. Many spoke in emotional detail about how much it meant to them that their city would take a stand to support immigrants. We observed that Welcome Dayton reached out and advocated for all immigrants, not just those with the greatest promise for contributing rapidly and significantly to the local economy. Clearly, this initiative needed to be investigated so that the city could understand the mechanics of the process that led to Welcome Dayton, and we wanted to produce an understanding at a level that would allow these processes to “travel” successfully to other communities and to other potentially divisive issues.

Therefore, we formed a collective of researchers and practitioners – all previously involved and familiar with local immigration issues. Over the course of two years, we observed many Welcome Dayton initiatives, interviewed key stakeholders, and read materials from a variety of fields about immigration. In studying Welcome Dayton, the authors found the concept of resourcefulness (McKinnon and Derickson, 2012) to be most useful. While the success of immigrants is often attributed to their ‘resilience’ or their ability to adapt to local circumstances, in the case of Welcome Dayton, we observed a degree of resourcefulness in the community members to reflect on and ultimately change local circumstances. 

As we investigated emerging initiatives of Welcome Dayton in light of resourcefulness, we identified the presence of what we called intentional recognition which we defined as “individuals collaborating to create an environment that encourages, amplifies and sustains community resourcefulness” (Housel, Saxen, and Wahlrab 2016). In our paper, we describe the practice of intentional recognition in the context of the conversations that propelled Welcome Dayton and its subsequent initiatives. We investigated the qualities that characterize conversations as intentionally recognizing individuals as valued and connected through a shared humanity, as full partners with agency, and with inherent potential. We believe that the work of Welcome Dayton is more shareable as a process not only to cities leaning towards welcoming immigrants, but also to encourage communities to take on the hard work of entering difficult conversations about issues that most matter to our communities. 


Housel J, Saxen C and Walhrab T (2016) Experiencing intentional recognition: Welcoming immigrants in Dayton, Ohio.  Urban Studies Journal OnlineFirst (July 1, 2016): 1-22. 
McKinnon D and Derickson KD (2012) From resilience to resourcefulness: A critique of resilience polity and activism. Progress in Human Geography 37(2): 253-270.
Stewart J (Producer) (2013) The Two Faces of Illegal Immigration (10 Oct 2013) The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Comedy Central. 10 Oct 2013  Available at: (Accessed July 2016).
Zong J and Batalova J (2016)  Frequently Requested Statistics on Immigrants and Immigration in the United States. Migration Policy Institute Spotlight, 14 April. Available at:  (accessed June 2016).

  1. ‘Where The Rivers Meet’ is the title of a Playing for Change video (2014) created in Dayton, Ohio and produced by David Sherman, Michael J. Bashaw and Sandy Bashaw.  Available at: (accessed July 2016) 

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Analysing urban change over 100 years

Joe Hurley, Gavin Wood and Lucy Groenhart

How and why do urban landscapes change over time?

Our research approach experiments with new ways of investigating cities over long time periods to better understand the drivers of change. This can improve our understanding of how planning interventions and infrastructure investment can address contemporary urban challenges.

The key idea motivating our research is the observation that over the long run urban land uses change slowly and unevenly. This reflects inertia, land ownership patterns, and built forms that are costly to retrofit, or demolish and clear. When change does occur it is triggered by institutional interventions (such as infrastructure investment) or exogenous shocks (such as natural disasters or new technologies), and erupts in bursts that are unequally spread across the metropolitan area. 

The researchers used fine grained data records based on individual land parcels, available via historical rate records, to investigate these ideas. We assembled a panel data base consisting of parcel level records, over a 100 years period at 10 year intervals, for two streets in Melbourne, Australia. The data base contains 2474 records, digitised from historical records held at the Public Records Office of Victoria.  This image shows the hand written rate books that are the primary data source.

Image of the hard copy rate records. Courtesy of Public Records Office of Victoria.

The research uses descriptive analysis of change and continuity over the 100 year period, as well as a logistic regression to explore the drivers of change. The descriptive analysis depicts the changing nature of the land use mix over time for the two streets. The following graphs illustrate these changing patterns:

Cardigan St and Bouverie St % of properties by land use, 1870 – 1970. Author provided.

There are three features of urban building and land-use patterns that we investigated as potential drivers of change.

1. Fragmented ownership patterns result in small scale developments that tend to persist in the long run, while unified land ownership is conducive to redevelopment and land use change. We found, however, that consolidated land holdings, where one entity owns two or more adjacent properties, proved to be an unimportant influence on land use change. 

2. Concentrations of home owners are associated with resistance to land use changes that threaten the values of their homes, and the character of their communities. We found the presence or otherwise of owner occupied lots are unrelated to urban change.

3. Built materials which are costly to demolish and clear for redevelopment can tilt the cost benefit calculus in ways that favour inertia. This was strongly supported by the analysis with land occupied by wooden buildings nearly 4 times more likely to change land use than brick buildings. Vacant land was over 8 times more likely to change use.

This research has developed a novel approach that combines historical method with quantitative analysis of property records to examine urban continuity and change over long periods. If this approach could be replicated using larger sample designs, it would reveal more robust insights into the determinants of urban change, with potentially important policy implications. 

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Community organizing: Beyond sweat equity

Heather Watkins

Urban community organizations are a highly ambivalent form of local politics. “We’re not political,” I was told by almost every research partner – yet in the supposedly “post-political” times of New Labour’s “Third Way”, community participation was invested with unusual political significance.  For some, community organising was a way of turning older forms of solidarity into “social capital”, reviving civil society by drawing groups into a new network of public and private welfare providers.  The 2010 Conservative-Liberal Democrat government then seized a moment of public distrust to present the Decentralisation and Localism Bill 2010 as no less than ‘a new constitutional arrangement’, in which personal ‘responsibility’ replaced any guaranteed local state provision of services.  Yet for others, it was seen as part of a long tradition of experiments in social economies - Diggers and Ranters, Owenite co-operative villages, workers’ communities, Chartist Land Plans – most of which involved a degree of conflict with the state.
The main objective of the research was therefore to explore the relationship between contemporary urban community organizing in practice, and both “mainstream” and more contestational political discourses.  The most critical issue was to restore some structure and history to the study of where “social capital” comes from, and to investigate what happens when this engages with a consensus-based, market-friendly form of local governance. I was lucky to find three community action groups in the East Midlands as fieldwork partners: two of these (The Lenton Centre, or TLC, in east Nottingham, and North Notts Community Arena, or NNCA, in Worksop) arose from fierce campaigns to keep open formerly Council-run leisure and community services, while Sneinton Alchemy in west Nottingham had originated in a project to develop local economies supported by the New Economics Foundation.  What became evident was that for all three, their motivations were rooted in some degree of opposition to, or disaffection with, the state.  There was a championing of shared public space that came from a ‘bodged up’ poorly-planned environment and its deep social divisions (TLC); a fierce autonomy that came from the historic exclusion of the community from that planning (Sneinton Alchemy); and the assertion of a strong working-class identity in the face of the wholesale deconstruction of a local economy from coal, to low wage/zero hours distribution centres (NNCA): ‘In ... deprived areas you have to fight for yourself, don’t you?’ (Participant A, 30 April 2010). It was no coincidence that the community in Sneinton had adopted William “Bendigo” Thompson, a nineteenth century bare knuckle boxer who fought his way out of poverty, as a symbol for ‘standing up for yourself’ (Participant B, 10 March 2011). 

Statue of William “Bendigo” Thompson (1811-1890), bare knuckle fighter, above the door of the closed Hermitage Pub, Sneinton.

Participating in governance, however, subjects community organisations to processes which were often at odds with these shared roots. Under pressure to forget their collective pasts, accused of ‘hanging on to the past a bit too much’ (Council Officer, 16 April 2010), they are also required to “professionalise” – to have a business plan, a hierarchical structure, and Trustees with professional and managerial knowledge.  “Social capital” therefore seems to have conflicting meanings for community organisations: one rooted in internal relationships and values, and one external, fostered by the state – but they directly contradict; as one organiser protested: ‘Why is it that when you get into a position to help people, you seem to get further away from them?’ (Participant C, 20 October 2009).  

Using Antonio Gramsci’s ideas about how collective action develops and is practiced, I’ve argued that community organizing can be seen as a response to a “crisis of authority”, embedded in our most immediate experience of political economy – the changes to the populations, jobs, housing and social structures in the places where we live, which also provide the “good sense” (motivation and a credible alternative analysis) to stand apart from mainstream political framings of community.  Organisers were passionate in asserting that they did not want to be reduced to ‘sweat equity’ (Participant D, 10 September 2009), exploiting volunteer and low-paid labour to replace publicly-funded provision.  It is this “good sense” construction of social capital, based in both internal legitimacy, and difference, which gives groups the confidence to be radical, to avoid being co-opted back into the mainstream as part of a “shadow state”, increasingly resembling what they were trying to change. 


[1] Eric Pickles, The Today Programme, BBC Radio 4, 13 December 2010.
[2] The industry was still being literally expunged from the landscape: Welbeck Colliery, near Meden Vale, ceased production in May 2010, the surface plant being demolished during 2011.  (BBC 2011,  Thoresby, the last pit in Nottinghamshire, closed July 2015.  Kellingley in North Yorkshire, the UK’s last deep pit, closed December 2015.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

City strategies and how they matter for configuring urban governance

Christof Brandtner, Markus Höllerer, Renate Meyer, Martin Kornberger

Strategic practices have entered and captured the town halls of the world over the past decade. You may have seen New York’s integrated PlaNYC, Copenhagen’s ambitious CPH Climate Plan 2025, or Vienna’s Smart City initiative. In our discipline – organizational studies – strategy is often associated with the business sector, even though it is actually a military tool. Keeping with its role models, cities’ strategy plans define a mission and vision for the city, outline some core activities that are meant to achieve these goals, and often propose how to implement and evaluate the activities. In other words, these plans can be quite authoritative; this is how Vienna’s strategy plan starts:
The Strategy Plan for Vienna is the result of an initiative involving the entire city govern­ment.Its objective is to create an attractive vision for the future development of the City of Vienna and provide concrete impulses through strategic projects. 

We expect that readers familiar with Rhodes’s notion of governance are now wary, as were we. Municipal governments are said to have been replaced by urban governance, a system of ruling cities not from the top down but in a network of various organizations and interest groups that include, among many others, the municipal government. Yet these top-down plans were published by city governments. How come that a player with limited direct influence would publish an authoritative document that simply claims to determine the future of the city?

Here’s our hypothesis: urban strategic plans are a concrete pathway through which governance regimes become enacted. Comparing Sydney and Vienna’s plans we identify significant differences between the documents, which leads to the conclusion that strategic documents give meaning, and ultimately power, to government’s challenged role in governance. Hence in order to understand urban governance one should study strategic plans as its enactment.

We provide an illustrative comparative case study of two strategic plans, namely the Vienna Strategy plan, a predecessor of the current Smart City Vienna initiative, and the Sydney 2030 Community Plan. We read and coded the plans and spoke with their authors. Both plans are meant to tackle the future of the city, but they do so in dramatically different ways. This is how the Sydney plan reads:
Sustainable Sydney 2030 is a set of goals we have set for our city to help make it as green, global and connected as possible by 2030. [It] came to life after we asked residents, visitors, workers and businesses what kind of city they wanted. […] Sydney 2030 is now the cornerstone of everything we do.

As our analysis shows, there are some fundamental differences in the nature of this plan (and many others that we took into account as well). What could be seen as an isomorphic response to the global political economy is in fact a reflection of the city’s governance system and the authors’ claim to define the primal “governance configurations” that underlie local governance: What are the issues at stake, what is the time scope, what is the space in which the city is placed, and who is meant by a city’s “public”.

It is not obvious, critical readers might say, that anyone listens to what the city has to say (and it will take many years and more sophisticated research designs to see whether such long-term strategies take foot). Indeed, we too question whether strategy plans have a powerful effect on redoing a city’s planning coalition. But, we argue in the paper, strategy documents are a way in which cities interact with more engrained, subtler forms of power, such as agenda setting and the taken-for-granted cognitive backdrop of planning.

Our analysis also shows that there is a pretty significant difference in how the plans are legitimated. The authors of strategy documents resort to various rhetorical mechanisms that are meant to define governance configurations, bridge competing values and goals, and establish the legitimacy of the plan. For instance, whereas Sydney’s plan speaks of the power vested in the city by citizens, the Vienna plan is mostly justified with the technical expertise of its authors.

As with organizations, the governance of cities does not take place in a vacuum, but in a world rich of idiosyncratic local rules, common global pressures, and a space that is shaped significantly by the state. Governance configurations are important because they provide an institutional context for the day-to-day negotiations and haggling between powerful participants in urban governance. And city administrations, despite (or because of) their challenged position in urban governance use the discursive device of strategy to lay out their understanding of the city’s governance configuration.

The collective creation, implementation, and consumption of these plans is an important data source for urban governance scholars. More generally, our paper is a first step toward understanding urban governance through the lens of organizational theory.

Friday, 8 July 2016

Where do minorities fare best? Ethnic inequalities across England and Wales

Kitty Lymperopoulou – University of Manchester and ESRC Centre on Dynamics of Ethnicity

Nissa Finney – University of St Andrews and ESRC Centre on Dynamics of Ethnicity

Ethnic minority groups in central London districts have, on average, 5 percent higher unemployment than their White British counterparts and 15 percent higher levels of overcrowding in housing. Within these districts ethnic inequalities are marked. Our analyses showed not only the extent of ethnic inequalities across England and Wales but that they are persistent over time and that they are greater in some parts of the country than others, and for some ethnic groups.

The disparity in the socio-economic position of ethnic minority and White British people has been a central and persistent feature of British society. Ethnic inequality has been well documented in studies for over 50 years: ethnic minority people have been found to fare worse than the White British across a range of employment, education, housing and health outcomes. What these studies have not shown is how the experiences of ethnic minority groups vary within and across localities. As well as demonstrating inequalities in diverse, urban areas, our study showed how they exist in rural areas with low ethnic minority concentrations. In 2011, in the rural hinterlands in England and Wales there were 5 percent more young adults from ethnic minority groups without any qualifications and 9 percent higher levels of overcrowding in housing.

Divergent experience of ethnic groups within areas raises questions about broader social processes of disadvantage and exclusion. For example, are services in an area addressing the needs of some groups better than others? Is racism and discrimination more prevalent in some areas than others? Are there places that are operating in such a way that no ethnic group is particularly advantaged and disadvantaged?

Our analysis for this research used 2001 and 2011 Census data for districts of England and Wales. Census data is unique in enabling the study of ethnic groups for sub-national areas of the UK. We calculated inequalities between ethnic groups for indicators of education, employment, health and housing. To examine geographical variation in ethnic inequalities we made use of the 2011 Office for National Statistics area classification which groups districts on the basis of 59 demographic and socio-economic variables.

Inequalities in employment (difference in unemployment rates) between Black African and White British ethnic groups in districts of England and Wales, 2001 and 2011



Notes: Inequality scores are shown for districts with an ethnic minority population at risk of at least 100. Districts are mapped as cartograms which depict them approximately proportional to their population size. Employment inequality is measured as the the percentage point difference in the proportion of the Black African group and the White British group in those aged 25 or above who are unemployed. Hatched areas (positive score) indicate ethnic minority advantage in employment.

Ethnic inequalities were greatest and most widespread in employment and housing: most ethnic minority groups were disadvantaged on these indicators in 2001 and 2011 irrespective of where they lived, and this was particularly pronounced for the Black African group. This can be seen in the maps above: in 2011 people from the Black African group had higher levels of unemployment than White British people in most districts, particularly in urban areas located in London and northern England, reaching almost 30 percentage points higher unemployment in some areas. Over the decade 2001-2011 both the level and geographical spread of Black African employment inequality increased.

The experience of the White Other ethnic group is also notable and distinctive, in terms of high levels of inequality in education and housing, particularly in rural and coastal areas. This group is made up of a high proportion of recent immigrants from Europe (mainly from the EU Accession countries). The evidence of their disadvantage, and its geography, points to a need for policy to consider migrant integration, for addressing inequalities and in relation to social relations and cohesion more broadly.

But the story is not exclusively of ethnic minority disadvantage. In terms of education and (age standardised) health, ethnic minority groups in most districts experienced lower inequality in 2011 than in 2001 and fared better than the White British group in 2011.

This research provides new evidence of the extent and persistence of ethnic inequalities in England and Wales. We have suggested that processes relating to segregation and integration may provide some explanation alongside a mismatch between demand for, and provision of, local services and the impact of immigration. The results suggest there is a need for both national and local policy intervention; nationally to address ethnic minority disadvantage in employment and housing, and locally, for example provision in rural and coastal schools for young people in the White other ethnic group. As Britain grapples with its position within, or alongside, Europe, understanding the patterns and processes of inequalities is more pertinent than ever.