On 29th September the SprINg project was presented at the 4th Conference of the German Network for Forced Migration Research that took place in Chemnitz, Germany. Consortium partners took part in the roundtable “Advancing Knowledge on Integration Measures, but for whom?” and with experts, academics and practitioners discussed how to enrich the debate around knowledge on integration measures.

In the beginning Asya Pisarevskaya (Erasmus University Rotterdam) reflected on the role that SprINg project can play in advancing policy and practice of migrant integration. Given that practitioners are focused on their immediate tasks – the service provision – they have little time to do very large-scale research regarding which practices of integration work best and which do not. Moreover, the technical language the research is published make the findings harder to identify and assess their value. The SprINg project in this sense helps to save time.

A comprehensive review of literature and evidence has been conducted on 11 topics relevant for integration: from employment, to housing, to healthcare, identity and many more.

Elements emerged on the amount of research that already exists in each of these areas and highlight the most important issues newly arrived migrants are facing in the receiving societies. The second element is that the review outlined the variety of policy objectives, policy instruments and tools that are employed to address these challenges and which of them are most effective. If practitioners working on migrant integration, are willing to update their knowledge of what is going on in other countries, what are the trends in the EU as a whole, they can read SprINg easy-to-read summaries on topic the most relevant for them on integrationpractices.eu. While practitioners are well aware of their immediate practical issues in their specific local contexts, they may want to also get a bird’s eye view on other aspects of integration and get inspiration and ideas from the practices found useful in other settings.

The discussion continued to revolve around the importance of promoting better policies while looking at evidence. Some of the keywords of at beginning of the discussion were governance, accountability and transparency but also financial aspects, as the policies have a relevant cost. These dimensions should be inquired in order to produce more cost-effective policies that improve migrant integration for governments, migrants and refugees, and the whole society.

However, only focusing on evidence isolate policy issues and makes it difficult to address them in practice. Creating evidence is not enough and it is important that policymakers have actual access to the evidence, possibly in a specific language as highlighted by Jasmijn Slootjes (Migration Policy Institute). Jasmijn Slootjes focused on the case of policy evaluations, that normally end up on a government website without reaching other people, countries and cities. Making policy evaluation available at these levels and providing actors with the tools to evaluate their policies and practices would maximise the potential impact of evidence.

For example, the SprINg project is developing a toolkit to help policymakers work in a more evidence-based way through the entire cycle.

A key aspect of working more on evidence-based culture is being able to create formal and informal networks. One example is the urban agenda partnership on the inclusion of migrants and refugees that brings together cities, Member States and EU institutions to jointly discuss migration issues. The partnership allows the European Commission to have direct feedback from practitioners on the ground and hear what their issues actually are. These types of networks that bring together different types of stakeholders are crucial to make sure evidence spreads throughout the very complex integration “market” that cut across policy areas and involve governments, the private sector and civil society.

Thinking about good practices, communities of practices and the tools that SprINg is promoting and will promote, Alexander Wolffhardt (Migration Policy Group) reflected on how good practice can be transferable through elements that make a practice “move” from a country to another, from one context to another. One key element is establishing networks and partnerships in order to create regular interactions among practitioners and promoting types of research that inform policymaking, especially comparative research on integration policies like MIPEX.

Bernhard Perchinig (ICMPD) explained the difference between policymakers and politics makers. Policymakers are civil servants or experts working in a certain field with a certain competence that normally work in networks for projects. When working in project they have time to reflect on and discuss the external inputs. Politics makers are usually politicians who work with and listen to civil servants, but the effect of their work really depends on their relationship.

Projects sometimes can be implemented but their meaning can end up being the opposite of what was planned. Two examples were made to explain: A) the first one related to Poland, a project on human rights, namely a training program for the implementation of anti-discrimination practices. The government provided substantial support and the project yielded very good results. Three months after the presentation of results, the ministry was dissolved, and the staff members were sent to new departments. As a result, while the project did have an impact, this was undermined by a different type of policymaking embraced by the new government. B) the second example was from Georgia: while working on integration guidelines, the government changed, and the program was cancelled as it was not considered a priority. This shows that politics come with important impact, challenges and limitations for these processes especially when the setting change and there is no continuation with what was done before.

Birgit Glorius (TU Chemnitz) redefined the role of academics as researchers and not consultants. The last 10-15 years have led researchers to disseminating knowledge to different stakeholder without being trained both in the technical aspects of dissemination, e.g., creating “nice” policy briefs or internet recommendations, and in the practice of consulting. Indeed, even though researchers are not trained to disseminate results, they have to do it as project funds are also allocated for dissemination. A problem with dissemination is related to the fact that information requested within the fieldwork is hard to transmit immediately as it should be also anonymised. Birgit Glorious also highlighted the importance of networks, e.g. city, county or municipality networks. In Poland she recently found out about a network dealing with the reception of Ukraine refugees and working in a bottom-up way that worked because the stakeholders involved had a long-lasting relation of trust, interacted on an equal footing and efficiently knew what they deal with, and the constraints and the political cycles involved. After the round of presentations, the event continued with a discussion with the audience. Thanks to the contributions of panellists there was an understanding on very simple elements can help improve policymaking and the work of practitioners but also transfer research and good practices from one country to another.