Lessons from our economic development forum

  • economy

Our latest economic development forum explored long-term migrant integration through local economic activities.

On 26-28 October, 90 participants from 33 cities gathered in Stockholm, Nacka and Solna for our economic development forum (EDF). The main theme was ‘long-term migrant integration through local economic activities’. In addition, participants debated the internationalisation of cities and how cities attract talent from abroad, as well as innovation, focusing on the role of creathons (see below) and local innovation ecosystems.

We would like to share some of the main lessons from these discussions:

Work in partnerships to support migrant entrepreneurs

Participants recognised the great potential of migrant workers for the economy, especially in terms of diversity, innovation and entrepreneurial skills. City administrations, businesses, migrant associations, and citizens’ organisations are working together to establish a supportive environment, such as by developing schemes for migrant entrepreneurs.

For example, Gothenburg has set up a one-stop shop to help migrants start a business. The success factors are: providing support services in different languages; engaging different stakeholders to do pro-bono work; and involving volunteers, including retired entrepreneurs.

Cities are increasingly focusing on attracting foreign talent

Skilled migrants are a huge asset for cities because they bring new ideas and knowledge into the local economy. This improves the overall competitiveness of cities, as well as innovation and growth potential. As a result, cities are increasingly focusing on attracting talent from abroad as part of their internationalisation strategies.

Stockholm launched a marketing campaign, ‘Move to Stockholm’. This campaign demonstrates the power of social media, especially Twitter, for informing and attracting foreigners to the city. The city works in close cooperation with local ambassadors and tech companies which already have solid marketing strategies in place, such as Spotify. In Barcelona, the focus is heavily on international events and conferences such as the Smart Cities Expo to attract business travellers. Local citizens are generally open to this kind of tourism, and welcome the job creation and economic gains it generates.

Creathons are a great tool for innovative policy making in cities

A ‘creathon’ is a specialised type of a hackathon, i.e. a creative marathon event. It is aimed at solving a pre-defined challenge within a certain period of time. Organised locally, creathons can serve as powerful events to gather innovative solutions for urban policy challenges. Participants are often students or young professionals who enter the contest individually or as a team. For more information about the concept, click here.

At OpenLab in Stockholm, creathons take place regularly based on the ‘design thinking’ method. These tackle challenges such as: ‘How can we use Stockholm’s open data in public spaces to create a more open city?’. Creathons are a way to engage citizens in the decision making process and foster a sense of community.

Cities take on a variety of roles in the local innovation ecosystem

For many cities, innovation policies and strategies are part of their vision for the coming years. Local administrations are enablers in the implementation and development of local innovation ecosystems, connecting many private and public local actors, including citizens. They act as disseminators of information and promoter of the ecosystems at regional, national and international level. Nevertheless, the main challenges for cities are: limited resources; scaling up projects; and combining the different priorities of the different stakeholders involved in the local innovation ecosystem.

You can view a video of the forum here

Our next economic development forum will take place in San Sebastian in April 2017.

EUROCITIES staff contact

Marie Ranty