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Organizing Integration

Research programme: Organising labour market integration of immigrants – theory and practice

The programme’s purpose and goals

The starting point of this multi-disciplinary research programme is the vertiginous growth in international migration and the recent “refugee crisis” in Europe, as well as the ever-present questions of social and economic integration of recent refugees and other immigrants. The programme aims to examine the challenges and opportunities created by novel initiatives that aim to support labour market integration of refugees and other immigrants who have been granted residency in Sweden – including the problems of coordination and organisation between the plethora of initiatives. The research will be conducted within a practice-based approach to organising (Gherardi & Nicolini, 2002; Nicolini, 2012) and aims to produce novel knowledge to facilitate the establishment of more sustainable processes and practices for integrating refugees and other immigrants in the labour market. It thereby seeks to make a meaningful contribution to the present debate on the efficacy and sustainability of the integration of immigrants in the labour market.
While it was previously mainly the responsibility of the state, integration today involves a myriad of actors: municipalities and regional bodies, companies, interest groups, but also community-embedded, civil society organisations as well as individuals, who all design and implement individual and collaborative initiatives meant to facilitate the integration of vulnerable groups into the labour market and society. This poses a great challenge from a coordination and organising perspective.
Contemporary integration initiatives may include procedures for validating prior foreign learning (Andersson & Osman, 2008), education and training programmes, on-the-job training and internships, mentorship programs (Liebig, 2007), cultural sensitivity training, community-embedded economic initiatives, social entrepreneurship (Gutberlet et al. 2016), procedures for allocating apartments, construction projects in specific neighbourhoods, activities aimed at creating spaces for immigrant groups and other vulnerable groups to meet (Barinaga, 2014), and community development activities, to name a few. However, the taken-for-granted ideologies, hidden power relations, and actual practices connected to these initiatives and how they connect to each other – if at all – remain underscrutinised. Therefore, the question of whether or not these ideas and practices have an effect, and if so, which effects, remains open and requires further research.
Similarly, while the importance of locality, space and territory has been shown to be critical in understanding the issue of socio-economic integration of migrants (Samers, 2010), the literature that joins the issues of contemporary migration with urban studies is still scarce (e.g. Glick-Schiller & Caglar, 2010; 2013). Clearly, more attention needs to be paid to how the labour market integration of refugees and other immigrants is coordinated and organised in practice within the specific context of cities and other localities.
Focusing on both top-down and bottom-up initiatives, the programme will therefore investigate the following issues:

• What ideas of integration give rise to and are promoted by the contemporary integration initiatives?
• How is the labour market integration of refugees and other immigrants organised in practice? That is, what organisations, groups and individuals are being enrolled in integration activities, and how do they react to these integration initiatives? What do they do?
• What are the effects of these integration initiatives - on foreign-born persons' lives, and on their labour market integration in terms of diversity, gender and power relations?

The programme includes five main work packages and will employ a combination of archival studies, intense fieldwork, and content analysis of both texts and visual presentations.

The design and methods of the program

The research programme “Organising integration” will run for six years, from 2017-01-01 to 2022-12-31. The city of Gothenburg and its metropolitan region will serve as a privileged “urban laboratory” (Evans, 2011) where public, private and civil society-led initiatives are conducted via policies and projects. Geographically, the study will zoom in particular neighbourhoods in the city of Gothenburg where issues of marginalisation, stigmatisation and unemployment are considerable. When necessary, the program also zooms out to expand the framing of the problem and the analysis to other neighbourhoods, cities and regions in Sweden and Europe.
Operationally, the programme is divided into five parts – so-called Work packages (WPs). The programme commences by identifying and analysing integration initiatives and actors involved in the integration of refugees and other immigrants on the labour market in Gothenburg from a historic perspective (from 1945 to the present). Document analysis, mass media analysis, and a scientific and popular literature analysis will be conducted and discussed at a first workshop with scholars (research team and advisory board and possibly other researchers) and practitioners held at the beginning of the program (WP1). WP2, WP3 & WP4 explore labour market integration initiatives run by the private sector (WP2), civil society and NGOs (WP3) and the public sector (WP4) through a range of case studies. The programme relies in part on existing collaborative platforms (WP 2, 3 & 4) within and outside the city of Gothenburg. One of the most important one of these is Mistra Urban Futures (MUF), Gothenburg Local Platform, with which the researchers in the programme have well-established relationships. Finally, WP5 will create a collaborative platform where practitioners, actors from public, private sector and civil society, the research team, the reference group and other scholars will meet as part of two annual workshops to analyse, discuss and communicate the findings from the different work packages together. WP5 will also provide an opportunity to further explore the relationships between the myriad of public and private actors involved in integration.
We will use a combination of common ethnographic methods applied to the study of organising (Neyland, 2007), visual sociology (Harper, 2012), document analysis, semi-structured interviews and observations (Silverman, 1993; Van Maanen, 1995, Czarniawska, 2014). Our methodological aim is to capture the complexity of the integration phenomenon by exploring its everyday organising through a range of ethnographies of current sites.
For some of the integration initiatives we are planning to follow, there is certainty as to their lifespan (e.g. Stadslandet 2017-2019). For other initiatives proposed as case studies in this programme, it is impossible to foresee how long they will be operative (e.g. Swedbank’s “Äntligen job” or other customised integration initiatives at companies; “100-klubben”; “Snabbspåret”). In some cases we will conduct a follow-up of the initiatives (e.g. the entrepreneurship initiative “One Step Change” aimed at creating employment among immigrants and women, to name a few) at certain intervals, and/or some time after the initiatives have been completed. These follow-ups will mainly include interviews, but may also result in another round of observations at the site.

Participating researchers, programme organisation and programme leadership

The programme “Organising integration” is a multidisciplinary research program – one of the core programs at GRI. The programme currently includes one economist, three business economists, a sociologist and a public administration scholar from the University of Gothenburg (Gothenburg Research Institute (GRI), Department of Business Administration & School of Public Administration) as well as an architecture technologist from Chalmers Technical University and a business economist from the Copenhagen Business School in Denmark. Two post docs and one doctoral candidate have recently been be recruited. The programme is also connected to the Mistra Urban Futures (MUF) Local Interaction Platform and the Social Science Park at “Utvecklingen Nordost”.

Host institution

Gothenburg Research Institute (GRI), School of Business, Economics and Law, University
of Gothenburg

Programme leaders

Associate Professor Andreas Diedrich andreas.diedrich@gri.gu.se
Associate Professor Maria-José Zapata-Campos, m.zapata@handels.gu.se


Professor Barbara Czarniawska, Barbara.czarniawska@gri.gu.se
Professor Ester Barinaga, eb.mpp@cbs.dk
Professor Patrik Zapata, patrik.zapata@spa.gu.se
Professor Henrietta Palmer, henrietta.palmer@chalmers.se
Senior Lecturer Vedran Omanović, vedran.omanovic@handels.gu.se
Researcher Nanna Gillberg, nanna.gillberg@handels.gu.se
Postdoc Helena Kraff, helena.kraff@hdk.gu.se
Postdoc Eva Maria Jernsand, eva.maria.jernsand@handels.gu.se
Phd canditate Hanna Hellgren, hanna.hellgren@spa.gu.se

Associated members

Professor Gideon Kunda
Professor Rolf Wolff
Professor Airi Rovio-Johansson
Associate Professor Huriye Aygören


Funding body:

Swedish Research Council for Health, Working life and Welfare (Forte) (2017-2019)

Selected references

Andersson, P. & Osman, A. (2008). Recognition of prior learning as a practice for differential inclusion and exclusion of immigrants in Sweden. Adult Education Quarterly, 59: 42–60.
Andersson Joona, P. (2011) The Native-Immigrant Income Gap among the Self-employed in Sweden. International Migration, 49: 118-143.
Behtoui, A. (2008) Informal Recruitment Methods and Disadvantages of Immigrants in the Swedish Labour Market. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 34: 411-430.
Bevelander, P. (2000). Immigrant employment integration and structural change in Sweden 1970–1995. Stockholm: Ahlmqvist and Wicksell International.
Borch, C. & Kornberger, M. (eds.) (2015) Urban Commons. Rethinking the City. Routledge.
Dahlström, C. (2004). Nästan välkomna–invandrarpolitikens retorik och praktik. Gothenburg: Department of Political Science.
Cvetkovic, A. (2009) The Integration of Immigrants in Northern Sweden: A Case Study of the Municipality of Strömsund. International Migration, 47: 101-131.
Czarniawska, B. & Höpfl, H. (2002). Casting the other. The production and maintenance of inequalities in work organizations. London: Routledge.
Czarniawska, B. (2014). Social science research: From field to desk. London: Sage.
Dahlstedt, M. (2009). ‘Employability, social exclusion and labour market policies in Sweden’, in A. Neergaard (ed.) European perspectives on exclusion and subordination: The political economy of migration. Maastricht: Shaker.
Delander, L., Hammarstedt, M., Månsson, J. & Nyberg, E. (2005) Integration of Immigrants. The Role of Language Proficiency and Experience. Evaluation Review, 29: 24-41.
Eastmond, M. (2011). Egalitarian ambitions, constructions of difference: the paradoxes of refugee integration in Sweden. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 37(2): 277-295.
Eastmond, M. (2006). Transnational returns and reconstruction in post war Bosnia and Herzegovina. International Migration, 44(3): 141-166.
Fog Olwig, K. (2011). “Integration”: Migrants and Refugees between Scandinavian Welfare Societies and Family Relations. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 37:2,
Gibson-Graham, J. K. & Roelvink, G. (2009). Social Innovation for Community Economies. In F. Moulaert (ed.), Social Innovation and Territorial Development. Ashgate.
Gibson-Graham, J. K. (2006). A Postcapitalist Politics. University of Minnesota Press.
Glick-Schiller, N. & Caglar, A. (2013). Locating migrant pathways of economic emplacement: Thinking beyond the ethnic lens. Ethnicities, 13(4): 494-514.
Grillo, R. (1998). Pluralism and the Politics of Difference: State, culture, and ethnicity in Comparative Perspective. Oxford: Clarendon Press
Hardy, C. & Philips, N. (1999). “No joking matter”. Discursive struggle in the Canadian refugee system, Organization Studies, 20(1): 1–24.
Harvey, D. (2012). Rebel cities. From the right to the city to the urban revolution. Verso.
Hedberg, C. & Tammaru, T. (2013). ‘Neighbourhood Effects’ and ‘City Effects’: The Entry of Newly Arrived Immigrants into the Labour Market. Urban Studies, 50: 1165-1182.
Joyce, P. (2015) Integration och arbetsmarknad – en översikt av integrationsåtgärder i Sverige 1998-2014. Delmi kunskapsöversikt nr 2015:3. Stockholm: Delmi.
Kalonaityte, V. (2010). The case of vanishing borders: Theorizing diversity management as internal border control. Organization, 17(1): 31-52.
Koopmans, R. (2010). Trade-offs between equality and difference: Immigrant integration, multiculturalism and the welfare state in cross-national perspective. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 36(1): 1-26.
Liebig, T. (2007). The labour market integration of immigrants in Denmark. Paris: OECD.
Lindberg, K. & Czarniawska, B. (2006). Knotting the net of action, or organizing between organizations. Scandinavian Journal of Management, (22): 292–306.
MacCallum, D., Moulaert, F., Hillier, J. & Vicari Haddock, S. (2009). Social Innovation and Territorial Development. Ashgate.
Musterd S. & Andersson R. (2006) Employment, social mobility and neighbourhood effects: the case of Sweden. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 30, 120–140. Neyland, D. (2007). Organizational ethnography. London: Sage.
Petersen, T., Saporta, I. & Seidel, M-D.L. (2000). ‘Offering a job: meritocracy and social networks’. American Journal of Sociology, 106: 763–816.
Romme Larsen, B. (2011). Becoming Part of Welfare Scandinavia: Integration through the Spatial Dispersal of Newly Arrived Refugees in Denmark, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 37(2): 333-350
Samers, M. (2010). The socio-territoriality of cities: a framework for understanding the incorporation of migrants in urban labour markets. In Glick-Schiller, N. & Clagar, A. Locating Migration: Re-scaling cities and migrants. Cornell University Press.
Spehar, A. & Berg, L. (2011). Migration och migrationspolitik i Europa. I Berg och Spehar red. (2011). EU och Välfärdens Europa. Familj, Arbetsmarknad, Migration. Malmö: Liber.
Van Maanen, J. (1995). Representation in ethnography. Thousand Oaks: Sage.
Vertovec, S. (2007). Introduction: New directions in the anthropology of migration and multiculturalism, Ethnic and Racial Studies, 30(6): 961-978.

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Utskriftsdatum: 2020-05-29