Creating social cohesion, social mobility and economic performance in today’s hyper-diversified cities.

European cities today are more diverse than ever before. Immigration, socio-economic inequalities, spatial segregation and a diversity of identities and lifestyles are all contributing factors. The challenges faced by urban policymakers and institutions to meet the needs of Europe’s increasingly diverse population are numerous and complex.

The principal aim of DIVERCITIES is to examine how Europe can benefit from diversity. The project’s central hypothesis is that urban diversity is an asset.  It can inspire creativity and innovation. Create cities that are more liveable and harmonious. Stimulate local and national economies and make European cities more competitive.

Urban diversity can be a strength rather than a burden. It can positively affect social cohesion, social mobility and economic performance. But a re-think of public policies and governance models is needed to make more intelligent use of diversity’s potential.

A European research team, headed by Utrecht University is conducting a comparative study in 13 European cities. Research will also be carried out in Toronto (Canada), one of the world’s most diverse cities.

Case studies will be examined where diversity was leveraged to achieve social and socio-economic benefits. The role of urban policies and governance arrangements in stimulating social and economic progress will also be critically analysed.

Comparative field research, educational programmes, cross-evaluation sessions and an international policy conference are the key components of this four-year project.

The central hypothesis of this project is:
That socio-economic, socio-demographic, ethnic and cultural diversity can positively affect social cohesion, urban economic performance and social mobility of individuals and groups suffering from socio-economic deprivation.

The main research questions are:
What evidence can we find of the positive aspects of urban diversity for social cohesion, social mobility and economic performance in European cities? How can these positive arrangements be enhanced by participatory policies and governance arrangements?

Programmes aimed at better social cohesion, higher economic performance and increased chances for social mobility will make European cities more liveable and more competitive.
In this period of economic downturn and increasing competition from other regions, it is important to find out how and under which circumstances Europe’s hyper-diversified urban communities can help, nurture and create social and economic advantages.

New policies, instruments and governance arrangements are needed, and sometimes they already exist.
And yet, there exists a significant research gap. We know little about the circumstances in which urban policies have become successful and how they can be implemented elsewhere. When we acknowledge the hyper-diversity of our urban societies, we also have to acknowledge that these societies cannot flourish from standard or general approaches aiming at, for example, economic growth or better housing or more liveable neighbourhoods.

Increasingly,more diverse and tailored arrangements are needed.
Arrange­ments that have an eye for that hyper-diversification, able to cope with the diverse needs of different groups in varied local and urban settings.

Our project will result in new and innovative policy instruments and governance arrangements that:
(a) recognise urban hyper-diversity as a positive aspect;
(b) increase interaction and communication between the diverse groups in urban society; and
(c) increase participation to satisfy the needs of the communities.

DIVERCITIES is financed by the European Commission under the 7th Framework Programme (Project No. 319970).


The broad objectives of the DIVERCITIES project are:

• to understand the positive and negative effects of socio-economic, socio-demographic, ethnic, and cultural diversity for society, the city and the urban economy

• to provide convincing evidence on the positive contribution of diversity to the crucial outcomes of social cohesion, economic performance and social mobility

• to analyse and interpret the role of existing policies and governance arrangements, in content as well as in form, in promoting beneficial aspects of urban diversity

• to improve the knowledge base for policy makers on different levels (EU, national, local) by translating the results of this project into innovative instruments and arrangements


Diversity: Presence or coexistence of a number of specific socio-economic, socio-demographic, ethnic and cultural groups within a certain spatial entity, such as a city or a neighbourhood.

Hyper-diversity: Hyper-diversity refers to an intense diversification of the population, not only in socio-economic, social and ethnic terms, but also with respect to lifestyles, attitudes and activities.

Social cohesion: General term to describe internal bonding of a social system.