By: Anniki Leppik
Phil Wood, the man behind the intercultural cities idea and co-author of the book “The Intercultural City: Planning for Diversity Advantage” is convinced that opening local communities to foreigners and mixing different cultures is a source of creativity.
Wood says that we have different levels of diversity. In some places, minority is always treated as an outsider, while others are trying to make them disappear into the majority and leave behind their aspects of culture.
The third model is called multicultural city, which is very common in Wood’s home country the United Kingdom: foreigners are welcome and encouraged to retain different cultures. For long time it was considered as a model of perfect city, but the idea is getting criticism now because of lack of communication between minority and majority groups.
“The expectation is that everyone will change. Not simply the newcomer, but the majority has to learn equally about the new world,” explains Wood the idea behind intercultural city and quickly adds that there is actually no such thing as minority and majority.
“If you look at to so called majority community, it’s divided in many-many small minorities. People have variant interests, we all have multiple identities: male and female, region within the country, cultural interests.”
Local community has to believe that migrants are a value, not a problem. “People who travel as migrants, usually do it with hope and aspiration, they want to give something to the city that makes their home.”
According to Wood, people shouldn’t be afraid of mixing cultures and should find ways how to do it, even if it causes conflicts between natives and foreigners. Managing a conflict is a way of learning. Cities dealing with various ethic groups have to expect some dissensions and turn the problem into resource of growing into more open-minded community.
That’s what some participants of intercultural cities program are doing. Without mentioning any names, Wood pointed out that not all of them have much migration at the moment, but they would like to prepare for it.
The advantage of intercultural city model is dynamism, made by interaction of all different groups. And Wood believes in his idea. Successful cities of the future are those who find a way accommodating all the diversity. Others will just die.