Integration through cooperative development of open spaces – real-world labs strengthening the socio-ecological development of ‘arrival neighbourhoods’

Lead partner:

Institute for Migration Research and Intercultural Studies ( IMIS ), University of Osnabrück (Jun.-Prof. Dr. Antonie Schmiz)

Project website:

Further project partners:

Financed by:

Federal Ministry of Education and Research


01/2018 - 12/2020

Research objectives

The accelerated social and ethnic heterogenisation of the German society has brought up specific challenges for a sustainable development of settlement structures and open spaces for the social and spatial integration of immigrants, especially recently arrived refugees. Up to present, there is a lack of knowledge on the conditions enabling integration and social cohesion as well as on factors which may decrease socio-ecological inequalities at the neighbourhood scale. Which actors and interests have to be involved, and how to cope with potential and appearing conflicts? Such knowledge is decisive and urgently needed by municipalities. An important application field is the upgrading and shaping of open spaces as places for encounter, leisure and recreation.
Set against this background, the project aims at setting up real-world labs for a cooperative development of open spaces in the cities of Hannover, Leipzig and Dortmund. Real-world labs are, on the one hand, places in which a cooperative design (garden, playground, etc.) will be implemented. They are, on the other hand, spaces of encounter, communication and negotiation for the municipal, civic society and housing market actors involved. In these labs, existing activities should be enhanced and new ideas being tested. The focus is on different groups of inhabitants including long-term and recently arrived residents and their specific wants and needs. The labs should build a ground for learning processes concerning how to cope with temporary, target-group oriented and cooperative urban planning.
During the process, an assessment of the potential of open spaces for social integration and relationships among the local population as well as the socio-ecological upgrading of neighbourhoods will take place. It is the aim of the project to investigate conditions under which the participation of different social and ethnic groups in the development and use of open spaces in arrival neighbourhoods may succeed. The influence of contextual factors at the neighbourhood and city level will be scientifically analysed. In doing so, both factors supporting and hindering a cooperative open space development will be identified. A transfer of results to mentored municipalities is envisaged.

Case Studies

Leipzig has faced dynamic changes of shrinkage and regrowth within the last 25 years. The arrival neighbourhoods are developing since the 1990s only and are characterised by a juxtaposition of concentration of poverty, the arrival of new residents and incipient upgrading. Coping with this situation is a major challenge for the municipality and a central issue in the ongoing discussions related to the master plan (INSEK).

Hannover sells itself as „City of gardens“, based on a range of bottom-up urban gardening initiatives and a close cooperation between initiatives and the municipality. The real-world lab will build on this rich experience with gardening projects in migrant areas.

Dortmund is characterised by a concentration of poverty and structural change. The lab can back on a strong actor landscape in Dortmund’s diverse “Nordstadt” and fits into the strategic interests of the municipality.

Work packages and responsibilities

Work package 1: Theoretical embedding of the topic (lead: IMIS)

In this work package, the current state of the art and open research questions regarding the junctures of urban green, migration and the approach of real world labs will be explored. Hereby, the expertise and practical involvement of the project partners will ensure to cover a wide perspective and to identify the most important outcomes of other case studies and pilot projects.

Work package 2: Transfer and dialogue structure (UFZ, IMIS, ILS)

This work package organizes the transfer structures for the involvement of project partners and establishes the dissemination of results, e.g. via an open access platform. A scientific advisory board continuously monitors the project and evaluates findings. Knowledge transfer will be organised for a broad public and in mentoring partnerships for municipalities beyond the case studies. Beyond that results will be presented in a concluding workshop.

Work package 3: Inventory (lead: ILS)

To provide an optimal setup for the real world labs, an inventory of places, structures and actors will be carried out for the three case study neighbourhoods (e.g. social structure, ownership structure, land use, green infrastructure). This will be done with the help of statistical data analysis, and mapping of open spaces. Moreover, a governance analysis and an exploration of local actors will be carried out to identify potentials for cooperation. A bottom-up analysis of resident structure and various residents’ opinions will be provided by interactive methods and activities. As a result, a detailed knowledge on the neighbourhoods and their residents and actors is set up.

Work package 4: Real-world labs in three cities (lead: UFZ)

The focus of this work package is on the setup of real-world labs in the three municipalities including an active involvement of civic society, local enterprises, and representatives of the municipalities. The labs may focus on different types of open spaces, forms of (re)use and activities, depending on the local context and priorities of involved actors. They can involve different settings or actors and be of either temporary or long-term character. The setup of the labs follows a common structure and is steadily reflected by the scientific partners.