From 14 to 16 September 2023, the University of Genoa hosted the 36th annual conference of the Italian Political Science Association – SISP, Società Italiana di Scienza Politica -, one of the top political science events in Europe.
Integrim Lab was in Italy to participate to #SISP2023 to keep pursuing its main objective, bridging the gap between academic research, policy-making and practice. I presented the results of the policy brief that Amandine Desille, Davide Gnes and myself, with the support of Maria Grazia Montella and Eva Kašperová, drafted for MILE: “Leveraging EU resources to promote migrants’ political inclusion: How to build sustainable, multi-stakeholder and inclusive networks”.
My presentation took place in the framework of two panels chaired by Tiziana Caponio and Andrea Pettrachin, with the great contribution of Leila Hadj Abdou who provided us with valuable insights into our work. The focus of the two panels was on the role of asylum crises as catalysts for change in the multi-layered governance of migrant reception and integration policy in Europe and in some of its local contexts. The research presented focused on the nexus between immigration and development in Italian rural and peripheral areas (Federico Rossi), on the policy learning processes of cities and municipalities’ participation in transnational municipal networks (Andrea Ricci), and on a comparative study of multi-level governance of asylum seekers in Italy, Germany and Greece (Andrea Pettrachin, Tiziana Caponio, Irene Ponzo). These were just some of the presentations and panels on migration among many that took place during the conference.
Occasions such as the annual SISP congress offer great food for thought and a stimulating occasion to exchange with researchers who work on migration—a topic that has acquired increasing space in SISP over the years—from different viewpoints. Listening to the suggestions of other participants, engaging in debates on concepts and methodologies, and observing the interlinkages among the various fields of research and approaches was an extremely fascinating and inspiring experience. From the lens of a young researcher, I would like to share some personal reflections.
Firstly, the state of the research in the field of migration gave me a good dose of optimism. In our daily lives, we are accustomed to a European political landscape that uses the weapon of politicization to approach migration, flattening, simplifying and often knowninlgy misrepresenting facts. In this context, knowing that there is a vibrant community of Italian and international researchers who work to investigate each dimension that composes the giant puzzle of migration and integration policies is heartwarming. Moreover, Genoa has demonstrated how this sort of exchanges are a fundamental opportunity to push further the research in a field in continuous development and that is increasingly self-reflective.
Secondly, the previous point led me to reflect on the key role that research has in a complex panorama, as well as on Integrim Lab’s role in this debate. We shared with an academic audience the partial results of a two-year AMIF-funded project, something different from other contributions because of the project’s rootedness in local communities, practices and needs, rather than academic research. Our presence in Genoa witnesses the existence of a need to find ways to systematize all the valuable knowledge produced by projects such as MILE and to identify some channels of communication to bring it to the attention of academia. This collaboration between projects and researchers would feed up a virtuous circle of fruitful exchanges among academic research, policy-making and practice. In this sense, we as Integrim Lab should remind ourselves of the key importance of our mission, creating links and connections and working as a bridge among different worlds and bubbles.
Thirdly, in my opinion, the academic world has the responsibility to effectively communicate its observations, reflections and results, especially in the ever-evolving and ever-contested social sciences. In particular, in the highly sensitive field of migration, explaining a complex reality in simple and accurate terms is a never-ending communication challenge. Therefore, how to change the narrative, engage with a wider audience and burst the academic bubble? Here, the keynote speech held by Professor Stathis Kalyvas on his personal and professional experiences may come to our aid. “Too often, we forget the power of stories: stories construct and describe realities, stories matter”. Everyone’s story and everyone’s voice matter.