Background

Through research and advocacy, the At Home in Europe project works to advance equality for groups that are excluded from the mainstream of civic, political, and cultural life in a changing Europe. Through engagement with grassroots and mainstream civil society groups, policymakers and practitioners, and residents, At Home in Europe operates in numerous cities in Western Europe. Policies and debates on social inclusion and immigration in Europe currently operate in a context of anxiety about ethnic and religious diversity. This anxiety stems from the shifting demographics brought about by immigration, the perceived erosion of ethnic, national, and cultural identities, and the visibility of diversity.

The rise of populism—defined as ideology or philosophy against current political and social systems—is on the increase, and any response to the protection of minorities in an open Europe also requires a focus on the needs and concerns of the majority, many of whom are also suffering the effects of the economic crisis. This complex situation presents Europe with one of its greatest challenges: how to ensure equal rights and social cohesion in a climate of political tension, global recession, and rapidly expanding diversity.

At Home in Europe works to identify issues that populations share as common concerns, such as access to education, employment, and health, and where there are differences, including on notions of identity and belonging, offers a better understanding of these differences and how they can be overcome. The project undertakes advocacy oriented qualitative and interdisciplinary research, documenting daily experiences and modes through which different groups interact with their city, local government, and wider society. A key aim is to extract models of good practice in European cities on combating discrimination and promoting activities that increase participation and cohesion. Advocacy activities, premised on solid research findings, seek to shape and influence public policies on inclusion, and challenge hostile discourse on religious and ethnic pluralism in Europe.

Advisory Board

Valérie Amiraux

Valérie Amiraux is professor of sociology at the University of Montreal, where she has held the Canada Research Chair for the study of religious pluralism and ethnicity since 2007. She is on leave from her position as permanent research fellow at the National Center for Scientific Research in Amiens, France.

Merete Bilde

Merete Bilde is policy advisor at the European External Action Service. Prior to her current position, she worked in the Policy Unit of EU High Representative, Javier Solana, on issues related to political aspects of Islam and cross-cultural relations.

She has been involved in a number of initiatives at the cross-section of religion and politics within the EU, including issues related to freedom of expression, freedom of religion or belief as well as the defamation debate. In the aftermath of the Arab Spring, her work has focused heavily on the new political actors and the new regional dynamics at play, including between the new Middle East and the US and Europe. Prior to her current appointment, Merete Bilde served as a Danish diplomat.

Simon Kuper

Simon Kuper is a British author and journalist. He won the William Hill Sports Book of the Year in 1994 with his book Football against the Enemy. He has written for the Observer and the Guardian and is currently writing for the Financial Times. While he writes mainly about sports and the culture that surrounds it, he is also prolific in his writings about society, racism, and identity.

Paul Lappalainen

Paul is a senior advisor with the Swedish Equality Ombudsman. He is a U.S./Swedish lawyer who has been working on discrimination in Sweden and Europe for many years. He is closely involved in various city and national government networks on best practices in tackling discrimination and promoting equality. He has experience as a civil servant, NGO activist, local politician, and lawyer.

Simon Woolley (Chair)

Simon Woolley is cofounder and director for Operation Black Vote, the first comprehensive campaign to focus exclusively on the black and minority democratic deficit in the United Kingdom. He is a board member at the Equality and Human Rights Commission and sits on the Children’s Commission panel looking at school expulsions. He has initiated two successful government task forces: REACH, which looks at why some black youth are alienated, and Harriet Harman’s BME Gender Committee, which looks at ways to improve political representation for black and minority ethnic women.

Woolley is a regular contributor to the Guardian’s Comment is Free website and also writes for the Guardian and the Independent newspapers. He is a regular contributor to African, Caribbean, and Asian press, and hosts his own political radio program.