Text by Christine H. Christensen, Student CCG, AAU
Photo by Liene Ulmane, Student Assistant, Center for Displacement, Migration and Integration (MIX)
I was attending the MIX conference “Displacement, migration and integration - out of the silo” on June 7, 2023. The day’s speeches and debates were centered around two important topics: how climate change affects migration and what to do about it, how immigrants experience their access to public services and welfare and what needs changing here. To enlighten us on these topics and struggles were multiple researchers from AAU.
Steffen Bo Jensen, Professor, Dep. of Politics and Society, AAU presented his research about immigrants’ access to the processes in welfare states. He told that one of his findings were that the digitalization of the system had an impact on the immigrant’s access. Some experienced problems connected to the digital system. Also other people were aware of this experience, and in the project EASYRIGHT: Enabling immigrants to easily know and exercise their rights, Nicola Morelli and Maria Vitaller del Olmo, from Dep. of Architecture, Design and Media Technology, AAU wanted to work on a design that made it easier for immigrants to access the services and bureaucratic processes of the state they came to. To make this design they emphasized the importance of including immigrants in the design process. Just as Jensen presented for us, they knew that it was the immigrant’s experiences that were important for this design. The research done by Jensen highlighted a problem, and while Morelli and del Olmo wanted to make a design to counteract this problem, they knew that they had to start their research elsewhere than the “making” of the design. This shows that Jensen’s approach and methods were good at uncovering issues and that Morelli and del Olmo could be inspired by this approach for their design.
Henning Sten Hansen, Professor, Dep. of Planning, AAU, and Eric Nestor Diop Lanciné, Associate Professor, Dep. of Politics and Society, AAU told us about the research project FUME: Future migration scenarios for Europe. In this project, Hansen had been working on modelling how the migration flow in Europe might look like if climate changes increase the global temperature. Meanwhile, Lanciné had done field research in Senegal, investigating the causes of migration. It was found that most migration was due to people leaving a “desperate situation” – and as Lanciné formulated it “most of the time they [the migrants] don’t have a plan”. The field research done by Lanciné, a Politics and Society professor, supported Hansen’s, a Planning professor, work. Hansen described that he mostly worked with quantitative data in the modelling process, while Lanciné worked with qualitative interviews. This combination of different approaches and cooperation across research departments provided the project with ideas about the future as well as understandings of the causes and hence possible solutions to future issues. If Hansen had worked alone, we might not have known what to do about the predicted migration flow, and if Lanciné had worked alone we might not have been aware of the impact of migration on a global level. What comes from this project is not only knowledge about migration flows and causes and consequences, but also an awareness of the importance of working across faculties and specialities.
This importance was further highlighted as Birgitte Bak-Jensen, Professor, AAU Energy, AAU, provided us with a technical solution as to how it might be possible to keep living in areas affected by climate change and to prevent further changes with the right technology. In this way, climate changes will affect migration differently. If technical solutions can prevent a “desperate situation” we would probably experience a decrease in migration. My point here is that Hansen and Lanciné were able to shed light on the migration situation as it is and might be and predict and uncover struggles and issues related to this. Without their research, Bak-Jensen would not have been able to know what technologies were needed, and without Bak-Jensen’s research, Hansen and Lanciné would not be able to change the course. The main takeaway from the MIX conference was for me not only interesting and important research on specific topics but also a call for more research and events across departments and disciplines. As one of the hosts expressed the departments are so far from each other, that finding the speakers for the event was actually a struggle because although everyone was working within the same research topic, they did not know each other prior to the event.
So, whether you work in social sciences, planning, politics or with technical engineering you are needed. Even more importantly your colleagues are needed and together it is possible to find the solutions to the struggles of the world. But without each other, each department would be lacking important and crucial knowledge. Remember to reach out and stay curious about other research strategies than the one you are working on, engage across fields and learn from each other. This seems to be the message behind the MIX event, and I hope more people and researchers will be inspired.