Skip to main content

Integration initiatives are studied on site


María José Zapata Campos

The research programme Organizing Integration examines novel initiatives that aim to support labour market integration of recent refugees and other immigrants. María José Zapata Campos is one of the researchers following closely the everyday practices of these initiatives.

In response to the 2015 refugee crisis, many initiatives were launched by a myriad of actors in order to facilitate the labour market integration of recent refugees and immigrants. The programme Organizing Integration, with researchers from the Gothenburg Research Institute and the Department of Business Administration at the School Business, Economics and Law, the School of Public Administration, Copenhagen Business School and Mistra Urban Futures, is studying how these initiatives are organised in practice.

Gothenburg as an urban laboratory

The programme researchers adopt an ethnographic perspective, to examine the actions of the actors involved in these initiatives in the field over a longer period of time.

– We see Gothenburg as an urban laboratory. Our field work takes place mostly in the suburbs e.g. Hammarkullen, Angered and Biskopsgården. We go where the actors go, trying to understand what they are doing and the challenges they are facing. The idea is not to come up with a finished solution, nor is it to just make a critical review but also to discuss and reflect together and disseminate knowledge of challenges and success factors, says María José Zapata Campos.

Entrepreneurship as an integration method

One of the initiatives followed by the researchers is One Stop Future Shop at Vårväderstorget in Biskopsgården. One Stop Future Shop is a form of business incubator with a focus on vulnerable groups.

– People with a foreign background are underrepresented among entrepreneurs in Sweden. That’s a shame, since there are many newly arrived and other immigrants with both drive and experience. In this regard, the work of One Stop Future Shop is important. These groups also suffer of financial discrimination, as previous research shows how vulnerable groups end up borrowing money in worse terms. This is how we researchers can become better at acting through our research, by for example bringing together representatives from banks and other actors involved, presenting our research and showing opportunities by not missing out on a market, says María José Zapata Campos.

Important to diffuse good initiatives

There are close to 150 different initiatives in the Gothenburg region, trying to tackle the issue of labour market integration. Many of them are innovative and successful, although they still have difficulty in becoming permanent.

– There are projects working really well, which have even won awards, but which still find it difficult to stabilize into permanent structures. Finding and organising solutions that work, and then not mobilising the resources to make them permanent is a waste of money, time and potential. The initiators have to invest a lot of time and energy in looking for funding for the next project. The challenge is to scale up such ideas. Doing nothing is not an option, says María José Zapata Campos.

Great interest in the research programme

Already when Organizing Integration presented their research programme in May 2017, there was a lot of interest among politicians, officials and industry representatives.

– Now we have been conducting research for a while, and participated in forums where we can share our findings, so that we can contribute to making a difference, says María José Zapata Campos.


Is a cross-disciplinary research programme that aims to investigate the practices involved in the organising of the initiatives intended to facilitate labour market integration of immigrants. Organizing Integration is funded by the research council Forte. The group consists of 16 researchers led by Associate Professor Andreas Diedrich and Associate Professor María José Zapata Campos of the Gothenburg Research Institute and the Department of Business Administration at the School of Business, Economics and Law.