Participation of Ethnic Minorities in Politics Phase 1: Exploring the Issue and Framing the Challenge

A community-led approach to exploring the issue and framing the challenge

Virtual Place


Start: 01.06.2022
End: 30.06.2023


Cork Migrant Centre

Irish political representation does not match its diverse society. The issue of political participation and representation at local, regional, national and European level by migrants, ranging from the youth to older adults, is key in bringing about transformative change towards holistic inclusion of ethnic minorities in Irish and European society. In this context, recognising ethnic minorities as change makers is essential. A Cork CityLab Challenge focussing on ‘Diversity, Inclusion and Political Participation’ aims to explore this issue collaboratively with local stakeholders and European partners, towards co-creating and implementing solutions of local and European relevance. Cork Migrant Centre is lead community partner for this UNIC CityLab Challenge in Cork.

The approach aims to nurture a deep and sustained partnership with civil society organisation Cork Migrant Centre.

The identification of the Challenge was developed with lead community Partner, Cork Migrant Centre. Meetings between Community Partner Cork Migrant Centre and CityLabs took place throughout 2021. The specific challenge area was informed by Cork Migrant Centre’s ongoing engagement and work with Cork City of Sanctuary, University of Sanctuary and collaborative projects and actions that have taken place across the City and University focussing on aspects of political participation and empowerment of migrant communities. Specifically an information-sharing event for migrants, political Party representatives and migrant interest groups, held in Cork in 2018 and organized by a consortium of migrant interest groups, had demonstrated both a need and an appetite for tackling issues and barriers to political participation for migrant and ethnic minority groups. The topic was considered an area that CityLabs could bring unique value add, connecting across existing grassroots, City and University networks and activities in Cork and across our European alliance.

Community Led

The first activities were deliberately designed to focus on citizen and CSO stakeholders with an ambition to engage University stakeholder (i.e. students/academic/researchers) and wider City Stakeholders at later stages.

Early discussions established that it was critical that the views and voice of ethnic minorities should be central to leading and driving this CityLabs Challenge in particular. It was agreed that the challenge dialogue be led by migrant and ethnic minorities via the CSOs in Cork that support and represent them. A participatory approach was therefore embedded from the outset and a Civil Society Organisation (CSO) Advisory Group established.

The community-led and co-designed approach to this CityLab resulted in a series of co-deisng meetings around developing and delivering CityLab activities, exploring the issues and specific challenges. The in-depth model involved:

  • A series of 8 Advisory Group Co-Design Meetings
  • A public Conversation Café workshop (online): ‘Ethnic Minorities Participating in Policy Decision Making: Why so Few?’ held in January 2022.
  • A Research Internship and production of a Research Report

Challenge Lead Community Partner: Dr. Naomi Masheti, Cork Migrant Centre

Community Advisory Group:

  • Amanullah de Sondy, UCC Academic Lead; NASC (Irish Immigrant Support Centre Board Member)
  • Lekha Margassery, UCC Academic; Indian Community Support Group, Social Worker.
  • Fionnuala O’Connell, UCC Student; Cork Migrant Centre (Youth Project)
  • Cecilia Amabo, NASC (Irish Immigrant Support Centre)
  • Sylvia Wobo, Cork Migrant Centre & Education Training Board
  • Roos Demol, Recruit Refugees
  • Jeanette Taku, Vision Community Support Services
  • Cecilia Gomez, Mexican Community in Cork
  • Joanna Dukkipati, Think-Speak-Do
  • Nural Hagi, Karti Project
  • Yuwu Shan, Chinese Community
  • Ewa Ikwanty, Together Razeem
  • Remi Kolawole, African Day Group
  • Abul Barkoumi, Syrian Community
  • Joseph Ndegwa, Business Community

The Conversation Cafe was attended by 83 participants - all attended as an ethnic minority in, and a migrant to, Cork. The events promotional flyer was produced with event description provided in 7 languages: English, Arabic, Spanish, Swahili, Urdu, Hindi and French. Supporting audio/videos were produced in 5 languages: Spanish, Urdu, Swahili, Arabic and French.

Translators were arranged to support language needs as identified through the registration process and during the workshop.

Some high level insights from the co-design process:

Isolation and Solidarity

Engaging participants from diverse ethnic minority and migrant group highlighted the wide and diverse range of experiences, challenges and potential barriers to political participation. Asylum seekers have a starkly different experience than perhaps an economic migrant. A sense of isolation however emerges as a common experience even as many (not all) refer to feeling ‘welcome’. The importance and value of solidarity comes through as a central theme.

Diversity of Needs

In the development and delivery of the workshop, the diverse needs and experience of different migrant groups was both identified and experienced. This included consideration for age inclusivity, engaging youth and older people, language barriers, barriers for women including childcare, barriers to digital engagement and the diverse cultural norms of different groups.

Political Participation

The term ‘political participation’ was explored. Discussion points include among other things, consideration of issues around political awareness – within both migrant communities and the awareness of migrant rights within the political system, voting and/or running for election, political activism through civic activity, participation and integration in local community and civil society and systemic racism. Understanding the lived experience and diverse needs of the migrant populations, including language, levels of awareness and levels of confidence and empowerment is central to defining the challenges, issues or barriers to be addressed and to engage with them around topic area.

Integration, Information and Awareness

Issues and challenges emerge around information and awareness in relation to navigation and participation in the political system, as well as participation in civil society such as knowing your rights or accessing services or pathways to employment, education. Language is a key barrier to finding information and integration. Participation with local community activities supports integration.

Race and racism

Systemic race and racism is a critical and central conversation for the City. Platforms to amplify the voices of ethnic minorities are needed. There is also a need to ensure marginalised voices do not self-silence in wider stakeholder engagement processes due to power imbalances.

Direct Provision

Additional and specific barriers and issues exist for those living in Direct Provision in Ireland requiring targeted measures.


  • A workshop at the CityLabs Festival in Oulu in June 2022 will connect delegates from across the 10 UNIC cities and Universities, that either work with or have personal experience of this phenomenon to explore this challenge and consider opportunities to connect across our European cities for learning, exhcnage and collaborative action.
  • A Research Report will be developed and launched locally in Cork 2023 in partnerhisp with CSO partners and will explore opportunities to co-create and collaboratively implement soltuions and actions in response to the detailed findings.


UNIC CityLabs

Type of Case

participatory design

Organizing unic universities

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