Stakeholder involvement in the policy process of immigrant integration policies: Working together towards effective local immigrant integration policies in the Netherland
Beers, P.A.E. van
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Where the scientific and policy debates surrounding integration policies were before about the definition of integration, the focus has shifted to the effectiveness of integration policies and the way to prove the effectiveness of integration policies (Garibay & de Cuyper, 2017). This paper investigates the extent to which stakeholder involvement in the policy process contributes to the effectiveness of local integration policies in the Netherlands. The goal of this research is to figure out to what extent and if so how stakeholder involvement can influence policy effectiveness in the context of local integration policies. Therefore the following research question was formulated: To what extent does stakeholder involvement in the policy process contribute to the effectiveness of integration policies on the level of the municipalities in the Netherlands? For quite a period of time policymakers at both the national and local level have been trying to figure out what works when it comes to integration policies (Koolmees, 2018). That makes finding out whether stakeholder involvement contributes to the effectiveness of integration policies and which stakeholders are necessary for effective integration policies relevant to examine. The context of this research are three municipalities in the Netherlands with an approach to the integration of refugees with a residence permit that is proven to be effective. The effectiveness of the policies was assessed by looking at evaluation reports and by the use of semi-structured interviews. Scientific literature used for this research is literature on stakeholder involvement, policy effectiveness, governance structures, the policy process and integration policies. Expectations are formulated based on the theoretical findings. Three theoretical mechanisms can be used to argue that stakeholder involvement contributes to policy effectiveness. First, stakeholder involvement can contribute to policy effectiveness by the effects of increasing process inclusivity. Second, stakeholder involvement can contribute to policy effectiveness by the effects of increased diversity of perspectives that are represented in the policy process. Lastly, stakeholder involvement can contribute to policy effectiveness by the increased amount of knowledge and resources shared between stakeholders and the local government. The expectations are tested using a mixed-method qualitative research design, consisting of semi-structured interviews and an analysis of documents. Policy advisors of the three municipalities and stakeholders that are involved in the policy process of the integration policies of the three municipalities were interviewed. The stakeholders that were interviewed work for housing corporations, employment agencies, educational institutions, wellbeing organizations, refugee advocacy organizations, and Community Health Services. A policy makers who works for the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment was interviewed to gather more information and get a better insight into the new national integration law that is currently being designed and will be implemented in 2021. For the document analysis were policy documents, evaluation reports and management reports analysed. These methods were used to gather data about the approaches, the stakeholders involved and the effect of stakeholder involvement on policy effectiveness in the specific contexts that were studied. All of the three municipalities that were studied work together with multiple different stakeholders as part of the approaches that are designed for the integration of refugees with a residence permit within the municipalities. The results show that stakeholder involvement contributes to the effectiveness of local integration policies as perceived by the respondents for multiple reasons. Examples of these reasons are ringing together different kinds of expertise and different knowledge to contribute to reaching a shared goal and by making sure the same work is not done more than once. But working together with different stakeholders within a policy process can also lead to discussions when the different interests and perspectives of the stakeholders do not align.