Santa Maria da Feira: Results of the Intercultural Cities Index
Date: October 2016
A comparison between 81 cities[1]


The Intercultural Cities is a Council of Europe flagship programme. It seeks to explore the potential of an intercultural approach to integration in communities with culturally diverse populations. The cities participating in the programme are reviewing their governance, policies, discourse and practices from an intercultural point of view. In the past, this review has taken the form of narrative reports and city profiles – a form which was rich in content and detail. However, narrative reports alone were relatively weak as tools to monitor and communicate progress. Thus, an “Intercultural City Index” has been designed as a benchmarking tool for the cities taking part in the programme as well as for future participants.

As of today 81 cities have undergone their intercultural policies analysis using the Intercultural City Index: Amadora (Portugal), Arezzo (Italy), Ballarat (Australia), Barcelona (Spain), Beja (Portugal), Bergen (Norway), Bilbao (Spain), Botkyrka (Sweden), Braga (Portugal),  Bucharest (Romania), Campi Bisenzio (Italy), Cartagena (Spain), Casalecchio di Rena (Italy), Castellón (Spain), Catalonia (Spain), Coimbra (Portugal), Comune di Ravenna (Italy), Constanta (Romania), Copenhagen (Denmark), Donostia-San Sebastian[2] (Spain), Dortmund (Germany), Dublin (Ireland), Duisburg (Germany), Erlangen (Germany), Forli (Italy), Fucecchio (Italy), Fuenlabrada (Spain), Geneva (Switzerland), Genoa (Italy), Getxo (Spain), Haifa(Israel), Hamburg (Germany), Ioannina (Greece), Izhevsk (Udmart Republic, Russia), Jerez de la Frontera (Spain), the London borough of Lewisham (United Kingdom), Limassol (Cyprus), Limerick (Irland), Lisbon (Portugal), Lodi (Italy), Logroño (Spain), Lublin (Poland), Melitopol (Ukraine), Mexico City (Mexico), Montreal (Canada), Munich (Germany), the canton of Neuchâtel (Switzerland), Neukölln (Berlin, Germany), Novellara (Italy), Offenburg (Germany), Olbia (Italy), Oslo (Norway), the district of Osmangazi in the province of Bursa (Turkey), Parla (Spain) Patras (Greece), Pécs (Hungary), Pryluky (Ukraine), Reggio Emilia (Italy), Reykjavik (Iceland), Rijeka (Croatia), Rotterdam (the Netherlands), Sabadell (Spain), San Giuliano Terme (Italy), Santa Coloma (Spain), Santa Maria da Feira (Portugal), Unione dei Comuni-Savignano sul Rubicone[3] (Italy), Sechenkivsky (District of Kyiv, Ukraine), Senigallia (Italy), Stavanger (Norwey), Strasbourg (France), Subotica (Serbia), Sumy (Ukraine), Tenerife (Spain), Tilburg (The Netherlands), Turin (Italy), Turnhout (Belgium), Unione Terre dei Castelli[4] (Italy), Valletta (Malta), Västerås (Sweden), Vinnitsa(Ukraine) and Zurich (Switzerland).

Among these cities, 44 (including Santa Maria) have less than 200,000 inhabitants and 47 (including Santa Maria) have less than 15% of foreign-born residents.

This document presents the results of the Intercultural City Index analysis for Santa Maria da Feira (Portugal) in 2016 and provides related intercultural policy conclusions and recommendations.

Intercultural city definition

The intercultural city has people with different nationality, origin, language or religion/ belief. Political leaders and most citizens regard diversity positively, as a resource. The city actively combats discrimination and adapts its governance, institutions and services to the needs of a diverse population. The city has a strategy and tools to deal with diversity and cultural conflict. It encourages greater mixing and interaction between diverse groups in the public spaces.


The Intercultural City Index analysis is based on a questionnaire involving 73 questions grouped in 11 indicators with three distinct types of data. Indicators have been weighed for relative importance. For each indicator, the participating cities can reach up to 100 points (which are consolidated for the general ICC Index).

These indicators comprise: commitment; education system; neighbourhoods; public services; business and labour market; cultural and civil life policies; public spaces; mediation and conflict resolution; language; media; international outlook; intelligence/competence; welcoming and governance. Some of these indicators - education system; neighbourhoods; public services; business and labour market; cultural and civil life policies; public spaces are grouped in a composite indicator called “urban policies through the intercultural lens” or simply “intercultural lens”.

The comparison between cities is strictly indicative, given the large difference between cities in terms of historical development; type and scale of diversity, governance models and level of economic development. The comparison is based on a set of formal criteria related to the intercultural approach in urban policies and intended only as a tool for benchmarking, to motivate cities to learn from good practice.

Taking into account the above-mentioned differences between the cities and a growing number of new cities willing to join the Intercultural Cities Index, it has been decided to compare the cities not only within the entire sample, but also according to specific criteria. Two of these have been singled out insofar: the size (above or below 200,000 inhabitants) and the percentage of foreign-born residents (higher or lower than 15 per cent). It is believed that this approach would allow for more valid and useful comparison, visual presentation and filtering of the results.

According to the overall index results, Santa Maria da Feira has been positioned 66th among the 81 cities in the sample, with an aggregate intercultural city index of 45%, after Cartagena (46%) and before Beja (45%). Santa Maria da Feira has been ranked 34th among cities with less than 200,000 inhabitants and 33rd among cities with less than 15% of foreign-born residents.



Santa Maria da Feira – An overview

Santa Maria da Feira is a Portuguese municipality located in the district of Aveiro, in the northwest of the country. Together with Santa Maria, the municipality comprehends two more cities: Fiães and Lourosa.

Economically, the city of Santa Maria is important for its cork transforming and shoe factories. Whereas historically, it is known for its medieval castle which was the residence of the first king of Portugal Alfonso Henriques. This historic background gave birth to a medieval festival that brings back the city to the Middle Ages. 

According to the 2011 census, the municipality counts a total of 139.312 inhabitants, out of which 1.033 people (hence the 0,74% of total population) have a foreign background. Furthermore, the questionnaire indicates that the majority ethnic groups are Brazilians (0,26%) and Ukrainians (0,21%).

The Purchasing Power for Santa Maria in 2013 was the 84,7% whereas in Portugal for the same year was the 100,00%.

1.   Commitment


The optimal intercultural city strategy would involve a formal statement by local authorities sending an unambiguous message of the city's commitment to intercultural principles as well as actively engaging and persuading other key local stakeholders to do likewise.

Santa Maria’s rate in the area of Commitment is considerably higher than the city sample. In fact, while the Portuguese city scored the 86%, the city sample scored the 72%.

The city has formally and publically stated its participation in the Intercultural Cities network and has adopted an integration strategy program establishing a Department whose aim is to encourage intercultural integration. This department is called “Social Action and Quality of Life Division and Presidency – CLAIM[5]: local center to Support the integration of migrants”. In order to facilitate immigrants’ integration into the municipality, the city in 2002 created a project called “Project for Fighting Poverty”. The same year, the city promoted the EQUAL project, whose objectives are the promotion of social inclusion in the Portuguese society and the professional integration of migrants in the shoe industry (through a partnership with the Development Footwear Technology Centre, a private company, and a non-profit social Institution, the Associação Pelo Prazer de Viver).

In 2005, the city created the Association of Immigrants called Druzhba and the following year Santa Maria joined the Platform on Immigrant Hosting and Integration Policies strengthening the connections between minorities and the municipality. Ever since then, the city has been very active in the promotion of social inclusion, for instance promoting business investments in the countries of origin of migrants. Lastly, the city in 2016 joined the RMAD, a network of municipalities friends of migrants and diversity.

The city has allocated an annual budget for the implementation of the intercultural strategy and it comprehends several festivals and initiatives. For example, it includes the activities CLAIM and GACE and the events: Medieval Journey and IMAGINARIUS (the largest street art festival in Portugal).

Positively, public speeches often refer to the intercultural commitment during public meetings and assemblies. The city stays connected with its inhabitants through social networks (i.e. Facebook) and the official municipality website; these useful tools allow inhabitants and newcomers to find information about the municipality. In the official webpage, Santa Maria da Feira de Feira states:

The Municipality’s relationship with its emigrant and immigrant diaspora is fundamental for attracting a young, highly qualified population that can contribute for the Municipality’s economic growth, by applying ethnic knowledge, diversified skills, entrepreneurship and inherent competences. Santa Maria da Feira acknowledges that diversity is an advantage that can improve productivity, creativity, innovation and efficiency in companies and cities[6]

The city has a dedicated body responsible to implement intercultural strategies and in order to strengthen the feeling of self-confidence and openness to ensure peace and mutual understanding the city has organized ceremonies and activities to encourage interculturalism. In fact, since 2009 Santa Maria da Feira Social Network promotes the Awards Solidarity, which aims to honor organizations or institutions which, by their actions, innovations and good practices contribute to the promotion of cohesion and social development of the municipality.

The city could combine the Awards Solidarity with the good practice carried out in Genoa where the Institute of Research MEDI, specialized in migration and interculturality, organizes an award called “Premio Mondi Migranti” (Migrating Worlds’ Award). This prize is awarded to personalities who have had a positive impact on issues related to migration, globalization and intercultural relations.

Furthermore, Santa Maria da Feira could consider following Ballarat’s initiative of establishing a Multicultural Ambassadors’ Program (MAP) that establishes a strong link between Council and the multicultural Community. In fact, Multicultural Ambassadors will implement special projects in line with Council’s People and Communities Division strategic goals, they will be champions for their existing communities and will engage citizens’ participation in workplaces, interest, social, religious and recreation groups, as well as in schools and community groups. To the present date, a total of 50 Multicultural Ambassadors have been appointed by the Council to the said role.    

2. Education[7] policies through an intercultural lens

School has a powerful influence in society and has the potential to either reinforce or challenge prejudices in a number of ways through the social environment it creates, the guidance it provides and the values it nurtures.

The analysis shows that Santa Maria da Feira’s education policy achievement rate is the 50%, lower than the city sample rate of 66%.

In most primary schools, children are of the same ethnic background, and teacher’s ethnic backgrounds rarely mirror pupils’. On the bright side, most schools make strong efforts to enhance parents’ participation in the education system. For example, schools try to include the Romani Community in Argoncilhe. In order to increase parents’ participation, perhaps schools could try to communicate with parents in their mother tongue, perhaps handing out flyers or with the support of translators.

However, schools often carry out intercultural projects. One of this project is called “The school we have & the school we want”, funded by the European Union, directed to school management members, members of the general councils, department coordinators, cycle coordinators, teachers of the subject areas of mathematics, teachers wishing to develop ICT, foreign language teachers and special education teachers.

Another great project is IOS - Improving Our Skills that aims to achieve the following objectives:

·         Contribute to training the staff of the Adult Education and Training;

·          Focusing on strategic training for their management and direction of middle management and teachers in order to obtain up more enhancers changing results;

·         Empower organizations and their employees, for the acquisition and consolidation of skills in the adult education, European citizenship, intercultural, employment and community development;       

·         Improve the level of fundamental skills and abilities, particularly as regards its relevance to the labor market and its contribution to a cohesive society, in particular by increasing mobility opportunities in learning and by strengthening cooperation between the world of education and training and the world of work;

·         Promoting language skills;     

·         Disseminate international best practices, creating dynamic sites likely to generate innovation, opportunity, and quality projects for the community and audiences.

Unfortunately, schools in Santa Maria do not have a policy to increase cultural/ethnic mixing in schools.

In order to improve this field, the municipality could be inspired by Genoa’s initiatives. In Genoa, in fact, schools organize a wide range of activities: The Christmas markets, where children can do arts and crafts, old clothes and various items are sold for charity. The organization called Daneo organizes music classes, sportive activities and other extracurricular activities together with various volunteering activities. Moreover, two choirs have been successfully established.

Another excellent initiative comes from the Australian city of Ballarat and it is called “Racism: it stops with me” created by Councilor Belinda Coates. The campaign invites all Australian to reflect on what they can do to encounter racism whenever it may happen. Similarly, the Intercultural City of Erlangen organizes the network “Schulen ohne Rassimus – Schulen mit Courage” (schools without racism – schools with courage). This network is the biggest school association in Germany and comprehend more than 1.000 schools, all of them with the same purpose: discourage any form of racism or discrimination. Throughout the year, schools carry out projects and events aiming to enhance social inclusion raising awareness on this delicate topic. Another similar initiative comes from Reggio Emilia (Italy) and it is called “Due calci al razzismo” (2 kicks against racism). This the sports event (5-a-side football) is organised every year in November at the Palazzetto dello Sport. Organised since 2006 in collaboration with sports associations (Uisp). Participants include representatives from the various minority communities, the police force, Italian and/or foreign women, disabled individuals, local administrators, youth from secondary schools etc.

3. Neighbourhood policies through an intercultural lens[8]       

An intercultural city does not require a “perfect statistical mix" of people and recognises the value of geographical proximity and bonding between people of the same ethnic background. However, it also recognises that spatial ethnic segregation creates risks of exclusion and can act as a barrier to an inward and outward free flow of people, ideas and opportunities.

Santa Maria’s neighbourhood policy indicators are the 50%, lower than the city sample’s rate of 63%.

In the city there are no areas where people from a minority ethnic group represent the majority of residents and, as the questionnaire states, the municipality doesn’t need to promote activities to mix citizens from different areas. Equally, the city does not have a policy to increment the diversity of residents in the neighbourhoods.

However, it might be worth remembering that even if at the moment the population is equally distributed in the city, the situation might change. It would be a good idea if the municipality could start organizing activities to increment the diversity of residents in the neighbourhoods. For instance, in order to avoid ethnic concentration and to encourage social cohesion, Santa Maria da Feira could follow Limassol’s example where The Euromed Festival aims to gather people together through folkloristic dancing and exhibitions. Another activity carried out in Limassol is the “Social Work on the Road” programme that started in 2010 and since then it aims to prevent criminality, especially among young people. This programme follows the following steps:

-      Raise awareness on the danger of drug and alcohol abuse

-      Psychological support, e.g. prevent teenagers from dropping school, family support

-      Fight against unemployment

Alternatively, Parla’s “Equipo de Mediación Vecinal” (team of local mediation) is responsible for the organization of events and meetings. Moreover, the “Equipo” offers a safe and welcoming place where all the citizens can talk and share their problems and/or concerns while getting to know each other creating connections. In addition, the team enhances the link between new/developing areas (such as Barrio de Parla Este) with more “aged” districts.

Many initiatives can be implemented to bring people together, it is important to ensure that all generations, cultures and genders are equally involved in the integration process. For this reason, the Portuguese city could look up at the Villa centre in the city of Erlangen. This centre is an intercultural meeting place for people of all ages and backgrounds that offers an extensive programme that comprehends a wide range of events: Sunday brunches, juggling and painting, women conversation groups, etc. For the youngest the centre organizes the Universal Children’s Day where children will have fun in the city playground.

4. Public service policies through an intercultural lens  



An optimal intercultural approach remains open to new ideas, dialogue and innovation brought by or required by minority groups, rather than imposing a “one size fits all" approach to public services and actions.

Santa Maria da Feira’s public service is the 45%, only one point higher than the city sample, whose rate is the 44%.

The ethnic background of public employees does not reflect the composition of the city's population and the city does not have a recruitment plan. We warmly recommend the city to introduce a plane to increase migrant/minority representation at higher hierarchical levels.

Positively, non-Portuguese people can be employed in public administration and the municipality takes action to encourage mixing in the private sector. For instance, the Municipality is involved in the project Casa dos Choupos, a Multisectorial Solidarity that takes care of international relations and comprehends the ALPE (the Local Agency in favour of Employment and Financial department).

Santa Maria provides funeral sevices and burial areas to suit the different needs of its multi-religious community. However, the city should guarantee the offer of the following services: Schools’ canteens should provide different meals to mirror pupils’ alimentary needs and sportive facilities should have women-only time schedules in order to suit the needs of women with specific necessities. For instance, in Erlangen, the BIG-Projekt fosters intercultural sporting engagement and there are female-only swimming days in the public swimming pools.

Santa Maria might wish to look up to Barcelona that has the objective to promote mutual acknowledgement, interaction and exchange through intercultural subsidies, such as festivals (also adopting migrants’ holidays), art exhibitions and workshops, etc. For what concerns sports, Barcelona facilitates the inclusion of boys and girls in regulated sports, promoting changes in current legislation that may hinder the participation of foreign youngsters. It promotes projects based on sport that encourage interaction between young people from different origins, especially in the urban areas that have the biggest immigrant populations and the highest risk of isolation or segregation.

Another example comes from the Spanish city of Getxo that organizes a Street Culture Day to promote social cohesion and encourage immigrants' integration through sportive activities; combined to this, the International Folk Festival, where music promotes interaction between people from different cultural backgrounds, celebrating cultural diversity with folk music.

5. Business and labour market policies through an intercultural lens