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Working paper Open Access

Gaining additional value from diversity in project partnership and stakeholder engagement: The MIrreM conceptual framework. MIrreM Working Paper 1/2023

Cyrus, Norbert

MIrreM is a Coordination and Support Action commissioned to produce a handbook on the improvement of measuring irregular migration as well as a handbook on regularisation – two hitherto loosely connected policy domains. The project consortium unites a wide range of partners from research and civil society and involves external stakeholders in a collaborative manner – each from discrete professional fields with specific expertise. The implementation of project purposes occurs in independent but nested work packages and tasks – among the analysis of political handling of irregular migration issues, the inventory and advancement of data in irregular migration and the characteristics of migrants in an irregular situation, and the design of policy options that offer a way out of an irregular situation. Obviously, the MIrreM mission is exciting and supporting policy changes in the highly contested field of irregular migration governance.

Considering the diversity of involved actors and the heterogeneity of pursued purposes, this paper formulates a common conceptual framework that serves the goal of providing an orientation to reach a shared understanding of the project mission and a common conceptual alignment. At the same time, the paper aims to sensitize for the ambiguities and the complexity the project partners have to cope with in the implementation of the project’s mission.  The paper identifies five key themes, relevant both for the internal communication within the consortium and for external communication with stakeholders:  

  • A first theme concerns the diversity of purposes, tasks and expertise. An effective way to prevent disintegration is to consciously build an epistemic entanglement between the two issues – partners with expertise on regularisation consider which numbers and statistics are required for this task while partners with expertise on estimates and measurement consider which numbers and statistics are available or can be provided.
  • A second theme concerns a shared basic understanding of the importance and implications of statistical thinking in our times. The concept of statistical thinking critically reflects the pervasive importance of quantification that shape public perception and political decision making and strengthen a tendency towards a governance by numbers. Awareness of the social and political implications of statistical thinking sensitizes for the risks and chances related to aspired changes in the measuring and governance of irregular migration.
  • A third theme concerns the nature of different drivers for change in public policies. MIrreM strives for changes that display distinct features. The improvement of measuring is a first-order change – a variation that occurs within a given system that remains unchanged – while regularisation as a more contested issue display features of a second-order change – a variation whose occurrence changes the system itself - that involves discontinuity and constitute a new direction. As a coordination and support action, MIrreM has to be aware of the complexity and multi-centric nature of political decision making that rarely comply with expectations of rational procedures. In particular in the case of complex issues like irregular migration, changes occur in a situation of urgency as result of non-linear and non-predictable decision making influenced by a situational availability of possible responses. MIrreM aims to develop and make available possibilities for the improvement of measuring irregular migration and implementation of regularisation.
  • A fourth theme concerns the systematic development of policy options. The approach of Critique Guided Designing provides orientation for the development of policy options in highly contested policy fields. Critique Guided Designing entails the development of first-best policy design and systematically collects and reviews reservation in order to re-design a policy option that is technically feasible, politically acceptable and ethically preferable. Consequently, Critique Guided Designing enable as second-best options the identification of incremental steps towards the realization of technically feasible, politically acceptable and ethically preferable policy designs.
  • A fifth theme concerns stakeholder engagement. MIrreM aims to produce the handbooks with stakeholders in a collaborative manner. Findings from stakeholder research indicate that the identification of and communication with stakeholders is an intricate issue and imply also risks. Considering that MIrreM operates in a contested policy field, the paper proposes to complement the classic criteria of stakeholder identification – power, urgency, legitimacy – with expertise and alignment. Stakeholder engagement should be organized with a task-specific orientation that focus in a first stage on the collaborative development of tasks with well-aligned stakeholders and in a second stage on the inclusion of a broader range of stakeholders in critique-guided assessment events.

Finally, the concluding chapter provides a brief summary of the paper, identifying the availability of more and more sophisticated policy options for change in the highly contested policy field of irregular migration governance as the main asset of MIrreM.      

MIrreM Working Paper 1/2023
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