Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences

Diversity in Urban Areas

The minor entitled Diversity in Urban Areas addresses the important role of social workers in finding ways to mitigate the processes of social polarization and withdrawal by addressing the problems and challenges that affect vulnerable groups, such as poverty, by reinforcing strategies for coping and resilience, by stimulating social cohesion (bonding and bridging) and by helping to strengthen civil society.

One factor that is linked to all social tensions is the power struggle between established groups and outsiders or newcomers. This has an effect at the social, economic or cultural levels. It impacts on the social cohesion and connectedness between individuals and groups as well as their social capital.

At the same time, due to global developments, people have more choices to make than ever before and there is also more uncertainty to deal with. Our society has become a ‘risk society’, making it more complex and challenging for individuals and groups to develop the social skills they need to hold their own. Citizens must learn to find a balance in how they represent themselves and how they wish to be seen in relation to others in a society that is more socially sensitive than ever. It is in this context that social workers have to deal with day-to-day complexity. A socially sensitive society is more difficult for those who lack the desired social skills and values.

Urban life is challenging and complicated, and today our cities are larger and more populated than ever. Due to differences in cultural and religious backgrounds, and in behaviour and interests, mutual tolerance between (groups of) people can suffer. Tolerance is also diminishing because people no longer rely on one another as they did in the past.

Differences between people are not always easy to deal with and people sometimes have a tendency to limit their interaction to those who look, act and believe in the same way as they do themselves. Consequently they may retreat into ‘their own group’. This occurs primarily through exclusion mechanisms and a lack of skills and opportunities for civic participation, and it can often result in misunderstandings, conflict and tensions within neighbourhoods, or between residents who are using facilities in public areas. Living, working and socializing can lead to polarization and a break-down in communication between groups. In a risk society, people often seek their identity in closed endogamous networks (with strong ties), while the weak ties needed to connect with those outside their environment are poorly developed.

  • Social work / (Super)diversity
  • Inclusion / Social cohesion / Social capital
  • Exclusion / Discrimination / White privilege
  • Multiple identities / Emancipation / Empowerment / Gender
  • Intercultural communication / Ethnicity / Cultural relativism
  • Democracy / Public space / Human rights

  • The student can analyse the problems and situations that he or she ascertains in relation to diversity and the coexistence of clients and groups in the city. He or she can justify this analysis using the central concepts and theoretical principles studied.
  • The student can assess knowledge using mandatory and additional resources and assess its relevance and usability in research carried out in the city on the theme of diversity, and he or she can use these resources when suggesting solutions to promote social cohesion.
  • The student can promote intercultural communication in conversations with third parties from an intersectional perspective.
  • The student can develop, formulate and substantiate his or her own vision of diversity based on knowledge and reflection in the context of the profession, and linked to contemporary social developments.
  • The student can identify factors that cause or alleviate problems with regard to social exclusion that affect groups of clients or groups in society. He or she can address and discuss these signals through any other chosen means of communication in order to promote social cohesion and/or raise social capital, keeping in mind the promotion of intercultural communication.
  • The student can identify the values, standards, beliefs, customs and taboos, both his or her own and those others, and relate this knowledge to personal and occupational actions and consequences.

Lectures address theoretical orientation. Workshops train skills and capacity for reflection. Field trips are made to neighbourhoods and organizations.

The minor will take place in the first semester (academic year 2020-2021). It will be divided into two periods of ten weeks each. 

The course will consist of two full days of classes (235 contact hours over 20 weeks). The rest of the week will be used to carry out research and a range of projects.

Open question examination, essay, blog and research paper. Attendance and participation are obligatory. A pass must be achieved in all parts.

The minor is open to students from all academic backgrounds. However, it is important to realize that the focus will be on the field of social work.

The language of tuition will be English (CEFR level B2).

Total: 25 students.

This will be a mix of students from the Netherlands and universities abroad.

Murat Gunduz, Saskia Maarsen, Norbert Bussink, Samme Grunfeld, Joep Holten.

Published by  Communication 12 March 2020