Rochester receives mixed reviews in a draft report ranking its efforts to become an intercultural city.

“Overall, it is clear that the city government takes many actions to promote intercultural interaction, creation and decision-making,” the report states, “These are typically ad-hoc and not yet in a manner that is coordinated, systematic, consistent, measurably effective, and from which the entire government organization can learn.”

The report provides comparisons to other cities by looking at established policies and practices within the city.

Overall, it shows Rochester with an index ranking of 44 out of 100 points, putting it in 27th place in comparison with 33 other cities in the Council of Europe’s Intercultural Cities Initiative with populations between 100,000 and 200,000.

Rochester became the first U.S. city to participate in the international program when it joined in 2018.

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In announcing the release of the report, Rochester Mayor Kim Norton indicated the initial steps lead toward a new path.

“I am very excited to continue the work of this initiative,” she said. “We have the opportunity to learn from communities that have gone before us, while using a community-focused process that will help ensure that we identify and implement solutions that are right for Rochester.”

The report acknowledges the city’s mayors and Rochester City Council members have expressed a desire to be an intercultural city, but it also indicates more needs to be done, giving the city’s commitment to the effort a score of 35 out of 100 . The average for other cities in the program was 69.

“There does not seem to be any cross-cutting policies or budget that currently support its commitment to cultural inclusion,” the report states. “City government could invest in interculturalism throughout the city budget to better reflect this as a priority and value.”

However, the city headed to the top of the pack in some areas.

While the report indicates the city government falls slightly below average in the diversity of its workforce, the study notes the city’s private employers outperform those in comparable cities. Rochester scored 75, which was higher than the median of 40.

“Rochester’s strengths in this area are predominantly due to private sector-led initiatives led by local and regional organizations, including Diversity Council, Intercultural Mutual Assistance Association, Chamber of Commerce, Destination Medical Center Corporation (DMC), NAACP, Journey 2 Growth; Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation, and the Southeastern Minnesota Workforce Development Board,” the report states.

Diversity Council Executive Director Dee Sabol said continued efforts to improve all rankings will benefit the city.

“There is a proven economic benefit to being an intercultural and inclusive community,” she said. “Attracting and retaining talent is one, a crucial aspect of anticipated growth. We have the ability to collectively come together to creatively address areas of opportunity, while leveraging the support and best practices of other communities across the globe.”

The release of the draft report comes ahead of a planned virtual site visit from representatives from the Council of Europe during the week of Sept. 14.

While led by the Council of Europe, the Intercultural Cities Initiative includes more than 100 cities in Europe, Japan, Korea, Africa, Mexico and Canada, allowing peer reviews of policies, governance and practices in participating cities.

After the virtual visit in September, the next local step will be to seek Rochester City Council acceptance of the report, which is intended to provide a baseline for measuring improvement in efforts to become fully inclusive of and equitable toward all residents and visitors.

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