Kajal Sanghrajka, director of Growth Hub Global and Churchill Fellow, traveled to Austria, Canada, Finland and the USA to study effective migrant integration through entrepreneurship. Her report, “How do cities attract and integrate high skilled immigrant entrepreneurs?” is now available onlineSanghrajka, an entrepreneur herself, spoke with TRIEC about what led her to this latest project as a Churchill Fellow and insights from her research.

TRIEC: How did your proposal to the Churchill Fellowship take shape?
Kajal Sanghrajka: I have been involved in the topic of immigrant entrepreneurship for some time. However, the political climate of 2016 spurred me into action again. I knew that I needed to shift the narrative from one of destructive myths to one rooted in facts, but didn’t yet know how.

By chance, I came across the Churchill Trust after a visit to Blenheim Palace, the home of Winston Churchill, two days before the application deadline. I wrote the proposal the same day on why, especially in light of Brexit, it was important to shift to a more positive and fact based narrative on the contributions of immigrant entrepreneurs. I also wanted to research how we can better nurture immigrant entrepreneurial talent to create economic benefits for all residents, regardless of where they were born.

TRIEC: How are the cities you’ve visited in your research similar, and what differences are you seeing in why making immigrant entrepreneurism economic growth priorities?
Kajal Sanghrajka: Every city has devoted resources to attracting global entrepreneurs and providing tools to launch their businesses. This is often through a combination of accelerators, grants, entrepreneurial visas, and so on. The differences are in the ways those entrepreneurial ecosystems were built. Some are a very cohesive unit between local government and successful entrepreneurs, others are operating in silos, which limits progress. If successful, founders are part of the political process. They will highlight the importance of having international talent to grow their companies. Berlin is a good example of a very cohesive system.

All cities, however, know that with a backdrop of declining and aging populations, attracting the best entrepreneurial talent and job creators is a priority to maintain economic growth. Competition to attract the best is fierce because the economic stakes for a city are so high.

TRIEC: How did you learn about TRIEC, and what inspired you to reach out to us?
Kajal Sanghrajka: Cities of Migration had a few reports on best practices in immigration and Toronto was highlighted several times. TRIEC was one of the organizations mentioned and it was a natural fit with my research on how cities effectively attract and integrate immigrant entrepreneurs and professionals. TRIEC had a number of programs I was interested in understanding in more detail.

TRIEC: How do you see the importance of intercultural competence attracting international talent to a city?
Kajal Sanghrajka: Through my work at Growth Hub over the past few years, I have been supporting companies with market expansions with a focus on the U.S. Time and again I have seen a lack of cultural competence to be a key point of market entry failure. It is often an overlooked but significant factor in the success of both the entrepreneur and the host country in creating economic benefits.

After traveling to several cities, that observation has been solidified further. If a city’s culture is not open to new people and new ways of thinking, policies to attract talent will hit a ceiling. Today’s entrepreneurs are attracted by diversity and global thinking. No one is interested in homogeneity. It doesn’t allow great companies to be born and to thrive. This is why London and New York have traditionally been such important entrepreneurial hubs.

Much of this variance stems from whether the city has had a history of immigration; typically, the longer the history, the higher the intercultural competence. Those cities where immigration is a new phenomenon have a steeper learning curve.

TRIEC: What piqued your interest when Anna told you about the intercultural competence assessment tool, the “Intercultural Development Inventory” (IDI)?
Kajal Sanghrajka: Understanding someone’s culture means that you understand their values, beliefs, norms and attitudes. The idea that there was a tool that could facilitate this understanding and measure it was incredible to me. More so, because I have experienced the massive benefits in business if you embrace new cultures and the costs if you exclude them. If IDI can help to educate both the immigrant and country’s businesses, they stand to gain much greater benefit from new and existing immigrants.

It was a real pleasure to speak with Kajal, and hear about the project she is undertaking. Click here to check out her report – “How do cities attract and integrate high skilled immigrant entrepreneurs?”

You can read about her journeys as she explored this topic on her Medium blog.