European Policy Brief

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Tackling Social Exclusion through Social 


Strategy Research Options 

Policy implications of KATARSIS, an EU-funded research 

project involving 20 institutions coordinated by the Global 

Urban Research Unit, Newcastle University, UK.  



October 2009




An inclusive Europe: 

how social innovation 

research can help


Building a more inclusive Europe is vital to achieving the EU's 

goals of sustained growth, more and better jobs and greater 

social cohesion. At a time when inequality and exclusion are 

on the increase, they must be tackled through evidence-based 

action. So research is needed into current responses and their 



The  Social Inclusion Process established by EU leaders in 

2000 has encouraged Member States to exchange best practice 

and create a stronger basis for policy-making. Emphasis has 

been placed on involving a wide range of social inclusion 

actors, not least those who are experiencing poverty and those 

who are working with them. The KATARSIS project analyses the 

socially creative strategies (SCS) through which people, 

both individually and collectively, react to conditions of 

economic, social and political exclusion – or “social 

exclusion” for short. SCS often use knowledge and resources in 

ways that trigger social innovation and effectively promote 

inclusion, empowerment and socio-economic development. So 

they open up new avenues for policy design and 

implementation. KATARSIS is also helping to identify the best 

methods for researching into SCS. And it provides a platform 

for research teams to exchange knowledge and work towards 

better integration of research programmes and strategies.     












Lessons drawn from KATARSIS surveys of the literature on 

social exclusion and on socially creative strategies (SCS) to 

counter exclusion. 

The labour market, 

employment strategies and 

the social economy 


Employment in a whole range of socially creative sectors is 

key to combating exclusion.  


SCS for job creation may concern the public, for-profit and 

non-profit sectors, as well as the family and community 

economies, or else more typically the social economy 

(cooperatives, mutualities and associations). In either case, 

they should be fostered as they have the potential to meet 

unmet needs and promote emancipation.  


The success of these SCS is highly dependent on spatial 

and historical context, so best practices are not necessarily 



Reliance on the non-profit sector or the social economy may 

also sometimes take on a regressive character, when it is 

associated with the rolling back of the welfare state or when 

institutional leverage fails. 


To promote SCS in the employment sphere, public policy 

should enable individual and collective actors to build 

networks, access resources in a sustainable manner and 

promote diversity of opportunity. 

Education and training 



Three key types of exclusion are identified: exclusion from 

access to education, from the process of education and from 

the outcome of education. 


SCS can challenge the dominant neo-liberal rationale within 

the education system, thus facilitating accessibility, social 

integration, the reflection of diversity, the meeting of present-

day social needs, linkage with the labour market, interaction 

and new forms of learning. 


The SCS concerned are of three types: 




Those aiming to adapt excluded groups to the 

dominant rationale 



Those that mix activities which are adaptive to 

the dominant rationale and activities which 

conflict with it 



Those that give visibility and relevance to the 

socially creative values and experiences of 

different non-dominant social groups, and 

acknowledge their participation. 












The outcomes of Type 1 SCS show that a macro-level 

approach does not prevent educational exclusion. Type 2 

SCS entail committed partnership with local authorities and 

social services, associations with the private sector and 

mainly local-level funding. Type 3 SCS work in two 

directions at the same time: enhancing cultural diversity and 

promoting social inclusion in forms of governance, e.g. by 

creating more customised education and training institutions. 


Researchers adopt different methods for analysing the three 

types of SCS: evidence-based research for Type 1; a wide 

range of methods for Type 2, but principally the neo-

positivist approach; and mainly participatory action research 

for Type 3.   


Successful educational SCS tend to: 




be well integrated into the local community, as 

regards both financing and content 



include some element of adaptation to the 

dominant rationale and the labour market. 

KATARSIS expresses a preference for educational SCS that 

aim at integrating the alternative values of the excluded groups 

within a more open education system. 

Housing and neighbourhood 




from housing includes homelessness, 

overcrowding and living in accommodation which is in 

disrepair or has inadequate facilities. This form of exclusion 

may involve discrimination as regards entitlement or on 

grounds such as ethnicity, as well as such processes as 

gentrification or housing privatisation. 


Exclusion  through housing arises from social polarisation 

between neighbourhoods, the concentration of 

disadvantages and poor access to transport, opportunities 

and services. 


These issues provide great scope for mobilising SCS – e.g. 

through housing cooperatives and the development of 

grassroots neighbourhood organisations. NGOs, even if 

large and formal rather than “bottom-up”, also often play a 

major innovative role here. 


Cut-backs in the State's direct role have left space for more 

creativity by NGOs and communities, but most of the case 

studies suggest that bottom-up creativity needs institutional 

support from a strong welfare state network. 

Health and environment 



By focussing on the local level, innovative SCS were 

revealed that address health and environmental inequalities 

and promote well-being. 









In particular, good practices in social innovation were noted 




networks promoting the growing, trading and 

consumption of local food 




networks challenging transport policy and 

producing innovative design solutions to traffic 

problems and the use of public space. 



A typology of socially creative strategies was developed, 

placing research results in four main categories: 




social movements that organise protests across 

Europe to challenge the dominance of cars and 

increase pedestrians' and cyclists' access to 

public space 



community organisations that work in less 

contentious ways than the protest movements 

and focus on the neighbourhood 



socially creative individuals, whose ideas have 

been taken up by social movements and local 




social innovation by local authorities, often 

inspired by Local Agenda 21 (local 

implementation of the UN's sustainable 

development agenda). 

Governance and democracy 


Policy-making should aim to foster democracy as regards 

both the inclusion of disadvantaged groups in decision-

making and their access to social services, via universal 

social, economic and civic rights. 


Many new governance arrangements are ambiguous. Along 

with the potential benefits of increased participation, current 

transformations have led to privatisation, liberalisation, the 

promotion of private-public partnerships and an emphasis on 

managerial governance practice. So short-term cost 

efficiency is often achieved at the expense of long-term 

efficacy and democracy. 


Bottom-up initiatives risk being caught in the “localist trap”. 

The most successful ones aim at “scale-jumping” (moving up 

into a broader context). 


The welfare state continues to exist in various new forms, 

with uneven participation by the “clients” and the 

concentration of power in the hands of the primary elite 

actors. Bottom-up participation can be a step towards socio-

economic democratisation of the welfare state, but does also 

involve the risk that social movements may be co-opted by 

the state.  










Main KATARSIS outputs 

What KATARSIS has 



An overview of the different entry points that have led to 

social innovation initiatives and processes. 


An examination of the possibility and desirability of putting 

forward an overarching methodological approach to social 

innovation inquiries and designs. 


An assessment of research methods on social innovation. 


A shared language for social innovation research. 


An understanding of the policy relevance and dynamics of 

artistic and creative bottom-up initiatives. 


A complementary and multi-agent approach to combating 

social exclusion, centred on the arts. 


Better models of communication and coordination among 

various types of actor (researchers, policy-makers, 

practioners), especially through relevant interactive methods 

that give citizens a voice. 


Links among actors involved in this field from different 

backgrounds, places and contexts in the EU. 



Key KATARSIS conclusions 

about creativity 


Arts and culture should be seen as a key element in urban 

and local policies, making innovative initiatives effective and 



The “effectiveness” of local, socially embedded cultural and 

artistic projects should be judged on a broad range of 

inclusion criteria. 


Socially creative bottom-up strategies are usually not 

sustainable without strong institutional support and leverage. 

So a balance has to be struck between regulation and 

support on the one hand and room for creativity on the other. 

Thus, it is better to promote “bottom-linked” rather than 

“bottom-up” activities. 

Short-term action 


Make existing local SCS (socially creative strategies to 

combat social exclusion) visible to the European research 

and policy community. 


Network and connect research on SCS at the local, 

regional and national levels. 


Create a common theoretical and methodological 

framework for analysing SCS.  









Draw  lessons from these socially creative initiatives and 

realise their potential transferability. 

Long-term action 


Establish a more encompassing European research and 

training network on SCS. 


Develop  joint research projects at various levels (local, 

regional, national and European). 


Influence national research programmes by building 

national research networks on SCS.  


Capitalise on “locally funded” research programmes and 

strengthen them through the use of a shared European 

theoretical and methodological framework. 


Contribute to the development of cooperation networks 

between local SCS actors across Europe, preferably in the 

form of sustainable Social Platforms. 


Help shape the European social, regional, education, 

training and youth policy agendas by drawing lessons from 

local SCS about how to overcome social exclusion. 

Research methods 

Research on SCS against social exclusion requires methods 

that meet all of the following criteria: identification and 

understanding of the roles of all the actors involved, the social 

and cultural relations of which they are part, the agendas for 

change that they pursue, and institutional dynamics that support 

or hamper their actions. So the following methodological 

perspectives must be combined:  


Sociology of knowledge and practice together with action 

research in order to understand the institutional and socio-

cultural context and changes within which the actors operate 


Transdisciplinary analysis of the roles of different types of 

SCS actor and guarantees of their involvement in the 

research activity itself 



and post-structuralist approaches to 

understanding the creativity of actors in the search for social 

innovation within a complex socio-cultural world. 











Specialised research teams are studying the consequences 

of growing inequality and social exclusion, as well as 

socially creative strategies (SCS) for overcoming them. 

KATARSIS provides these researchers with a platform for 

exchanging their knowledge and working towards a better 

integration of their research programmes and 




To provide an up-to-date review of the specific 

consequences of growing inequality in Europe and the 

innovative and/or creative ways in which groups particularly 

hard-hit by exclusion have responded.  


To examine how those consequences have been 



To review attempts to integrate various approaches into 

the analysis of socially creative strategies (SCS) aimed 

at overcoming social exclusion, and to link this overview to 

broader debates about social science methodologies. 


To develop new methods for analysing SCS and for 

coordinating ongoing research in this field. This 

methodology will later be used to guide a wider scientific 

discussion of both the policy and the practice of SCS. 




Survey of the literature on social exclusion and SCS in five 




the labour market, employment strategies and the 

social economy 



education and training 



housing and neighbourhoods 



health and the environment 



governance and democracy. 



With the aim of integrating policy and collective action 

approaches, surveys on three aspects of SCS: 



bottom-up creativity 






social innovation.  



Development of methodologies for researching into the 

organisation and impact of socially innovative initiatives. 


Dissemination of the outcomes, notably to practitioners 

and policy-makers in the field of social inclusion, 

empowerment and participation. 











Frank Moulaert in collaboration with Jean Hillier, Newcastle 

University UK. 



Dept. of Sociology and Social Research, Milan-Bicocca University 

Serena Vicari,



Centre for Public Health Research, University of West England 

Judy Orme,



Institut für Sozialwissenschaften, Stadt- und Regionalsoziologie, 

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin 

Hartmut Häussermann,



Centro de Estudos Geográficos, Universidade de Lisboa 

Isabel André,



Institute for Economic Geography, Regional Development and 

Environmental Management, Wirtschaftsuniversität Wien 

Andreas Novy,



Research Centre on Citizenship and Civil Society, Universitat de 


Marisol García,



Stichting Dr. Hilda Verwey-Jonker Instituut, Utrecht 

Hugo Swinnen,


Bas Tierolf,




Institute for Social Issues, Masaryk University 

Tomas Sirovatka,




Dept. of Urban and Regional Planning, National Technical University of 


Dina Vaiou,



IFRESI-CNRS, Délégation Nord Pas de Calais Picardie, Lille 




Wales Institute for Research into Co-operatives, University of Wales 

Institute, Cardiff 

Len  Arthur




CERISIS, Université Catholique de Louvain, Charleroi 

Marthe Nyssens,



CRISES, Université du Québec à Montréal 

Juan-Luis Klein,



Rijksuniversiteit Gent, Centre for Intercultural Communication and 


Hendrik Pinxten,


Ine Pisters,




Abaton S.r.l., Rome 

Matteo Scaramella,









Corvinus University, Budapest 

János Ladányi,



Centre for Urban Studies, Roskilde University 

John Andersen,



Centre de recherche et d'information sur la démocratie et l'autonomie, 


Jean-Louis Laville,


Laurent Fraisse,



European Commission 

DG Research Project Officer:  Pia Laurila, 



May 2006 – December 2009 

Funding scheme 

6th Framework Programme,

 Priority 7, Citizens and governance 

in a knowledge-based society, Coordination Action 

EC contribution 

€ 767220 


For more information 

Contact Frank Moulaert (

Further reading 

Research papers and work-package reports are available at



Document Outline

  • Main KATARSIS outputs

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