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Barcelona – Conclusions

Each of the projects presented has certain specific characteristics. For this reason, we will look at impact, sustainability and the possibility of diffusion in each of the projects individually.


Case 1: Urban revitalisation: the La Mina Transformation Plan

The PTBM has had a significant impact on neighbourhood revitalisation, in terms of both urban and social reform. Regarding urban transformation, what stands out first of all is that the isolation and segregation of the neighbourhood has been overcome. Secondly, public housing and facilities have increased. The PTMB planned for many residents to move into new housing, sub-standard housing has been rehabilitated and lifts installed in many buildings. Finally, the PTBM has contributed to the improvement of the overall conditions of the neighbourhood, having an impact on cleanliness and on the creation of public spaces, etc.

On a social level, using the strategy of social responsibility, companies from the hotel/restaurant sector and the textile sector were involved in the programmes for social and labour market insertion and sheltered employment. For some years the rate of incorporation into the labour market among groups with particular difficulties (young people with low levels of education or training, women and the long-term unemployed) increased. “The issue of labour market integration has been important. Training and insertion have been high. Many people have had the opportunity to access work, to have the experience of employment, in many cases quality employment, with important companies” (I-19). City policy managed to reduce the number of recipients of the minimum income allowance from 150 to sixty during this period. However, beginning in 2008 with the destruction of employment caused by the financial crisis, this trend could not be maintained.

The neighbourhood has worked too to end its stigmatisation through a communication plan to open the neighbourhood to the rest of the city. In addition, they have worked toward promoting a greater social mix through the construction of public and private housing on the new rambla. The commitment to increase security and contribute to a more civic use of public space by residents has also led to a relative improvement in the image of the neighbourhood.

The impact of the action plan has been positive from the perspective of public authorities and neighbourhood residents. However, the neighbourhood still suffers diverse problems, some of them stemming from situations that have not yet been resolved, others from the way the action plan has been implemented and others aggravated by the current crisis (such as the delay in finishing the social housing which has delayed the occupation of the rambla).

The impact has been less than expected in terms of the eradication of anti-social behaviour on the part of certain segments of the neighbourhood population. Despite interventions on the common staircases shared by neighbours and in public spaces, the programme has only had limited impact in terms of improving relations among neighbours. To transform attitudes and improve co-existence in the community, the educative aspect of the programme should have been more central than it was. These types of changes happen over the long term and require a social and educational intervention lasting over several generations.

I act on the population without autonomy and which has certain needs and needs us to provide them with educational tools, job placement, training tools and starting from there they reach a level of greater autonomy, and then they are able to respond to other issues such as civic behaviour, personal responsibility you have toward your neighbourhood, with your community of neighbours. This takes time that we haven’t invested.


Finally, the plan has also had an important impact on urban governance. It has done so through the promotion of structures of participation and work coordinated among experts, politicians and neighbourhood residents. The fact that citizen participation in the project was a condition for its establishment has led to a large number of innovative social activities led by neighbourhood residents, which in turn has meant new patterns of organisation and new ways of making and monitoring decisions.

Case 2: Labour market integration for young people: Young People with a Future

This programme was only in existence for 4 years, but it is interesting to analyse because it illustrates certain specific difficulties. The current financial crisis, which is having a major impact on Spain, has led to both deep cuts in public spending and changes in public policies. We think this innovative programme is interesting even though it is no longer in effect because it can help us understand some of the obstacles that arise when initiatives started at the local level are subject to laws or regulations from a higher level of government. The local level’s closeness to these problems may permit it to successfully address them, as in this specific case; however, the lack of formal competencies – and funding – can ultimately block a project. This is just one example of the obstacles that local welfare systems may face when trying to be innovative in areas that depend on higher levels of government.

We find two different assessments of the impact of this programme. The perspective of the participating organisations is that the impact was less than what those in charge of the programme expected (I-7); while the perspective of the administration is that given the current economic difficulties, there was a certain level of success in reaching 562 work internship contracts (I-5). There were difficulties in reaching the target population, as many were still living in the family home and were therefore hard to identify. In addition, there was the problem of finding companies willing to participate in the programme that coincided with the interests “awakened” in the participants doing the training. Finally, the political and economic vicissitudes of recent years have raised new difficulties for the programmes that were designed by the previous government.

Government officials report that the total number of young people who passed the first phase of the training was 472, and of these 264 were able to do an internship in a company. In the second phase of the programme, when young people with degrees entered the programme, there were 168 without qualifications who passed the training period and 199 with qualifications who entered the programme; of these, only 40 had not yet been contracted for an internship at the time of the interview (I-5).

Case 3: New local governance: Citizens’ Agreement for an inclusive Barcelona

This programme has had a major impact and one which continues to grow. It is proving to have a broad consensus, which is attracting other entities that have not yet become part of the Agreement. In addition, the organisations involved are very pleased to be able to participate in the governance of the city’s social welfare system. To a great extent, the programme’s success is a result of the relationships that are formed between the participants, who are essentially working in a network. But they also appreciate the fact that being focused on action, the effects of their actions multiplies. They also value the influence the Citizens’ Agreement has at times had on municipal authorities (I-8).

In terms of the Citizens’ Agreement’s direct impact on social welfare policies, there have been two networks in particular that have achieved significant results: one is the Network of Centres for Children and Teens, which has agreed on one model for all the city’s centres, both public and private, providing assistance for children and teens at risk. The other is the Network for Assistance to the Homeless, which has created a solid network for the exchange of resources and information.


Case 1: Urban revitalisation: the La Mina Transformation Plan

As regards the sustainability of the urban transformation process, some achievements seem to be quite well established and are likely to go on, but others are facing important challenges. Labour market integration programmes seemed to be quite successful during the economic boom, helping effectively part of the population to find jobs despite their disadvantage. However, the dramatic change in the employment situation has had very negative effects in this field, heavily affecting a population whose labour market integration was fragile.

Schools in the neighbourhood have had some success, but dropout rates and absenteeism are still high. According to some local leaders, schools would need a much wider autonomy to select their staff to be able to cope effectively with a young population that has to live with the attraction that drug dealing has by offering a quick and easy way of making money. In this case, both the rigidities of the educational system and the drug business are strong limits to the success of the process.

Social mixture has also been a key element in the programme, and freeing land for private homes was not only a way of achieving it, but also of financing the whole plan. Here results are less encouraging. While some people have come to live to the neighbourhood, a large number of private apartments are still vacant and for sale. The few people who have moved into the neighbourhood often live most of the time in downtown Barcelona.

This also raises the question of the sustainability of the model of financing many public actions in Spain during the last two decades. The model used for many large infrastructures (like train stations) but also for the La Mina plan is based on rezoning that allows land to be sold for a high profit, which is used to fund public action. This allows developing public projects without making taxpayers pay more, albeit with some negative effects on the land market. Whatever the negative effects, the burst of the real estate bubble has put a drastic end to this model, at least for the time being.

Case 2: Labour market integration for young people: Young People with a Future

As was pointed out previously, the programme Young People with a Future was discontinued. The serious financial crisis in the Spanish government had a major impact on the programme and on other policies and programmes that depend on funding from the central and autonomous regional governments. The finances of the municipal government were sound and showed no deficits or debt.

It is not possible to know whether the changes in the leadership of the municipal government would have affected the approach of the programme if there had not been budgetary problems. The change in the focus of the programme, although said to be the result of a lack of funding, could also have occurred – although perhaps not with the same force – in a moment of economic stability, since the new, more centrist government might have been expected to focus more on self-employment and the development of the social economy as a way to help young people rather than on providing subsidies.

Case 3: New local governance: Citizens’ Agreement for an Inclusive Barcelona

Everything seems to point to the consolidation of the Citizens’ Agreement programme. The new city government has made a commitment to its continuity and seems determined to expand its impact. The participating organisations believe that “it is not possible to turn back” (I-6). One factor that appears to confirm this is the appearance of “the shared strategy”, a step further in the direction of joint work between government and the third sector, differentiating the particular spaces of each sector and the common areas of governance in local social welfare.


Case 1: Urban revitalisation: the La Mina Transformation Plan

The PTBM contains certain aspects that may be useful to implement in other areas. These aspects depend on the design, management and implementation of the plan as well as on the initial start-up conditions. The aspects considered relevant are:

  • Joint work among the different government administrations forming the consortium.
  • The comprehensive approach of the reform, using both urban reform and social intervention as a way to improve the neighbourhood and the living conditions of its residents.
  • The management of the project in relation to integrating citizen participation. The structures that have promoted meetings and debate among agents have made it possible to carry out reforms better suited to the needs of the neighbourhood and based on the opinions of residents.
  • The importance of training and technical support to promote participation.
  • The programmes that managed to incorporate groups with special difficulties into the labour market.
  • The fundamental role of social organisations and the neighbourhood associations that were already playing an active role in debates and demands for reform in the neighbourhood. The neighbourhood also has a strong active population that has launched projects to solve specific problems in the neighbourhood.

It is also important to take into account the factors that have been obstacles in the process, which are related to the lack of trust in institutional politics. In addition, the neighbourhood residents have had a negative response to the arrival of companies from outside the neighbourhood such as service management firms.

The PTBM has been a reference for the regional government’s “Programme for neighbourhoods and urban areas in need of special attention”, established in 2003, and which has taken on more than 100 projects in Catalonia, among which we find projects to intervene in the social fabric in residential neighbourhoods with characteristics similar to La Mina.

Case 2: Labour market integration for young people: Young People with a Future

In thinking about the possibilities for the diffusion of innovation, the programme Young People with a Future provides a good example of both the obstacles and opportunities on the local level in designing and implementing social welfare services. There may be ideas, ties, relationships or social conditions on the local level that conflict with the dynamics in the administration responsible for policy. An example of this is found in job placement for young people, which is affected by the specific characteristics of the locality, but dependent on the administrative structure of the country, which cannot take into account the different realities that exist on the local level and may therefore actually block innovation by not providing the economic resources needed to carry it out.

The lesson to be learned from this “failed innovation” is to consider the situation in which a programme begins. Precisely at a time when companies were having difficulties it seemed to be an interesting idea to have local government complement their role by assuming the costs involved in providing internships or training for young people without qualifications or jobs. But to do this required a network of companies and other entities willing to assume part of these responsibilities. That willingness on the part of different stakeholders was there, but not the funding needed to carry it out.

Case 3: New local governance: Citizens’ Agreement for an Inclusive Barcelona

It is possible to spread this innovation. In fact, it is a project that has been sparking a lot of interest in other municipalities in Spain and in other countries, as well. However, this is a project that requires a two-way social process. It would not have been possible without the interaction between clear leadership in charge of the project and a dynamic civil society.

For an innovation in governance to become established, a broad consensus is required on the part of all the stakeholders involved. And perhaps not only a consensus on the idea, but also regarding capacity; in other words, on the one hand, a clear idea and the real possibility of designing a new model by the government leaders responsible, and on the other hand, the existence of a network of entities that want to be involved and participate in designing and managing the social services of the city.

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Keywords: Activation | Activation policies | Case management | Child care | Child education | Citizen initiatives | Citizenship | Civil society | Co-funding | Co-production | Collaboration | Community | Community development | Democracy | Deregulation | Development | Diffusion | Disability | Employment services | Empowerment | Enabling | Entrepreneurialism | Entrepreneurship | European Social Fund | Family caregivers | Family Centres | Family needs | Family-minded | Gentrification | Governance | Grassroots initiatives | Housing corporation | Housing policy | Incubator | Integration | Labour market | Labour market integration | Local context | Local governance | Local governments | Local initiatives | Local welfare | Local welfare system | Lone mothers | Lone parent support | Micro-credit | Municipality | Neighbourhood | Neighbourhood revitalisation | Network | Networking | Participation | Partnerships | Personalising support | Political administrative system | Precarious working conditions | Preschool education | Privatisation | Public administration | Regional government | Segregation | Single mothers | Social and solidarity-based economy (SSE) | Social capital | Social cohesion | Social economy | Social enterprise | Social entrepreneurship | Social housing | Social housing policies | Social inclusion | Social investment | Social media | Subsidiarity | Sustainability | Third sector organisations | Unemployment | Urban gardening | Urban renewal | User choice | Welfare governance | Welfare mixes | Workfare | Young mothers | Youth unemployment

Barcelona – Conclusions

Categories: Conclusions