Bern – Conclusions
To conclude, we will highlight some characteristics of the selected innovations. Then we will review some conditions and challenges for the appearance and success of innovations in Bern.
Characteristics of innovations in Bern:
For Chambon and his team, the State can have three roles regarding innovation. It can be a barrier to social innovation or be a facilitator for public debate, or play a regulatory role (Chambon et al. 1982). The case of Bern shows a fourth option: the State can create innovative ideas. Social innovation is often considered as a product of the third sector, but our case studies testify that the State itself can produce social innovations. What are the conditions for such a situation to arise? First, the selected innovations arose from administrative agencies enjoying both autonomy and support from the hierarchy (the Department of Welfare). Second, these agencies demonstrated an interest in cooperating with other stakeholders. The result is a wide network composed by stakeholders from different levels and different fields, public and private. The recurrent opposition (in Moulaert et al. 2010, for example) between state-led programmes and civil society social initiatives is not relevant in the case of Bern. The programme for young mothers, for example, was created by the State but its development and its operationalisation includes many private stakeholders. The case of Bern illustrates that innovation does not necessarily arise from an emancipatory logic and from a community dynamic.
An objection could be whether these so-called innovations are “real” innovations, as they are implemented by administrative agencies, which were inspired by already existing projects. It all depends on our definition of innovation. Since WILCO considers projects as innovative regarding a specific context, innovations can be a replication of already existing projects. We saw that the three projects (except maybe the guidelines where there is no evidence of replication even if some were to exist in other Swiss cities and in Germany) were inspired by experiences initiated elsewhere. A first point is that we – researchers – evaluate the innovative character of a project. Stakeholders themselves do not always consider the selected projects as innovative. For example, civil servants in charge of the development and the implementation of the guidelines for integration do not consider the guidelines themselves as innovative. In the focus group, participants agreed that innovation is mostly a buzzword (“Schlagwort”). This could be a reason why administrative agents do not insist on this aspect. As we have shown, other arguments than innovation are much more powerful and add more value.
One of these arguments is a global approach to social problems. Two innovations – Primano and the project for young mothers – particularly illustrate the tendency to build a “whole family approach” in social policies. Morris et al. (2008) and Clarke and Hughes (2010) emphasise the success of such approaches with the aim of “supporting families to help themselves” and to consider the importance of family, both as a source of support and as source of potential obstacles to social and integration processes.
A second argument adding value to social policy programmes is a combination of an investment perspective with a workfare approach. Our three innovations include such a combination. A key element for the investment perspective is the selection of the target of the policies. Investing in children appears obvious (Palier 2005), but what about grown-ups? The dominant discourse, in the administrative field at least, postulates that some people are cognitively and socially too weak for realistic professional integration. A worthy target group includes people likely to get back to work. Work is thus the focal point of our innovations. Primano aims to improve children’s learning and social skills, in order that in the future, they will be well trained and thus have less risk of being unemployed. The project for young mothers aims to improve beneficiaries’ employability. Last, but not least, the guidelines converge toward work as a tool for gaining financial independence and as a tool for social integration. In the preface to the 1999 edition, executive councillor Claudia Omar mainly talks about professional integration. She highlights the contribution of migrants who “build houses and roads”, are “top-managers” and “sports champions”. Then, her (only) argument about the need for action is that migrants are too often unemployed.
Some innovations in other cities studies highlighted by WILCO feature work integration in social enterprises (“work corporations” in Nijmegen and “Yalla Trappan” in Malmö, for example). In Bern, owing to a very favourable employment situation, work integration can be done in regular firms. Civil servants in charge of the project for young mothers stated that internships in regular firms were much more appreciated by beneficiaries than temporary jobs in the Competence Centre workshops. The above-mentioned “part-wage jobs” project follows the same path. There is a will to orientate work integration toward the “real” labour market. It is seen as more efficient (and bringing more recognition) and it does not imply the creation of new structures. Such practices can only occur with cooperation between public and private stakeholders. Again, the innovation starts with a public initiative and then needs the support of the private sector.
Conditions for appearance and success of innovations:
The report on values (WP4) helps to understand the context in which these innovations appeared. The context analysis allows us to draw some hypothesis about the conditions that could favour the appearance of social innovations. Of course, as our innovations arose from the public sector, our hypotheses only concern the appearance of innovations in the public sector. Conditions of success are even harder to establish, as the “success” is hard to define. We will consider that the three innovations are successful, as they have lasted for several years and have not been contested.
First, we stated that in Bern, the leading coalitions have a consensus on core values and on a certain part of policy core. The centre-left coalition (“RGM”) and the right coalition (“Die Bürgerlichen”) agree on basic values. For example, the project for young mothers fits some values shared by both coalition: self-determination – individual responsibility and solidarity – equality of opportunities. The consensus also involves the role of the State. Both leading coalitions agree on an enabling State providing public support for private responsibility.
Second, as we have shown, there is no overly dominant regime. A configuration where a growth coalition and an integration coalition are overlapping facilitates innovations, as they are more likely to find converging interests. In the case of Bern, workfare and social investment are considered as win-win policies for both coalitions. They emphasise different arguments (or have a different arguments hierarchy), but they support the same policy.
Third, a basic condition for the appearance and success of an innovation is surely its cost. The lower it is, the bigger the chance of success. Almost all interviewed stakeholders mentioned the low cost (for the community at least) of their project as a key-element. In order words, good innovation would be an answer to the question “how to make better or more efficient use of existing (infra)structures?” The three innovations do not imply the creation of new big infrastructures. It was regarded as a factor of success (and acceptance).
Fourth, as Evers and Guillemard (2012) showed, the landscape of social policy is changing. The process of transition from one paradigm (the remains of post-war welfare state) to another (activating social investment state) offers conditions for innovations. There is a shift between the existing structures that still correspond to a rather classic providing state and the values in which the population and the leaders believe. Innovations can be seen as adaptation of an old system to new values, new understandings of social-problems and new ideas of what solutions could be.
Fifth, the relative independence of a territorial unit in a federalist system probably favours innovations. In the introduction, we emphasised the idea of federalism as a laboratory to try new solutions at a reduced scale. As we argued, some values are widely shared in a city such as Bern, but heavily disputed in the rural areas. It is the case for child care and primano. The innovations could only appear in the territorial unit where they fit values and representations. Furthermore, it is (or it looks) less risky to try new ideas in a relatively small area. Small size also facilitates cooperation when needed. Stakeholders are more likely to know each other personally. As many interviewees said, the innovations studied were quite person-centred. Each innovation was supported and advocated by one or two people. One or two people cannot support and lead a project alone. A certain consensus between stakeholders (not only coalitions and not only leaders) is necessary. The innovation in the unemployment sector could only rise with an certain consensus over values and policy core, between the health, education and welfare department and the legislative council, between the youth unit and the welfare unit, between the administration and stakeholders of the labour market, between the leaders and the base of all these organisations.