Geneva – Conclusions
The three innovations we studied have grown and stabilised. A first critical factor explaining this stabilisation is certainly the significant public funds invested in social policy in Geneva. They enable innovations to stabilise on time. For instance, the UAC were created 10 years ago and they have progressively grown to 40 workers: wages represent a yearly budget of almost 4 million euros. The key role of public funding in the stabilisation of innovations is perhaps a limit to their diffusion in other contexts. Indeed, UAC encourages organisation of civil society and plays a key-role in the contacts between the diverse participants involved in neighbourhoods but also in the interrelations between organisations and the local government. Therefore, their legitimacy and their efficiency (perceived by participants) are strongly related to the financial and material support provided by the city of Geneva. In a less favourable financial context, the UAC would have to reshape their actions and their goals, at least partly.
A second critical factor favouring stabilisation of innovation is that they agree with the current interpretation of solidarity according to which the latter involves a contract with obligations and responsibilities on both hands. The current orientation of the local welfare system has been enabling people depending on social assistance to access measures to reintegrate the labour market, which was much less the case before. Legal norms were changed as well as the general representation of people on benefits as we have showed in the WP4 report (see the reform of the Minimum Cantonal Income for Social assistance). One considered that they had to work in one way or another. The ORIF project, for instance, concurs with this vision because it is clearly focused on the participation of disabled people into the labour market. This orientation agrees with the current orientation of social policy regarding people suffering health problems as the head of the Hospice Général explains:
Previously, many people were able to receive Invalidity Allowance but it is currently much less the case. The Invalidity Insurance is reducing the number of recipients and people are much less recognised through their health problems. We now have to work with them on their professional reintegration. Those who already receive an invalidity allowance have seen the amount of benefits reducing. The question for us is how can we support them and support their economic participation?
This orientation is relatively new but the ORIF organisation has already developed significant know-how and relevant tools in a matter of participation of people suffering from health problems and motor/intellectual disabilities. This feature contributes to the stabilisation and the growing of this innovation. This is much less the case of the ULT because we see a discrepancy between the current policy orientation towards ill populations and the approach of people in the ULT. Indeed, the working team comprises three nurses and a caretaker. They tackle resident’s health problems and social isolation but they are not likely to favour their professional integration in a significant way. All happens as if the architecture and modes of working of the ULT were, to some extent, a legacy of the previous orientation towards ill populations, which does not mean that it is not innovative in many ways (stabilising community, housing alongside everyday support to residents, etc.).
In addition, we may consider that the Geneva context favours diffusion of innovations to some extent. Many people with responsibilities in the field of social policy have known each other for a long time and some of them are used to working together. These routines of collective work favour diffusion of innovation to the extent that workers are aware of what the other organisations do; circulation of information is easy. This context favours the shaping of coalitions and these coalitions may further be involved in the “mainstreaming” of the respective organised projects through lobbying and social marketing for instance. Thus ORIF has been in touch with other organisations such as Realise and OSEO. They all agree with the idea that improvement of reintegration of people into the labour market requires that the sector of employment and that of social assistance should open to each other rather than being referred to antagonistic principles. These organisations, shaping a coalition, have developed a significant lobbying practise, on their own part and sometimes together, to spread this idea. We may therefore consider that development of routines of collective work favours diffusion of innovation.
However, a weak point concerning diffusion of innovation in the Geneva context is related to the lack of relevant assessment of innovations. Assessment concerns modes of working or the governance but they remain weak with respect to the impact of innovations upon populations. Thus, the city of Geneva has funded an assessment of the UAC but the latter is about the architecture and modes of working of social services including the UAC. The ULT has not been assessed. In both cases, the impact of innovation upon vulnerable populations is relatively unknown. This feature is likely to hamper diffusion of innovation.