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Social Innovations for social cohesion: 77 cases from 20 European cities

Part 2: findings on recurrent approaches and instruments

When it came to looking at the rich number and diversity of cases of innovations, discussing, analysing and finally presenting them, four issues called quite soon for joint decisions among the research teams.

The first one concerned the meaning of the terms “different”, “new” and “innovative” in relation to what was already there in terms of institutions, practices and modes of thinking of “welfare systems”, as they had been called by the EU institutions launching this piece of research. While research in the WILCO project devoted some time to describing different national paths and histories of institution-building, both with respect to welfare systems and the role of municipalities and cities in governance, its main aim was to look at common international innovatory trends that emerge despite different national trajectories. This orientation was useful since our task was to look first of all at innovations as developments that represent a break with traditions, rather than looking at levels of diffusion of innovations depending from the degree given national traditions, regimes or trends act in support or as a barrier to innovations. Furthermore, the point of view from which we looked at innovations did not concern the way in which they deviate from a special type of welfare regime (“liberal”, “conservative” or “social-democratic”) and its form of governance (such as e.g. “corporatist”) but it concerned the way in which they differ from shared patterns of welfare and governance in the European region. Three elements can be seen as widely shared across “regimes”:

  • First of all, there are the commonalities of postwar-welfarism as described by Wagner (1994), like standardisation and the search for large-scale uniform regulations in welfare institutions going along with a minor role of participative elements and civil society in welfare systems and democratic decision making.
  • Secondly, there has been the influence of new public management and respective managerial concepts across borders, with their practices of economisation and rationalisation of welfare agencies and concepts of governance that were taken from the business sector.
  • Finally, all countries in the European region have, in one form or another, gone though phases where cultural and social movements revitalized elements of self-organizing and new social solidarities—ranging from the social movements of the early 1970s and the democratic revolutions in Middle-Europe to the new waves of movements linked with the issues of growth, environmental sustainability and participation.

It is against a background shaped cross-nationally by the major influence of these three factors that the social innovations make a difference altogether.

The descriptions of the various teams involved show this quite clearly.

The second point related to a difference between our choice of innovations and what is looked at in the mainstream literature. The latter usually looks at social innovations with a focus on social service innovations. What was brought from the first city surveys to the international meetings of the WILCO teams showed however quite soon that innovations touch on more than “services” and ways of organising their provision. Changes in rules and regulations (e.g. concerning the access to financial benefits) and in governance (forms of democracy and decision making on priorities in welfare and cohesion politics) are likewise important fields for social innovations, which should not be neglected. This widening of areas and types of innovation include as well developments that make a difference when it comes to conventional forms and modes of working and financing. All this should be kept in mind when looking at the classification system by which we have arranged our findings on recurrent patterns among the innovations.

The third point concerned the different degrees and stages concerning impact and diffusion of SIs that we found. Some SIs represent approaches that—while being like all others new in the immediate context where they appear—basically represent an already quite developed international trend, having popped up in many sites and cities across Europe. This holds true especially for the following three innovations:

  • social enterprises that work in the field of occupational and social integration as “work integration enterprises”. One could almost develop a kind of prototype out of the variants of work integration enterprises to be met from Plock to Barcelona and from Stockholm to Varaždin;
  • participative and community-oriented forms of revitalising housing estates and urban neighbourhoods. Here, once again, examples reach across countries and cities;
  • family support services and centres of various kinds. These are as well quite common, and can be found in contexts as different as Italy, England or Germany. Despite differences, their common innovative core is to direct offers of support to the whole family system instead of focussing just on child-care services.

The fourth and final point concerned our way of ordering findings on recurrent approaches and instruments of the social innovations we looked at. When looking at the classification system used, one should keep in mind that it mirrors the central task and mandate that has been given to the WILCO research: to look at the impact of SIs on local “welfare systems”. It is therefore that we have not used other possible ways to arrange our findings, e.g. alongside separate policy fields, grouping findings on innovations as they prevail in the field of housing and neighbourhood development, occupational and social integration and family and child care-related services.

Instead we opted for five fields and dimensions of welfare systems wherein to group what we see as the most important recurrent approaches and instruments of social innovations:

  1. Innovations in services and their ways to address users;
  2. Innovations in regulations and rights;
  3. Innovations in governance;
  4. Innovations in modes of working and financing;
  5. Innovations concerning the entity of (local) welfare systems.

These five dimensions hopefully allow to integrate our findings into current debates as they can be found in the community of researchers on welfare and social policy but as well among researchers on urbanism and local policy. We assume that all those who work in these fields are familiar with the aforementioned key points that we have chosen.

2.1. Innovations in services and their ways to address users

The majority of the social innovations that were recommended to the national teams by local interview partners as important and promising and finally chosen as cases to be described were service innovations. Services are easily accessible to small scale innovations and respective social entrepreneurs, groups and change agents, better than e.g. lots of high-tech products. Service innovations can be small-scale innovations and do not need big start-up investments.

Five characteristics mark the differences between the service innovations analysed in the WLCO project and services or service systems as they have built up alongside post-war welfare traditions and the more recent managerial culture of public and private services. These features play a role not only in the special field of social inclusion and integration policies but also to a large extent in the field of personal social services at large.

Investing in capabilities rather than spotting deficits

This hallmark can be found basically in most of the SIs studied. The services are not so much about giving or granting or filling gaps than about a kind of relationship that aims at reducing the initial dependency of the users by opening up chances or strengthening ca-pabilities. In various ways this element can be linked with the activation rhetoric as it is known from public welfare debates. Different activation discourses will give service innova-tions that want to strengthen capabilities different meanings. A telling example in this re-spect is e.g. the prject “Her second chance” from Varaždin (Croatia), which aims to support women and mothers experiencing special difficulties in acquiring competences and self-esteem in a way that might lead back to paid work. The “Primano” programme from Berne (Switzerland) is likewise a project for young mothers, aiming to break the intergenerational transmission of poverty (see at the end of the work package report the table with a selec-tion of SIs—out of the full number of cases—that illustrate best the points we make).

Preference for open approaches, avoiding targeting with stigmatising effects

Most of the present occupational and social integration programmes and schemes one can find in workfare policies operate on the basis of a strict approach of targeting, which clearly indicates who is “in” and “out” and detailed rules for stages of foreseen integration proceedings, preconditions and admission to them, thus entailing much danger of stigmatisation. By contrast, many of the innovations that deal with topics of occupational and social integration operate with looser, more open approaches, which do not define in a top-down way admission to an offer and do not prescribe in detail a re-integration process and its stages. While personal help and advice play an important role, the whole approach is less directive. Among the many examples (see the abovementioned table), the “Filur” project from Stockholm (Sweden) operates with much more elements of choice for the young unemployed people it addresses than other schemes in Sweden or elsewhere in the EU. A likewise experience is represented by the Family Office in Münster (Germany), which offers its support in a kind of way that is basically open for all, even though some families will need and use it much more than others.

Concern for bridging the gaps between professional services and people’s life worlds

Cultural and ethnic diversity, overlapping with poverty, has increased in times of migration, unemployment and harsher inequalities. This makes it increasingly difficult for services and professionals to reach the groups that might need their help, be it that the respective offers are unknown by their potential users, hard to understand or not taken up due to a lack of trust. Therefore, bridging the gaps between professional services and people´s life worlds has become an increasing challenge. Among the innovations of our sample that touch on this problem, one can mention e.g. the “Neighbourhood mothers” from Berlin (Germany), women that are on the one hand networked with and trusted in their community of migrants, but also experienced in making contacts with administrations and the services and entitlements that the latter offer.

Service offers that connect otherwise often separated forms of support and access, allowing for personalized bundles of support

Public administrations and welfare bureaucracies have, in the course of their development, differentiated and specialized, with separate agencies offering different particular but as well partial solutions, following their own logics; as a result, the complex needs of customers cannot be met adequately. Getting together a bundle of support measures that fit is mostly complicated and discouraging. Therefore, among the selection of innovations, service offers that allow to connect otherwise often separated forms of support and channels of access play an important role. There are various schemes that operate with personal advisers, care- and case-managers and various forms of “one-stop-entry-points”. A good example is given e. g. by offices in Nantes (France) that offer joint assessment of families´ needs when it comes to link access to jobs and day care, something that is especially important for single-parent families; likewise intermediary organizations such as the Foundation for development beyond borders in Warsaw (Poland) have achieved to make very different offers work for migrants from other East-European countries, ranging from language courses to advice and support in juridical matters.

2.2. Innovations in regulations and rights

Creating flexible forms of ad hoc support

Biographies of working and living have become less continuous, with more complicated zones of transition between life situations and stages. Traditional services and transfers, which had been built before this evolution, have become ill-adapted. People can be out of school but not yet in a job, or on a track back to work but without access to a flat, for ex-ample. Often this coincides with acute problems that call for immediate and time-limited help, different from the lengthy ex-ante negotiation and decision-making on long-term pro-vision, such as pension arrangements. Innovative ways of offering an often provisional “quick fix” can well be the critical missing link when it comes to uphold a living and working arrangement that secures staying “in the game” and prevents people from “falling out”. Quite a number of the WILCO innovations are about establishing such kind of short-term, time-limited ad hoc support. A telling example is e.g. the “Welfare Foundation Ambrosiano” in Milano (Italy), which aims to support individuals and families who are in conditions of temporary need for various reasons (job loss, illness…), regardless of their previous and/or current type of working contract and place of origin. Another similar example is the target-ed discretionary housing payment scheme from Birmingham (UK), which addresses people on their way from welfare to work by time-limited payments that ease the costs of transi-tion, helping e.g. towards rent arrears. A third example is given by a SI in Geneva (Switzer-land), the Unit of Temporary Housing, where flats in a building are reserved for young peo-ple in special difficulties. What is specific is that residents may be supported by a team em-ployed by the municipality, comprising a building manager and nurses. This service takes into account risk biographies and the way in which, in life, issues of health, employment, family status and housing situation often overlap.

Developing offers that meet newly emerging risks, beyond fixed social and participation rights and entitlements

Much of what has been presented above is about so far unknown gaps, a feature that some call “new risks”, not foreseen in the “manual” of standard risks that made up for the social service offers and transfer-systems of post-war welfare-states. Many of the innovative offers and measures that develop here are not very stable in terms of institutionalization and legal status; this constitutes a difference from the core area of public welfare institutions in health, education or pension schemes. New dispersed offers form a kind of settlement that may either be the forerunner of later, more stable rights or just a shaky substitute for social rights and entitlements that have been or get shortened. Among the broad variety of innovations that represent offers related to new risks—be it services, cash or various other forms of time-limited support—are e.g. programs such as the public rental housing program in Zagreb (Croatia), which gives better access to housing for a kind of group in need that had not been known or—more accurately—“publicly acknowledged” before: young families that are just on the way to start into working life but have already to bear the manifold responsibilities and burdens of parenthood.

Working by kind of “social contracts” with individuals and groups

By tradition, most public welfare offers and services have the status of rights that are unconditional insofar as they usually require only a set of material preconditions to be fulfilled in order to have access to support in a defined situation of need. A new tendency in welfare arrangements, namely in the field of “workfare”, differs from that to the extent that here, the clients enter a kind of contractual relationship with the welfare provider, where the preconditions needed for support are concerning the future behaviour of the clients. The latter have to be ready to contract with the welfare provider to perform a number of duties in exchange for what they get from society. Mostly, this is about proving the readiness to increase one’s employability by taking part in training measures, etc. These types of contractual relationships (different from traditional rights) are about defined responsibilities the clients take exclusively for themselves (or sometimes their next-of-kin).

Among our set of innovations, other types of contracts were observed came into focus. These are kind of micro-social contracts that define the commitment to give something back for what one gets from society in a broader way: people get access to some goods and services once they oblige themselves to do something for others, be it in form of volunteer work, defined tasks of personal support for people in need in the community, etc. An example for such practices of a different, more socially defined kind of working with contracts is given by “Le temps pour toiT” (Time for Roof), an inter-generational home-share service in Nantes, offering cheap lodging for students that enter an inter-generational co-habitation arrangement. In a similar way, in a program called “Fare e habitare” (Doing and living), a social housing agency in Brescia (Italy) has developed special offers for young people, where they as dwellers pay very little rents but engage themselves in civic activities—be they cultural, social (in the field of integration of migrants) or pro-environmental (e.g. doing urban gardening).

2.3. Innovations in governance

The cases of SIs that have been studied all represent a combination of new “products” and new “processes” The latter term refers to both the internal organisation of decision-making and ways of interacting with the environment—the public, various stakeholders, social partners and political and administrate authorities. Hence most SIs that aim at developing new kinds of services have as well a governance dimension. However, for some innovations, influencing and changing the system of governance has been found as being their core purpose.

Fostering units and types of organization that operate in more embedded and networked ways

Stating that the traditional service organizations and systems are very much focused on their respective special tasks, functioning like “silos”, has become nearly a stereotype. The low degree of cooperation and sharing also holds true for those parts of the service land-scape that have been shaped by managerial reforms. Indeed, these kind of reforms fos-tered a concentration of single organizations on their respective core-tasks and a more competitive rather than cooperative orientation. In contrast to that, social innovations are characterized by the fact that they bring together what is usually separated, be it ideas, concerns or practices. Since the SIs that we studied have a highly local character, they are much more embedded in their direct environment than organizations that act as part of a hierarchical system, be it in business or centralized welfare administrations. Furthermore, the complex goals of many SIs correlate with networked ways of action. A good example of unconventional forms of networking is offered for instance by the Neighborhood Stores for Education, Research, and Talent Development in Amsterdam (Netherlands), where teach-ers and students from the university cooperate with activists in a community development programme that links governmental, non-profit and business organizations. This kind of trilateral cooperation can be found in many of the SIs that operate in the field of pro-grammes for restoring housing estates and revitalizing urban neighbourhoods. A good ex-ample is given by the Neighbourhood Management Project in Berlin-Kreuzberg, which links not only community groups and local business but as well various departments of the pub-lic welfare system, ranging from urban planning to the school department.

Giving new concerns and groups a voice in the public domain

Innovation means as well to address issues, concerns and related forms of self-organizing in a way that is more up to date with changing challenges and pressures. Conventional orders of presenting and organizing concerns often do not work anymore. Looking back to the history of conflict articulation and management in welfare states, this means e.g. that, in most cases, the various special needs of groups cannot get assembled anymore under the roof of an overarching “workers’ movement” and its organization clusters. But one can observe as well changes in new social movements, such as the environmental and feminist movements, when it comes to themes and self-definitions of today. Impressive examples in our sample come here e.g. from movements and initiatives in post-socialist countries concerning the needs of women and mothers, who speak for themselves and their families. Both the MaMa Foundation in Warsaw and the RODA initiative in Zagreb have overcome the traditional restricted focus on getting the same role as men in a male-shaped labour market; they include and highlight other concerns that had before been seen as merely private issues, protesting local environments and systems that, before and after socialist times, showed little interest in the manifold challenges of care and the difficulties to get to new ways of combining working and family life; their action gives caring tasks an upgrade in public and policy agendas. The ways in which movements such as MaMa Foundation and RODA combine self-organizing, protest, campaigning and the building up of their own service and self-help organizations is an innovative contribution in the field of gender and family issues.

Organizing more intense forms of public debate and opinion-building around existing challenges in cohesion policies

By contrast to those agencies and service providers that work much on rather routinized issues, innovative organizations are by their very nature forced to create publicity to advertise and convince. The unconventional way in which they define their own needs and concerns and seek to act upon them calls for a strong orientation to the outside. However, quite often, “publicity” is hard to reach, and opinion building is difficult when it is left to the usual interplay of a single group or initiative with professional opinion builders and politicians. Some of the innovations we selected have been eager to find new forms of organizing debates, deliberation processes and publicity in order to establish finally a new consensus on priorities and agendas. Among such examples there are two especially impressive ones: the Maggio 12 Initiative in Milano, which aimed to bring together concerned citizens, experts, politicians, professionals and administrators in an organized deliberation process on a new agenda for dealing with children and childhood; and the city council of Berne, which acted in an innovative and courageous way when it invited experts and professionals to develop a process that led to widely consented guidelines on how the city should deal with migrants and the tasks of their integration into city life.

Building issue-related coalitions and partnerships

Networking can have various meanings. Often the focus is on day-to-day relationships between various organizations and agencies. A more demanding kind of networking is represented by coalitions, partnerships, alliances, presenting a more intense and dense forms of interaction, which are often concerned with raising or upgrading an issue. Establishing such kind of collective agency, which is at once unified and plural, can be seen as an important innovative element in policy-making and governance. A telling example is a SI from Plock (Poland), the Foundation Grant Fund for Plock, a joint initiative of the municipality and two local firms. It aims to combine the potential of the public and private sectors in support of projects that serve the local community. Besides examples from the field of urban, housing and neighbourhood revitalization, a SI such as the already mentioned Foundation Ambrosiano in Milano constitutes a good example; and one could point here as well once again at SIs like the MaMa Foundation (Warsaw) or RODA (Zagreb), for which building such alliances is highly important.

2.4. Innovations in modes of working and financing

When taking up modes of working and financing it is important to point at the fact that innovations take shape under given, often adverse circumstances. While this is in itself banal, it represents quite a challenge when it comes to disentangling what is “innovative” about a project and development and what is just an effect of the deconstruction of or regression in existing welfare models and regulations. When innovation means to deal differently with a given challenge or pressure, this must often entail a way to accept and live with worsening material conditions. This tends to increase the already huge imbalance between ambitions, on the one hand, and conditions and means, on the other hand. Therefore, innovative elements like flexible team work are hard to disentangle from the mere reaction to conditions under which it is impossible to offer some basic degree of job security. Likewise, an innovative way of working in a multi-stakeholder perspective can entail as well the need to accept as a fact a chronically underfunded local public sector, making it difficult to differentiate between a perspective of winning additional societal support and using local partners as a spare wheel.

Flexicurity in working contracts; levels of institutionalization and security below traditional standards

Throughout the WILCO project, the descriptions of the modes of working in SIs show working arrangements that could be assembled under the label of “flexicurity”, i.e. a mix of elements that are about balancing constant changes in tasks, positions and time arrangements of the workers and a degree of minimal reliability in working conditions. People working in projects and making their living there may enjoy an atmosphere of creativity and trust-based relationships, which allow for many of the various co-operators to “plug in” just for a while and to accept short-term contracts, being sure that there will be a possibility for a new contract once circumstances allow. However, all these mixes between some attractive and other more frightening elements in the modes of working, between gains and sacrifices, are far from being chosen or shaped by those who work there. The SI “Kreuzberg Acts” describes some of these recurrent dilemmas. Lok.a.Motion, a social enterprise organisation that is counselling local business and start-ups, interweaving this with community development, presents a sharp contrast to public administrations, where the size of staff is stable and jobs are socially protected. Having very few permanent staff provides Lok.a.Motion with sufficient leeway to decide whether a certain project actually suits their key professional principles. The flipside of the agency’s flexibility is that Lok.a.Motion is not a good employer in traditional terms; it benefits from a satellite system of unsecured co-operators around its small core of constant jobholders.

Different working collectives – professional teams and voluntary commitments as part of the projects and approaches

It has already been mentioned that the kinds of arrangement for cooperation in SIs are much more diversified than in the public or business sector, including not only various forms of casual paid cooperation but also many forms of voluntary and civic contributions, ranging from short-term activism to regular unpaid volunteering with a long-term perspective, and from “hands-on” volunteer work to constant inputs by civic engagement in a board. Therefore, from what is reported on the various SIs, one gets the impression that working fields are taking shape here that are innovative in two respects. First, they are innovative because they balance very different arrangements for networking, paid work, volunteering and civic engagement. And secondly, it is at least remarkably new to see how much the demarcation lines between those who operate inside the organisation and those that get addressed as co-producers are often blurred. This can be illustrated by much of the examples of innovations in housing and neighbourhood revitalization. Another illustrative example is an initiative like “Bimbo chiama bimbo” (Child calls Child) (Brescia); here, voluntary commitment and community work are, both in quantitative and qualitative terms, more important than the contribution of paid staff; a similarly illustrative case for the strong role of users as co-producers, volunteers and participants is given by the description of the SI “Ilot Stephenson – Co-production of housing in a major urban renewal district in Lille” (France).

A strong mission profile and a professionalism that combines formerly fragmented knowledge

When going through the list of innovations in our pool, it is interesting to see, throughout the whole sample, the concern for finding catchy labels for the respective initiative and pro-ject. Where traditional organizations often presuppose that their business is basically known and established, SIs have to take care to make their missions´ profile as clear as possible and well known; advertising oneself in the various (social) media is a core task of many of the innovations. The various forms of cooperation between concerned citizens, volunteers and professionals within and at the fringes of the project entail as well special processes of social learning on all sides.

The kind of professional to be found in many of the innovative projects and initiatives has to manage tasks that often escape traditional professions and the division of labour they imply; professionals in the innovations have to learn to dialogue with addressees, co-citizens and volunteers; they are sometimes simultaneously specialists, entrepreneurs and managers. This kind of re-professionalization processes may e. g. concern architects that work simultaneously as community organizers and mediators. A good example hereof is provided by “Les compagnons bâtisseurs” (Companion Builders) in Lille, a SI supporting housing self-renovation—managing, training and supervising the implementation of a self-renovation process in a region where such practices have been like elsewhere marginal and unprofessional. Likewise, the “Primano” initiative in Bern, a pre-school education pro-gram targeting disadvantaged children and their families in selected districts, is another telling example. This can be complemented by the example of the Neighbourhood Mothers (Berlin), which points at the enormous difficulties that arise when it comes to making room for new types of professional work in the established classification systems of acknowl-edged licensed professions.

Short-term and time-limited funding, combining resources from different stakeholders

Many if not most of the SIs we dealt with rely on a multiplicity of resources and their combination; the mix may vary and state financing may often be the most important component, but in most cases there is a degree of (financial) co-responsibility of other organizations from the civil society or the business sector. Furthermore, the funding arrangements are very often precarious and limited in time. Here, once again, innovative elements mix with hardships one would rather reduce or avoid. The strengthening of social innovation and the consequences of welfare down-building are often hard to disentangle. Interesting examples of the possibilities opened up and the restrictions that are found are given e.g. by the SI “Job explorers” in Berlin, which matches inter alia money from the chamber of industry and commerce and the local labour market office for programs that build bridges between schools and local employers. The work corporations from Nijmegen (Netherlands) are another example about the “art” of mixing own income from service activities and funding from various local and other sources.

2.5. Innovations concerning the entity of (local) welfare systems

One of the aims offset by the EU-authorities for the WILCO project was to look at the possible contributions of SIs to changes and developments in local welfare systems. We understood that, by this label, consciously more is addressed than just the local welfare-state institutions. Speaking about a welfare system usually means to include, besides the local welfare state/the municipality, the welfare-related roles and responsibilities of the third sector, the market sector and the community and family sphere. The cases of social innovations we have looked at bear testimony to the mutual relations that exist between all of these four components of a (local) welfare system.

Reaching out to all sectors of local welfare systems; a lesser state focus

Even though the impact of state funding and backing for the SIs that we studied varies very much from one case to another, one can make the general statement that basically all SIs are concerned with establishing relations with all sectors. Once again, one can argue that most SIs would like to see more state and municipal support but one can suspect as well that these initiatives would oppose becoming incorporated into the public sector. Therefore it can be argued that the SIs can be apprehended best by concepts of welfare that are based on a consciously worked-out mix and pluralism of resources and responsibilities. Needless to say that these issues of “sharing” and “mixing” are a very conflictual matter – not only in terms of ideas but as well of power.

Aiming at less standardized, more diverse and localized welfare arrangements

A second conclusion concerning the understanding of the welfare system as a whole can be related to the basic fact that innovation gets difficult, if not impossible, wherever a right to act, organise and provide differently is negated; this can be the case both in big private business organisations steered centrally and in the respective market sectors controlled by their oligopolies. But it can also be the case in much of the public sector when e.g. the school or health system is by tradition or by recent managerial reforms (see the managerial reforms in labour market services) organized in a highly centralised and standardized way. Therefore, those who want to give social innovations a more important role will have to allow for degrees of decentralisation, diversity, difference and moreover possibilities for unconventional merges between what is usually separated. This holds true with respect to both more time-limited experiments with pilot-schemes and a basic readiness for mainstreaming what has developed outside or at the margins of the respective system of provision and decision making. Moreover, supporting innovation means to go for arrangements that allow for a new balance between equal standards to be guaranteed everywhere and a diversity of localized arrangements that reach the same level as elsewhere when doing differently. Good examples of the tasks and problems linked to interweaving and balancing concerns for equality and diversity can be found in the case of German municipalities that strive for the right to get the status of “Optionskommune”, i.e. a municipality which is allowed to work out its own options for occupational integration strategies (as is the case of Münster). Concerns for and conflicts around the aim of allowing more variety in service provision can be illustrated as well by the SI “Casas Amigas” (Friendly Homes) in Pamplona (Spain), which aim to upgrade the status of in-house child care as part of the possible choices in child care services.

Upgrading the community component in mixed welfare systems (families, support networks, etc.)

In various ways the SIs that have been analysed in the WILCO project are about upgrading the community component in mixed and plural welfare systems. This shows first of all through innovations about services that rather seek to strengthen and support the role of families in caring and taking responsibilities, rather than merely aiming to substitute a loss in their capabilities and resources by professional child minding. Secondly, community activation and participation is upgraded throughout the innovative concepts for modernising housing estates and revitalizing urban areas. Given the fact that quite often the community sphere is subsumed under a “third sector” of voluntary associations in society, excluding family relationships and rather informal neighbourhood communities from such a classification, it is all the more important to see how innovative forms and functions of community are a dimension of many social innovations. Good examples for the intertwining of the public and community sphere and their sharing of responsibilities for care are given by the example of the Neighbourhood Cafes in Lille, which open up tasks and concerns for family life to the community; others are the Neighbourhood companies in Amsterdam, where a housing corporation decided to support community in organizing their housing areas under reconstruction. Obviously, once again, it may be argued that it is unavoidable to highlight the community component of welfare systems when the focus of the project as a whole is on local levels and welfare systems. Yet, on the other hand, it should certainly be noted that many SIs are in a way challenging an understanding of welfare wherein community is seen as a rather parochial element to be substituted stepwise by more state/public, professionalized and completely freely chosen “voluntary” elements.

Integrating economic and social logics (entrepreneurial action, developmental welfare)

Unlike the aforementioned point, the integration of social and economic logics is a much better established concern in the debates on the profile of future welfare systems. On the one hand, there is a lively public debate about the creeping economisation of all spheres and an increasingly productivist attitude, which measures all social actions and relations first of all with respect to their measurable economic effects. On the other hand, there is also a debate about the welfare state as a “social investment state”, modernizing public welfare by an approach that is based on future promises such as the positive economic by-effects of raising social expenses on education, family support, and occupational and social integration. Especially those SIs, e.g. in urban revitalization, that try to interweave active participation of people as co-producers and co-decision-makers with public and private investments can be analysed in such a social investment perspective of societal development. Furthermore the various SIs that operate as (work integration) social enterprises point at the wider tendency of acknowledging the social embeddedness of economic and entrepreneurial action and the possibilities of combining both in a renewed understanding of welfare, in an “activating social investment” perspective (Evers and Guillemard 2012).

Integrating welfare and urban politics

This final point is about the limits of a concept that analyses problems of social cohesion in a society and its cities mainly from the point of view of welfare policies. Even if one acknowledges the need to integrate concerns for social and economic policies in an investment perspective and even if one includes the welfare functions and effects of market, third sector and community actors in a mixed welfare approach, this enlarged welfare concept cannot frame all the fields that count for the development of social innovations and likewise social inclusion. First of all, policy fields that are usually excluded from the welfare system, such as environmental policies or cultural activities, are important stages for socially innovative developments. The two examples of innovations linked with the urban gardening movement—the “Gardens of Life” in Varaždin and the “Prinzessinnengärten” in Berlin—both point at the role of environmental politics. Furthermore, there is the important policy field of spatial planning and development, be it at the level of neighbourhoods, cities or regions. The very fact that many of the innovations collected and presented by the WILCO project look for better social cohesion and inclusion by interweaving social welfare and urban/spatial planning can hardly be overlooked. The innovations consist in establishing an essential link between urban transformation and social intervention, something completely new in local planning and based on merging knowledge and professionals from diverse fields (architects, economists, educators and social workers). A good example is the Områdesprogrammet, which aims at uplifting several districts in Malmö (Sweden) through the cooperation of “resource groups” e.g. for the city development, the elderly, young people, culture and recreation and, last but not least, labour market and economic growth. The program is thus both about the problem-oriented cooperation of departments of social and economic planning and about the intertwining of spatial and social planning areas. It is no accident that our collection of social innovations, deemed as important and promising by local experts, is in large parts located at the intersection of welfare and urban development.

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Content keywords

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

Social Innovations for social cohesion: 77 cases from 20 European cities

Categories: Introduction

Social Innovations for social cohesion: 77 cases from 20 European cities