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Interview Prof. Kazepov: social inclusion is all about making synergies

Yuri Kazepov is Professor of Urban Sociology and Compared Welfare Systems at the University of Urbino in Italy. He is a founding member of the Network for European Social Policy Analysis and the president of RC21, the research committee on urban and regional development of the international sociological association. EMI asked him a few questions about creating effective social cohesion policies. He gave a lot of useful examples of practices in cities.

Kazepov: ´Social inclusion is a multiscale issue in which all territorial levels have to intervene, from the national to the local. For cities, it is very important to create synergies among policies and to cut across policy boundaries. To connect different resources together in a meaningful way. For example the problem of a homeless person very often coincides with having alcohol problems and possibly debts and no job, etc. Policy makers should create the institutional basis for practitioners to connect different policies in a meaningful way to tackle multidimensional problems like social exclusion. Social workers should be able to take advantage of national policies granting equal minimum income conditions and at the same time have degrees of freedom in developing individualized active measures to help people out of their condition of need. The Big Issue is a classic example of an effective social inclusion policy. This homeless paper started in the United Kingdom  in 1991 to stimulate the independence of homeless people.´

Institutional shopping is no solution

´It is not easy to ´produce´a synergy between different policies. Labour, social and housing policies often do not talk to each other. Policy makers should create the institutional pre-conditions for this and practitioners need to be trained to be able to share views and projects and to formulate new options together. “Institutional shopping´ by adopting the views developed in other countries or other cities is not enough. It is impossible to import policies without careful scrutiny. There is a need to decontextualise and recontextualise policies to your own area. Policies on the national, regional and local level should complement each other, but this is a political and cultural challenge that needs time.´

Do you think a bottom-up approach is effective to improve social inclusion?

Kazepov: ´Bottom-up approaches are very important. They are the indicator of a vital democracy. On the contrary, the downside of bottom-up approaches is that they are unevenly distributed across nation states. There has to be some overarching structure of opportunities providing everybody the same options disregarding their place of residence. For example what actions will the government undertake when the community does not take any initiative?´

EMI stimulates the cooperation between researchers, urban practitioners and the private sector. Where should we focus on?

Kazepov: ´EMI must stimulate the relations between cities and within cities among different policy departments promoting networking activities. Moreover, it should foster the dialogue with researchers in asking for help in ´reading´ the complexities of society. These different actors must be in constant dialogue with each other. Furthermore, EMI could take the role of training cities’ officials in how they could set up and recontextualise policies from other cities.´

Social inclusion examples in cities:

  • Flagship participatory budget: Porto Alegre is a regional capital of 1.3 million people. Its flagship policy involves thousands of city residents in decisions about municipal expenditures. In a country where public funds are typically spent through a mixture of corruption, patronage and obscure technocratism, this is a revolution in political practice. 
  • IBA Emscher Park: program of the Land North Rhine-Westphalia for the future of the Northern Ruhrgebiet. It is a good example of a project in which a private partner plays a leading role. In 1989, the IBA Emscher Park was created for a term of ten years, to give an impulse for new ideas and projects. The goal is urban development, social, cultural and ecological measures as the basis for economic change. During the past ten years about 120 projects in six central working areas have been developed and realized. It is a process with many participants (local government authorities, industry, associations, pressure groups and the people).Within this complex framework, IBA GmbH acts as a moderator and often also as an Initiator.
  • Soziale Stadt: another example of a successful social cohesion policy that involves citizens can be found in Germany.