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Social Innovation - Empowering the Young (SocIEtY) for the Common Good

Periodic Report Summary 2 - SOCIETY (Social Innovation - Empowering the Young (SocIEtY) for the Common Good)

Project Context and Objectives:

The overall goal of SocIEtY was to improve the quality of life of disadvantaged young people through social innovation. In doing so the aim of SocIEtY was not only to identify opportunities to reduce inequalities, but also to extend and build knowledge and tools for the ultimate policy goal of a ‘good life for all’.

The project consequently took the perspective of how young people aged 15-24 live in different European countries today; and examined what can be done to create social and institutional opportunities which will better enable them to live lives they have reason to value. This included the participation, voices and aspirations of the young people themselves.

One main issue of SocIEtY was the development of a broad knowledge base to foster socially innovative policymaking which avoids some of the unnecessary shortcomings of current policies. Taking the Capability Approach as the conceptual basis, SocIEtY in particular refered to the concept of “Informational Basis of the Judgement of Justice” (IBJJ) introduced by Amartya Sen (Sen 1990). Thus the project delivered an empirical foundation to broaden the informational basis of local policies in two ways:
(1) It widened the focus on the policy fields of employment and education to a more coherent perspective taking more policy fields into account.
(2) Secondly, the basis was informed by a bottom-up perspective, including the voice and aspirations of young people and their participative engagement.

The IBJJ concept implies the development of a consecutive and comprehensive methodology of participation and deliberative processes. In addition, it provides a reformulated capability perspective in terms of a coherent narrative to analyse and enhance the conceptual bases of current policies to foster social innovation in a practically feasible way.

“Social Innovation – Empowering the Young (SocIEtY) for the Common Good” systematically built knowledge on
• how existing policies and social practices of networks of social support tackle the problems faced by disadvantaged young people,
• how far, and in what ways, young people’s ideas, experiences, aspirations and voices can be included in policymaking,
• how social innovation can establish a link between these two issues, which can lead to social inclusion and to smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.

SocIEtY fostered social innovation by shedding light on the opportunities and obstacles in the relations between different young people and their different social support networks. In doing so, SocIEtY pursued three main objectives:
(i) Broadening the existing informational basis for policymaking to tackle inequalities and foster social innovation by implementing qualitative and quantitative empirical research by looking at different policy fields through a combination of bottom-up and top-down perspectives.
(ii) Empowering young people to bring in their voices, aspirations and engagements to enhancing their options for participation and social inclusion.
(iii) Developing a unique methodology of participation that links different stakeholders and status groups to initiate new and innovative forms of deliberative processes for making and implementing policy.

To sum up, SocIEtY empirically examined existing policies and social programmes focusing on deprived young populations. It identified gaps and constraints which prevent these policies from successfully fighting social exclusion. It tackled the disadvantages, i.e. the lack of available opportunities, which young people face. The project broadened the Informational Basis of the Judgement of Justice (IBJJ) as the knowledge base of social policy by giving voice to young people and opening up the opportunity for them to bring in their experiences and aspirations of how to tackle inequalities and social exclusion – beyond a mere employability approach.

Project Results:

A theoretical framework for understanding and assessing inequalities that disadvantaged young people are currently facing in 11 member states of the EU has been provided. The Capability Approach has been conceptualised in light of the central terms of SocIEtY’s subject area: inequality, participation and social innovation. The dynamic analytical framework is especially useful for understanding inequalities and developing innovative policies in a period of social change and crisis.
The results of this work are presented in a report and in working papers. Both are available on the website.

SocIEtY assessed existing policies and identified innovative strategies in the field of youth policy in all 11 participating countries. Based on the conceptual framework, the analysis investigated and mapped current policy processes and measures in relation to inequalities and disadvantaged youth on local, regional and national levels.
Additionally, a limited longitudinal data analysis of EU-SILC data has been partly carried out for the countries involved. This analysis explored young people’s capability for work and education and their participation in society and showed the way in which context mediated the impact of individual characteristics.
The results of this work are presented in a report, in working papers and a policy brief.

11 analyses of social support networks have been carried out, scrutinizing the strategies and policies of local actors in deprived city districts of each partner country. Main stakeholders in social support networks related to young people have been identified and asked about their integration into the field, their interplay with other actors, their attitudes towards the young etc. Young people’s life worlds have been used as a lens through which the different relevant policy fields are becoming visible and are analysed in their interrelations and their ramifications for every-day life.
The results of this work are presented in a report and in working papers; both are available on the website.

The core empirical research package built upon and deployed the theoretical, conceptual and empirical work done so far in regional case studies throughout the SocIEtY project. The Participatory Research carried out and tested the methodology designed in WP4 in 11 regionally selected case studies in urban areas. New forms of knowledge generation involving researchers, practitioners, policy makers and those subject to social programmes have been fostered. This dialogue-centred, process- and participation oriented approach was appropriate in gaining access to difficult phenomena such as the formation of aspirations or collective contexts of learning in everyday life.
The quantitative case studies addressed the assumptions operated and valued by agents responsible for the development and implementation of policy in five European countries. The quantitative research also developed an understanding of inequalities in capabilities from secondary data analysis, bridging young people's responses in national or European harmonised surveys and contextual data at national or regional level. As such the quantitative research sheds light upon the barriers and challenges young people face in two key areas: (1) employment and (2) their integration and participation in society.
The results of this work are presented in three reports, a policy brief and two working papers; all are available on the website.

Potential Impact:

To foster smart, sustainable and inclusive growth and to strengthen social inclusion of vulnerable groups, the EU supports and supplements Member State’s efforts in the domains of employment, education and mobility for tackling multifaceted inequalities. Appropriate strategies are identified in emerging social innovation and promoting networks and participation of different status groups. SocIEtY contributed to this task. It generated comparative knowledge about the main policies tackling inequalities experienced by young people in 11 member states (UK, France, Denmark, Italy, Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Romania, Austria, Switzerland, Germany) and the scope for social innovation in this area on a macro as well as micro level. The impact of the research transcended standard forms of evaluations and analyses of policy making. The tasks not only asked for the analysis of social innovation, but also for ways to encourage and foster them. SocIETY reached this goal by developing and implementing an innovative methodology of deliberative participation which brought together a range of stakeholders with regard to policymaking. Therefore experiences, ideas, aspirations and the voices of young people (addressees of policies) were included in the policymaking processes. SocIEtY developed a methodology that promotes the participation of young people as citizens in society as a whole, and formulates recommendations for stakeholders, politicians and various sectors of civil society with respect to enhancing young people’s opportunities for voice and to aspire.

Research conducted by SocIEtY improves understanding of the role of capabilities in relation to employment, competitiveness and growth in Europe as well as in relation to deliberative participation, social inclusion and individual flourishing. SocIEtY created knowledge that helps to reconcile economic growth and individual flourishing through socially innovative participation processes.

SocIEtY empowered disadvantaged young people through social innovation. Thus, not only inequalities have been tackled, but the project also built knowledge and a methodology for the ultimate end of policy: a good life for all through enhancing the common good.

EU Member States play the main role in implementing youth policy. The EU 2020 Strategy and its flagship initiative ‘Youth on the Move’ already give special attention to young people. There is a need for a transversal youth strategy building on cooperation between policymakers and stakeholders at European, national, regional and local levels. SocIEtY provided valuable recommendations useful to policy makers and other key social players for the definition of social policies and plans for action at a European scale. These recommendations are based on prior in-depth analysis of the innovative systems, practices and policies that have been implemented in order to overcome societal problems related to social and educational exclusion. In addition, the existing Informational Basis of the Judgements of Justice was extended by giving powerful voice to young people, their aspirations and needs.

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