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Solidarity in Diversity

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - SOLiDi (Solidarity in Diversity)

Reporting period: 2021-01-01 to 2022-12-31

Over the last decade, liberal democracies in Europe have been shaken to their core by the rise of national populisms. This puts strong pressure on all forms of solidarity, especially as they cross ethnic and cultural boundaries. The increasingly successful capture of the notion of solidarity by radical right forces is testimony to this. The challenge for European democracies is to identify the conditions under which solidarities in diversity can be nurtured. European democracies should therefore identify the conditions that can encourage and promote solidarity in diversity, taking into account the social inequalities and unequal positions of power between various groups in society.

To address this urgent challenge, the European Training Network “Solidarity in Diversity” (SOLiDi) develops a training and research program that is focused on how to generate solidarities across cultural boundaries. Rather than building solidarities on a presumed shared past and the imagined cultural homogeneity of nations and ethnic groups, we propose to start from the places that people share and use in diversity and the practices that they engage in on a daily basis. This focus on intercultural relations in place and practice should be combined with an analysis of how place-based solidarities are shaped by and/or work around entrenched social inequalities and unequal power relations.

SOLiDi will provide an alternative to the prevailing pessimism around living in diversity or the lack of innovative ideas for local civil society and public actors. SOLiDi trains a cohort of professionals well equiped to bridge the gap between academic knowledge and professional interventions from public institutions and civil society organisations on living in diversity.

The project has three objectives:

(1) SOLiDi aims to combine insights from the disciplines of sociology (solidarity and diversity), geography (place and practice) and social pedagogy (learning and education) to broaden our understanding of how solidarities can be generated across cultural boundaries. We combine a focus on the conditions under which intercultural dialogue and relations emerge with explicit attention to how social inequality and unequal power relations may work to undermine intercultural dialogue and relations.

(2) Based on the doctoral research projects, SOLiDi develops public pedagogies and organizational and policy strategies that support place-based solidarities in diversity.

(3) SOLiDi promotes social innovation by training a group of European ‘solidarity in diversity’ professionals that combine academic research skills and knowledge with advanced thinking on ethics and the capacity to promote societal and organisational change in a variety of professional contexts.
In the first nine months of the project, our work focused mainly on setting up the governance structure of the SOLiDi project and the recruitment of 15 early stage researchers. The researchers started their training and research trajectory within the SOLiDi project in September 2021 (except for two, due to administrative reasons). During the first reporting period, we mainly focused on training in the theoretical concepts and perspectives on which the SOLiDi project is built, notably solidarity in diversity, interculturalism, intersectionality and place- and practice-based approaches, and on training in methods and ethics, with a strong focus on working with diverse and vulnerable groups, the development of skills of critical reflection, attunement and listening and doing place-based research. Most of the training workshops are co-organized with the researchers.

In the meantime, the researchers developed their research projects through in-depth literature review and discussions with their supervisors and peers, planned their non-academic and academic secondment, started their field work and presented their research problems and emerging research insights on conferences and workshops. In July 2022, we organized an annual progress day, in which all researchers presented their research questions and design and some early empirical data and received feedback from peers and supervisors.

All researchers developed a data management plan and developed and submitted applications for ethical approval of their research plans. They wrote and discussed a personal career and development plan in which they make their short term and long term career objectives explicit and explain which activities they will engage to reach their objectives.

We made a website to communicate our training activities and research insights to the academic community ( The researchers also developed a social media strategy to communicate to a broader non-academic audience (mainly through Instagram and Twitter) and is preparing a series of podcasts on the topic of solidarity in diversity.
There is an urgent need and associated high demand in the academic as well as professional labour market for solidarity in diversity professionals. As the debate on ‘living together in diversity’ is raging in many European nation-states, with the sustained electoral rise and strength of right-wing populist parties and the increased scepticism about the possibility to generate social cohesion in superdiverse societies of many mainstream politicians and policy-makers, there is a frantic search for solid expertise on and evidence-based strategies to generate solidarity in diversity with policy-makers and civil society organisations across Europe.

SOLiDi aims to contribute to meeting this need by (1) training ESRs in the most advanced insights on solidarity in diversity and advancing the frontiers of the knowledge on this topic through the respective PhD research projects; (2) executing this research and training program with an extensive and varied network of non-academic partners; (3) by explicitly focusing on the public pedagogies and organisation change and policy learning in order to capacitate researchers to translate academic insights into practice.

The SOLiDi training program is organized in such a way to maximise exposure to (1) different academic disciplines (notably sociology, geography and educational science); (2) different national environments; and (3) the question of living in diversity in different sectors, organizational contexts and spheres of life. The aim is to boots the researchers’ inter-sectoral and international employability in a variety of areas and disciplines. On the level of the European knowledge system, SOLiDi aims to strengthen the European human capital base by training a new generation of solidarity in diversity researchers and professionals, equipped with sharp interdisciplinary thinking and intersectoral transferable skills.

The SOLiDi consortium also mobilises the academic and non-academic partners and their networks to disseminate its research findings to the academic community as well as policy makers and civil society professionals and generate maximum impact in scientific, policy and professional circles.