Stijn Oosterlynck, Associate Professor, Research Centre on Inequality, Poverty, Social Exclusion and the City (OASeS), Department of Sociology, University of Antwerp
In two parallel research projects we analyse local social innovations as laboratories for welfare state restructuring and anti-poverty policies (with Pieter Cools) and the role of local social innovation in structural approaches of poverty reduction (with Tuur Ghys). Local social innovations are initiatives aimed at the satisfaction of social needs that are not adequately met by market and macro-level welfare policies (content dimension) through the transformation of social relations (process dimension), which involves empowerment and socio-political mobilization (political dimension linking the process and content dimension).
These initiatives are driven by civil society organizations, social entrepreneurs and/or local governments. Although local social innovations work from the everyday life context from people living in poverty, they mostly mobilize resources, actors and instruments that are situated on supra-local scales and therefore have a ‘bottom-linked’ character. Examples of case studies include housing first projects, urban farming, social groceries, labour market training projects for the long term unemployed, Roma engagement strategies, work integration social enterprises and neighbourhood health care centers.
We draw on a variety of theoretical approaches to analyse our case study findings, including literature on the (spatialized) political economy of welfare state restructuring, institutionalist theories on the welfare mix and (local) welfare regimes and the politics of needs interpretation and post-Marshallian conceptions of social citizenship.