Fighting social exclusion in rural areas
[ Summary ]
Taking action against social exclusion in
rural areas: what methods? what tools?
After highlighting the reasons why globally speaking the fight
against social exclusion is today a major challenge for rural
and examining a few methodological ways to
determine the problem in a rural area and consequently to devise
we are now going to look at the possible
means of intervention.
To do so we will refer to past or ongoing experiences of fighting
social exclusion which take advantage of local resources and use
innovative approaches. In fact Europe has a large number of actions
of this kind, but usually they are not part of LEADER.
3.1 Targeted local actions, the start
of a more comprehensive territorial approach
The examples used for this analysis are varied enough that
comparisons can be made and relatively solid general and
transversal lessons can be drawn. Seven actions to fight social
exclusion have been selected for this first exercise. A detailed
description of these actions can be found in the directory
published by the LEADER European Observatory “Innovative Actions of
Rural Development” . They are:
- The creation in Cornouaille morbihannaise and in Pays Pourbet
(Brittany, France) of an enterprise to help the long-term
unemployed find work in the building sector with the support of the
LEADER group of Centre-Ouest Bretagne (Central West Brittany). What
makes this action special is that it combines different local
development interventions aimed at the fight against social
exclusion such as the return to work of unemployed people, the
renovation of empty village houses and the creation of a social
rental housing stock for homeless families.
- The work done by the “CILDEA” association in the Loire
(Auvergne, France) for farmers in difficulty living on income
support (RMI). The association has set up a system where very
successful farmers, including farmers who have local
responsibilities (presidents of cooperatives, former mayors, etc.),
give assistance and guidance to farmers in difficulty.
- The social cooperative of Valle di Non (province of Trento,
Italy), created for the disabled people of the area, which after
operating for many years in a conventional way (organisation of
specific services for the disabled such as housing, education, and
recreational activities) decided in 1997 to begin a form of
“community development” involving families in order to develop
personalised links and services that enable the disabled to become
better integrated socially.
- The “time bank” created in Sant’Arcangelo di Romagna (Emilia-
Romagna, Italy) to satisfy the demand for services that could be
provided by people of the region. The “time exchange” system set up
for this purpose enables a great flow of contacts between those in
search of services and the service providers.
- The creation of an alternative system of transport in County
Angus (Scotland, United Kingdom) to satisfy the needs of
geographically isolated people without any personal means of
transport. The privatisation of public transport worsened what was
already not a good situation and in fact led the LEADER group to
launch a system where the different forms of transport in existence
(school transport, mail delivery, milk collection, door-to-door
salesmen, etc.) could be used by isolated people.
- The resettlement in rural areas of urban families threatened
with exclusion, a movement organised by the Irish association RRI
(Rural Resettlement Ireland).
- The experiment carried out in Utajärvi Oulu (Finland) to
combine assistance for elderly people with childminding. In
addition to cutting down on personnel, this system enables the
formation of a very enriching social link between children and
isolated elderly people.
These different actions and the many others not mentioned here were
created to solve specific problems of social exclusion in rural
areas. They were the work of local associations, municipalities and
in some cases even individuals aware of these problems and in a
position to explore new forms of intervention.
The inspiration for some of these actions comes from solutions
already attempted elsewhere, making them part of a networking
logic. This is particularly the case of the Italian actions (social
cooperatives and time banks). Others have sought to put into
practice new concepts of social management and have gradually had
them adopted by the local institutions, particularly by the
municipalities and the bodies helping the unemployed.
Many coexist with the institutional interventions, offering new
answers to the institutions present in the area which find the
phenomenon too difficult to understand or which lack the
appropriate instruments to cope with complex challenges (example of
CILDEA in France). Other are simply a response to new needs and to
the recent appearance of exclusion (case of Angus Transport Forum
Most of the local actions are targeted at a specific group or
designed to solve a specific problem. Because they make up for the
shortcomings of the actions already in place, they are often
pioneering. In this sense, they serve as a demonstration. However,
their inclusion in a comprehensive territorial approach to fight
exclusion depends to a great extent on whether wider partnerships
can be formed in the area.
 Given the limited number of examples,
only basic, partial conclusions can be drawn. Each
LEADER group, and each national or regional network
may, on the basis of its own experience, confirms
these examples, disputes them, adds to them or refines
them. Therefore, the examples may only serve as a
starting point, or as a common reference for a wider
debate which may spread to the level of the European
network once detailed and definitive conclusions
have been reached.
It is also worth noting that the current ideas on
new approaches to fighting social exclusion in rural
areas are based on earlier debates, studies and
publications which reveal new courses of action and
present results that must be taken into account in the
exercise proposed here. A good example is the work
done in France by Mairie Conseil, rue de l’Université,
106, F-75007 Paris, Tel: +33 140 49 20 40,
Fax: +33 140 49 20 55.