Fighting social exclusion in rural areas
[ Summary ]
Taking action against social exclusion in
rural areas: what methods? what tools?
3.3 Bringing together initiators,
beneficiaries, human and financial
Generally, the second characteristic of anti-exclusion actions in
rural areas is the involvement of four types of actors:
- the initiators and managers of the action;
- the beneficiaries of the action;
- the resource persons and/or institutions involved in the
- the holders of financial resources.
a) The initiators: Who are they?
The initiators and managers of the action are people or
institutions who are already aware of the problem of exclusion or
who can take advantage of a practice in the field. They look at
what has been lacking in past actions and examine possible
solutions. They may be:
- activists of the non-governmental sector - eg. the CILDEA
association arose out of an earlier intervention by activists in
- officials of the local or central social services - the time
bank in Sant’Arcangelo di Romagna was the result of an initiative
of an equal opportunity board composed of women town councillors of
the municipality; in Utajärvi Oulu in Finland, the state social
services promoted the action;
- a LEADER Local Action Group, like the one of Central West
How do they mobilise?
The mobilisation of the initiators is always the result of a more
or less long history that began in a specific context which
triggered the motivations, the initiatives, the establishment of
contacts and the search for solutions.
The initiators generally chose to adopt an institutional, non-
governmental or cooperative framework specific to the planned
action. For example, there was the creation of: the Rural Plan for
Economic Integration association in Brittany, the CILDEA
association in the Loire, the social cooperative in Trento, the
Angust Transport Forum in Scotland, the association for the
management of the time bank in Emilia-Romagna, the RRI association
in Ireland, etc.
b) The beneficiaries: Who are they?
The beneficiaries are the target group of excluded people at whom
the action is aimed, because each action has a clearly defined
target group: long-term unemployed (Centre-Ouest Bretagne), farmers
in difficulty (Loire), the disabled (Valle di Non), the elderly
(Utajärvi Oulu), geographically isolated persons (Angus), “economic
How are they contacted?
The beneficiaries are identified and contacted in a whole variety
of ways. Often the initiators’ network of personal acquaintances is
sufficient. That is generally the case in the Italian social
cooperatives whose network tends to grow as the action progresses
and the initiator becomes acquainted with the beneficiaries.
However, sometimes systematic identification is necessary. Several
solutions are then possible:
- using the databases or the files of the State administrative
services when this is also possible. The CILDEA association, for
example, contacts the income support service to find farmers in
- using relays - in County Angus, the beneficiaries are
contacted via local groups of volunteers. They are the ones who
present the service, provide feedback on the needs, locally
organise travel, etc.
- using broadcasting tools like the radio. RRI, for example,
presents its action on radio programmes where interested persons
can call in.
Whatever the situation, nothing is imposed on the potential
beneficiaries who must remain free to choose. In fact the dialogue
that is established with them is part of the inclusion work and
essential if the action is to be a success. In the Loire, it takes
a lot of talking to the farmers in difficulty before they are
willing to become beneficiaries and accept the principle of
counselling and guidance.
What part do they play in conducting the action?
In general the relationship between initiators and beneficiaries is
not a simple relationship of assistance. The fact that the
beneficiaries are involved in the action’s management is an
essential condition for its success and sustainability. However,
this is not always easy to do, given the often precarious situation
of the beneficiaries. In such case, specific methods of training,
involvement and dialogue have to be found that imply a lot of
listening and guidance. Several methods have been tested depending
on the groups concerned:
- the establishment of long-term dialogue by holding regular
meetings to review and compare results - every year, the CILDEA
association organises a general meeting with the farmer
beneficiaries and their counsellors to take stock of the past year,
to assess the methods used, to see what kind of improvements can be
made, and so on.
- the direct involvement of the beneficiaries in the action’s
management by making them active members of the association
promoting the action - the beneficiaries of the time bank of
Sant’Arcangelo di Romagna are members of the association which they
operate, dividing the work among five working groups (management of
secretariat, management of computer system, organisation of courses
and cultural and recreational activities, relations with the public
institutions, promotion of the bank in the area).
- the use of contracts or other forms of formal commitment -
The CILDEA association has all the beneficiaries sign (in
accordance with the rules imposed for the granting of income
support) a contract of inclusion which is approved by a local board
of inclusion. This contract reiterates the pledges made by both
sides and the rights and obligations of the beneficiary.
c) The resource persons and/or institutions: Who are they?
These are the people and/or institutions who help the beneficiaries
find a way out of their state of exclusion. They can help establish
a social link by lending a sympathetic ear, developing a human
relationship, or offering advice, or they can provide services,
organise vocational training or even offer a job (case of the
It may occur that the target groups also act as resource persons,
like in the example of the elderly people in Finland or the members
of the time bank in Italy.
How are they identified and contacted?
Finding the potential resource persons and/or institutions is a
matter of observation and contacts. Here, the personal
acquaintances of the initiators plays an essential role.
The CILDEA association uses the “word-of-mouth” method to find
farmer counsellors. Its former job as a teacher in a rural area
helped the development worker find the farmers most open to the
action proposed and made it easier to mobilise them.
How are they prepared to assume their role?
The resource persons and/or institutions play a key role in the
action’s progression at the local level. It is essential that they
make the project and action their own, otherwise there is a great
risk of failure. This is important because they are often required
to listen and relate to the beneficiaries, which implies a
considerable amount of psychological, human, social and cultural
The CILDEA association prepares the counsellors by organising
regular training sessions with psychologists, social workers and
For city families moving to the country with the help of RRI, the
inhabitants of the host villages are the resource persons. However,
there have been cases where people have moved to villages without
sufficient consultation and preparation of the local people. This
resulted in reactions of rejection, particularly when the newly
arrived families include “problem” teenagers (juvenile delinquency,
What part do they play in conducting the action?
There are several levels of involvement of the resource persons
and/or institutions in the action’s management:
- The involvement may be in the form of informal and voluntary
In the Valle di Non social cooperative in Italy, the resource
families make a voluntary commitment that is later formalised as
and when the need arises.
- Sometimes, even when voluntary, a more formal commitment has
to be made where the general context of participation in the action
is clearly established.
For the counselling of farmers in the Loire, the counsellors
have to make a formal commitment to abide by a certain number of
clearly defined practices: time and forms of assistance,
relationship with the association, etc.
- The commitment of the resource persons and/or institutions
may even go as far as participation in the local partnership
created for the action, membership in the association responsible
for the action or inclusion in the group of initiators of the
The CILDEA association and the social cooperative of the
Valle di Non had a number of cases like this.
d) the holders of financial resources
The actions to fight social exclusion would have difficulty
existing without specific funding. Despite the constant reliance
upon very low-cost resources (voluntary work, local means, etc.),
there are operating costs that an association itself cannot easily
finance. Although there are exceptions, like in the case of the
time bank of Sant’Archangelo di Romagna where the initiator is a
public institution which already has a specific budget.
Who are they?
The funding for anti-exclusion actions can be public or private and
come from a variety of sources: local, regional, national or
European authority or body.
At the local level, public funds are most often solicited from the
municipalities. But funding can also be sought from other regional
authorities like the French General Councils, the British County
Councils or the German Länder. At the national level, the
specialised government agencies remain a potential source of
Since 1990, the action begun by CILDEA has been funded by the
General Council of the Loire and by the department’s Labour and
Employment Services. Given the good results obtained in a few
cantons, this funding has been extended to all the rural sectors of
the department. This has made it possible to reach nearly 100
farmers on income support, or two thirds of those in the
department. Some private firms will also fund actions to fight social
To launch their training enterprise for jobs in the construction
sector, the LEADER group of Centre-Ouest Bretagne solicited and
obtained financial support from the region’s major industrial firms
connected with the sector (cement, electricity, etc.).
Finally, it is important to remember that by mobilising local
funds, public or private, it is possible to apply for European
funding, from the European Social Fund (ESF) in particular.
How is a relationship of trust established and how can the funding
The relationship with the institutions funding the actions is often
problematic, because their expectations do not necessarily
correspond to the reality of the anti-exclusion work. Often they
want visible and quantifiable results in the short term. But
inclusion is for the most part only achieved over the long term and
involves the building of a social link that is not immediately
The CILDEA association was faced with a problem of this kind. The
General Council which was funding the action underestimated the
amount of work that had to be done to rebuild a social link and
thought that it could judge the results according to the number of
farmers no longer on income support. In some cases, it even went so
far as to question the validity of the system of counselling and
guidance. The problem was in part overcome by establishing direct
contact between the officials of the services concerned and some of
the farmers being counselled and by systematically writing up
individual progress reports for each case. In addition, the
officials of the administrative service were systematically invited
to the joint review meetings organised with the beneficiaries and
their counsellors. This enabled them to understand the method and
to accept the principle of a long-term action.