Fighting social exclusion in rural areas
[ Summary ]
Consolidating the fight against social exclusion
by including it in an area-based approach?
4.2 Achievements that can be used to
elaborate a territorial inclusion approach
The local experiences of fighting social exclusion have left a
certain number of achievements and have shown new ways of thinking
to elaborate an area-based approach. The analysis presented in the
previous chapter on the basis of a few examples of intervention
enable us to draw certain lessons which may be completed or
deepened by subsequent studies.
a) The partnership lever
The first lesson concerns the key role of the local partnership.
Partnerships are necessary to fight social exclusion. They help
establish closer relations between the actors who are prepared to
make the effort and also serve to bridge the gap between needs and
resources, to involve the beneficiaries in the action, to open
prospects of enlargement to other social groups, other forms of
The local partnership can be a forum for consultation and
discussion about the distribution and destination of the funds,
which has the advantage of taking better account of the
characteristics of the area.
Partnerships are educational and instructive. They help build a
system of indicators that take into account the full complexity of
the problem. The partnership takes on full meaning in particular
when the following are included:
- the associations which, because of their experience of
fighting exclusion, have concrete knowledge of the situations and
an understanding of the complexity of the problem;
- the public services that manage assistance for people in
difficulty and can provide more systematised information and design
appropriate support measures at the local, regional and national
- the municipal officials who as elected representatives are
supposed to work for the well-being of all the municipality’s
- and especially the beneficiaries - the fact that the objectives
and the methods can be compared from the beneficiaries’ point of
view is a “safeguard”. It is a way of calling the interventions
into question at all times and therefore ensuring their relevance
and quality. This participation by the excluded plays a key role in
their return to the mainstream of society. By no longer considering
them welfare recipients but instead equal partners helping to
define common objectives, the beneficiaries find elements to put
their situation in a social, economic, cultural and political
context and in so doing manage to rid themselves of guilt.
The actions analysed in
chapter III clearly show the importance of
carefully thinking about their necessary integration within a
partnership working in a more general fashion on local development.
Essential questions about the future of the area-based approach
arise: how can the social inclusion actions be made an essential
part of any intervention strategy? How can the search for economic
competitiveness be made compatible with the systematic search for
b) Giving the approach time to work
The second lesson is that implementing a local area-based approach
takes time. Indeed the main difficulty is to get people to share
the values of social cohesion and solidarity, largely overshadowed
in modern society by the great emphasis on competitiveness which is
omnipresent in the world of education, research and politics.
Therefore the long term is essential for its implementation. Short-
term anti-exclusion actions generally leave the traditional social
divisions intact and do not consider any radical changes such as
introducing a form of representation for those excluded.
The system of guidance and counselling set up by the CILDEA
association is the result of twenty years of militancy and
community actions. The impetus was given particularly by the work
councils of certain large companies in the region of Lyons which at
the end of the 1960s began to organise actions of solidarity with
the farmers of the region. Proof of the importance of this long
militant entrenchment, the attempts to transfer the method of
counselling and guidance to other regions in France have so far
failed. When the values and practices of solidarity are not already
part of the common cultural references, it is in fact very
difficult to find experienced farmers who are prepared to do
The social cooperatives in Italy also have twenty years of militant
history, which explains why they are today a social and political
reference in Europe.
However, there are times when an event affecting the profound
values of an individual or an area radically transforms the
individual or area. Some elements (media, political decisions) can
also contribute to a faster awareness of the need to change. The
introduction of the framework law against social exclusion in
France, for example, helped make people aware of the extent of the
c) Establishing the link with regional, national and European
There is hardly any doubt that it is first at the local level that
a process of social acceptance must begin. It is at this level that
the complex reality of the exclusion can be seen and that the
necessary work can be done to identify, involve and mobilise all
the human resources around common objectives. However, this is only
the beginning. It is important that the link be established with
other initiatives taken at other levels. By complementing or
speeding up local endogenous processes, the regional, national and
European initiatives can facilitate social inclusion.
Therefore, the relatively standardised approaches decided by the
national or regional governments (public aid for the unemployed,
needy families, the disabled, social policies, training, etc.) also
have a fundamental role to play. But their impact will to a large
extent depend on their coordination with territorial approaches
that can serve as relays on the ground.
A certain number of government agencies have understood the need
for this coordination.
In Portugal, income support, which was introduced in 1997, is
granted by social security centres but in collaboration with other
partners - municipalities and associations working locally to fight
exclusion. For this, “Local Assistance Boards” have been created in
each zone where the centres intervene. The boards help identify the
potential beneficiaries and give their opinion about granting or
stopping income support for families and about the accompanying
measures needed. This gives the measure a lot more impact than
would have been the case had it been applied through purely
However, the local actors need adequate preparation if these new
forms of state intervention are to be successful.
A recent audit showed that only three of all the boards set up in
Portugal are operating satisfactorily.
Yet, a great part of this preparation involves the adoption of
measures encouraging the implementation of local projects.
The Community Initiatives aimed at the fight against the exclusion
of certain specific groups have played a major role in this. The
European programmes NOW (for women), YOUTHSTART (for young people)
and HORIZON (for the disabled) have helped create partnerships to
implement projects. The LEADER groups themselves have often taken
this kind of initiative for their actions.
The LEADER group of the island of La Palma (Canaries, Spain) has
organised its local intervention strategy by coordinating its
LEADER II programme with the NOW and HORIZON programmes. This has
enabled it to introduce in the island rural revitalisation work a
social dimension that is essential for the most disadvantaged
families who are able to stay in their homes and actively
participate in the community actions.
Some of the national programmes also play a decisive role in the
emergence of local approaches to the fight against social
The INTEGRAR programme elaborated within the “Community Support
Framework” in Portugal encourages a territorial approach to the
fight against social exclusion. It has contributed to the setting
up around these objectives of a number of local groups and helped
launch a whole range of projects throughout the country in rural
and urban areas.
Therefore the third lesson that can be drawn from the actions
already launched is that an area-based approach must be able to
coordinate the interventions devised locally with regional,
national and European aid programmes.