Local association "De Kooi"
in Leiden (Netherlands)
"The most efficient local initiatives are those which
establish their own priorities and are underpinned by wider
policies at urban, regional or national level".
Glasgow, Malmö, Leiden, Duisburg, Nancy, Naples - six
towns where local associations are battling to revitalise less?favoured
areas, with employment as an essential but certainly not unique
ingredient. These local development initiatives are analysed in
the ELSES project, a new kind of assessment, involving researchers
and field workers right from the start.
"Until the early 1990s, in most European
countries local policy to combat social exclusion
focused primarily on the most urgent needs, such as health, housing
or subsistence. It is only recently that we have also seen economic
projects aimed at tackling root causes. Public authorities are now
beginning to support the development of new companies, individual
employment initiatives and targeted training in these less?favoured
urban areas," explains Sabine Weck, a researcher at the ILS
research institute in Dortmund, which is coordinating the EU's ELSES
What distinguishes this project is that researchers and field workers
have been involved right from the start. They have worked in close
synergy, analysing the different strategies for local socio?economic
development in specific neighbourhoods located in needy urban areas.
From one neighbourhood to another
In March 1999 - the half?way point for the project - an initial
seminar was held in Naples giving the researchers and associations
the chance to compare their experiences and the different contexts.
In Germany, where the national public sector assumes the traditional
role of the welfare state, local development initiatives are managed
largely by politicians and officials, the local community not really
having much say in defining priorities and deciding on measures.
In the United Kingdom, where the welfare state has been trimmed
considerably in recent years, the well?established role of local
associations has grown. As an example, Govan Initiative employs
164 people and manages an annual budget of 6 million euros. In Italy,
in the urban area of Pomigliano d'Arco (Naples) - the scene of development
schemes under European, national and regional programmes - the local
authority has a certain autonomy and plays a particularly active
role in initiatives focusing primarily on job creation. But almost
everywhere, bureaucratic red tape can put a damper on projects -
if not on enthusiasm.
Beyond the figures
At this first seminar, the partners decided to concentrate on three
subjects: social integration through work (placements, training,
etc.), the social economy (based on the services generated by and
for the community) and support for entrepreneurial initiatives (help
within setting up enterprises, financial advice and services, development
of infrastructure permitting network activities).
"We are used to measuring these actions in terms of concrete
results, such as how many jobs they generate. The number of jobs
created is bound to be low in a regional environment with rising
unemployment among the unskilled and a stagnant overall employment
situation," points out Sabine Weck. "But apart from this
aspect, very?small?scale local regeneration actions serve to restore
social links, create new networks, introduce factors which improve
the quality of life and living conditions in a neighbourhood, and
open up new opportunities for participating in social life. These
are all very real elements, even if they cannot be measured in the
same way. There is a need to go beyond one?dimensional strategies
if we are to solve issues that are not at all one-dimensional."
Autonomy and time
These projects have been carried out in very different geographic,
institutional socio?economic and cultural contexts. Some associations
have worked on these issues for a long time while other cases involve
pilot experiments. In spite of this diversity, the partners have
reached a number of common conclusions. With very clearly targeted
objectives and relatively modest initial investment, in terms of
cost and human resources, these "micro" initiatives might
have socio?economic "macro" benefits. The innovative capacity
of these groups is often linked with the absence of red tape. The
most effective local initiatives are those which determine their
own priorities and are underpinned by broader policies at urban,
regional and national level.
According to Sabine Weck, one of the conditions for the success
of local development is the willingness of the authorities to delegate
a part of their powers to local groups. These strategies are built
up over time. We have to learn to eliminate the least efficient
practices, understand relations between a district and larger entities,
become proactive in a development process, invest in essential programmes,
and take action in line with carefully determined needs. We need
time, and this is why supervision and evaluation are also very important
tools in evolving these policies.
The ELSES partners presented their conclusions at the conference
in Dortmund in March 2000. The meeting also served as a forum for
discussions between researchers, field workers and political decision?makers.
According to the project coordinator, "this project will be
a success if it manages to bridge the traditional divide between
those who make policy, those who implement policy, and those who
assess its results. Such a link will require close cooperation ?
and constant feedback ? between these various parties".
Evaluation of local socio-economic strategies in disadvantaged
urban areas (ELSES)
Targeted Socio-Economic Research Programme (TSER)
E-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
-Institut für Landes- und Stadtentwicklungsforschung
des Landes Nordrhein-Westfalen, Dortmund, Germany (coordinator)
- University of Glasgow, Glasgow, United Kingdom
- Entwicklungsgesellschaft Duisburg-Marxloh mbH, Duisburg,
- Govan Initiative Ltd, Glasgow, United Kingdom
- Kungliga Tekniska Högskolan, Stockholm, Sweden
- MKB Fastighets AB, Malmö, Sweden
- Laboratoire de Sociologie du Travail et de l'Environnement
Social, Nancy, France
- Association de Prévention Spécialisée
"Jeunes et Cité", Laxou, France
- Beleidsondersteunend Ruimtelijk Onderzoek, Universiteit
van Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands
- Istituto per la Diffusione et la Valorizzazione della Cultura
Scientifica, Naples, Italy
Duisburg, the Marxloh district, one of the
areas analysed under the ELSES project.