Kokkolan yliopistokeskus Chydenius

The role of welfare services for participative citizenship of marginalised citizens (PalKO)

tekijä: Maija Siika-aho Viimeisin muutos torstai 04. helmikuuta 2016, 12.50

The role of welfare services for participative citizenship of marginalised citizens (PalKO)


Responsible leader of the research: Professor Aila-Leena Matthies Dr.Soc.Sci.

Site(s) of research: University of Jyväskylä, Kokkola University Consortium Chydenius

Funding period: July 2011-July 2014

Staff: two post-doctoral researchers Kati Närhi and Tuomo Kokkonen

Objectives and short description of the project:

The overall objective of the research is to improve comparative knowledge of welfare service practices that hinder or enable participation by those groups of citizens who are identified as being the “most ‘non-participative”. If a low voting rate is taken as an indicator of non-participation, this is connected in the case of Finland with factors such as low income, low educational status, unemployment and deprived living areas. We assume that many of these “non-participative” groups are dependent on the welfare services. It is thus essential to examine the role of the relevant welfare services for a participative citizenship and subjectivisation on the part of marginalised citizens as service users. Consequently, this research will address the services provided by municipal social welfare agencies, especially those responsible for social benefits, social work among adults and activities for unemployed citizens. The aim is to analyse how far citizens as service users are involved in the Finnish system of local welfare services and how their participation can be promoted. The empirical research will take place in two Finnish municipalities and apply the Participatory Action approach (PAR) in cooperation with EAPN-fin (European Anti-povrty Network in Finland). The first detailed objective is to identify factors enabling or hindering participative citizenship and subjectivisation of marginalised citizens in the field of the welfare services. This will be achieved via a) a cautious analysis of the current legal, rhetorical and normative frameworks governing the rationality of services (textual analysis) in the two municipalities, b) activating focus group interviews with street-level practitioners attached to municipal social service agencies and long-term unemployed citizens, and c) dialectic discussions of analysis and interpretation as forms of reflection taking place between these groups.

Furthermore, we assume that various groups conventionally considered to be “non-participative” actively develop their own forms of participation and networking. Based on an assessment of the state of the art, the second objective will be to produce knowledge regarding new and more relevant practices for enabling marginalised citizens to adopt their own forms of participation and to develop a concept of participative citizenship. A careful participatory action research (PAR) process, starting as participatory planning, will be carried out in the form of case studies in two Finnish cities. Both groups interviewed, the unemployed service users and the social workers, will be involved as steering groups. The implementation of the planned participatory actions in the field of the welfare services (e.g. community centres, low-threshold services, self-help networks, virtual participation and critical forums for influencing policy making) in both municipalities will be observed and documented from a comparative perspective. By involving marginalised citizens themselves and using their experience-based knowledge, a new participative understanding of professional expertise and citizenship will be developed. The results will be discussed within the existing European network and other scientific communities. Four papers in international journals and several Finnish publications will be produced during the research project. The ongoing dialectic documentation and the final results will be disseminated amongst the relevant policy-makers, professionals and NGOs in cooperation with EAPN-Fin. Through its focus on marginalised citizens’ participation, the four years of research will address the current core challenges for both democracy and the welfare services in the Finnish context. Besides the internationally experienced coordinator, the research team will consist of two skilled post-doctoral researchers and will be engaged in close cooperation with the Finnish sub-organisation of the European Anti-poverty Network.

Key words: Citizens' participation, social work, welfare services, marginalised citizens, service users, participatory research


Partners: EAPN-fin; University of Ljubljana, University of Malmö, University of Zaragoza, University of Aalborg, University Collage of Oslo, University of Linköping, Ostfalia University of Applied Sciences, University of Durham

Contacts: Aila-Leena Matthies aila-leena.matthies@chydenius.fi, kati.narhi@chydenius.fi, tuomo.kokkonen@chydenius.fi

Palko Project Publications in English

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