This is the fourth in the series of research papers based on the community’s experiences of transition. Do read it, see if it’s you in the picture of young looking to improve opportunities and access to resources not just for themselves, but for others as well; if it’s similar to how you’re designing your own lifestyle, or the way you move around in networks, building strong ties based on shared aspirations. All constructive input is very valuable. Remember that it’s these papers and feedback that will feed into the Transition Handbook for Policymakers, edited by Rebecca Collins and up by the end of the year.
Social inclusion of young people. Being socially included on the Edge?
by Barbara Giovanna Bello
What is inclusion in CoE and EU policy frameworks?
When higher education is no longer guaranteeing entry into labor force, employment becomes a prerequisite for inclusion.
Social inclusion lies at the core of social policies and promoting it means enabling access and opportunities to resources for as many people as possible in a society, in terms of healthcare, housing, schooling, employment, culture, justice. The promise of social inclusion is that it contributes to making societies thrive, by promoting equality of access and broader integration with institutions - in education, labor market and citizen participation in decision-making, thus leading to overall citizen wellbeing and ultimately fostering growth and prosperity. Baseline for inclusiveness, if I understand correcly, is people to have access to what is considered the normal amount of wellbeing in a given society, or have the same opportunities as their peers.
Understanding inclusion often has been reduced to emphasizing what we don’t want for our societies: we don’t want people to experience exclusion, and this goes beyond financial wellbeing; it is reflected in the social relations, through unequal participation in exchanges and pervasion of power inequalities, and discrimination. Someone is excluded when they don’t belong and are not participating in institutionalized relations in society, and most often this is visible in the extent to which included members project moral judgment upon the excluded, such that they are viewed worthy or unworthy to receive support.
The Council of Europe has been working on this for the last 40 years, with inclusion addressed in the framework for social cohesion, a more positive term because it focuses on opportunities. The EU focused attention on it starting the 2000s, by proposing a framework for national strategies and encouraging open coordination amongst individual state policies.
Overtime, the tendency has moved more and more towards actively involving the young themselves in drafting and evaluating youth related documents. Hence the very successful Youth In Action programme established for the period 2007-2013, which was a pioneer in focusing on equal and non-discriminatory access, containing a specific strategy for inclusion. Emphasis has been put on ensuring that all young people benefit from it, especially those with fewer opportunities like early school dropouts, people with mental and physical disabilities, those having a migrant or Roma background, young refugees etc. The YiA has been successful in providing them with learning opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise access, through traditional education frameworks.
Barbara argues that the definitions of ‘social inclusion’ and ‘social exclusion’, emerged in the European Union, could be constructed as involving three dimensions: recognition of rights, a fairer distribution of resources and parity participation (equal political voice).
Inclusion as experienced by Edgeryders
Edgeryders is a highly socially inclusive space, it is open to any citizen and it fosters transnational exchanges. Natural constraints, as Barbara and the other researchers have identified, would be limited access in terms of language barriers or internet use (e-inclusion).
ERs aim to de-institutionalize current patterns of values and what is known through “social status”, or identity which is bound by race, ethnicity or other type of inherited background; not only in their immediate environments, but through political action and civil society initiatives, re-creating identities of others by focusing not on structural differences, but on bridges and a focus on better future. Diversity and integration of minorities should depart from rigid categorization and adopt more fluid understandings of identity
In Edgeryders posts the forming of family – through marriage and having children - is an important factor generative of a specific lifestyle, and family borders are rather fluid than bound by traditional institutions such as church or the state – think of single parenting, same sex marriage and women emancipation. What this tells us is that we need more broader conceptualization of family and lifestyles, recognizing agency over new lifestyle models.
Barriers to work entry and access to stable income have been clearly noted from the community’s experiences, also in the ethnographic report. Even if ERs are not themselves under-educated, on the contrary, yet our ways to acquire skills lie mostly outside school environments; but if for us accessing paid work through traditional employment schemes is difficult, whether by choice or not since there seems to be some maneuver space, for those less educated and actually excluded, the problems are much harsher and in great need for better, more inclusive policies that allow and enable more balanced careers. There seems to be high potential for widening and more inclusive reach of non-formal learning policies.
Edgeryders actions to cope with mal-distribution of material resources aren’t reinforcing structures, but are transformative in nature: they want to be in control of their lives and go for more flexible, rewarding experiences; and their way to do this is through sharing attitudes, not just in hierarchy-free work places, but also in low cost shared living arrangements in times when rents are skyrocketing; or by developing close ties with local communities, at home or while traveling (e.g. chouchsurfing).
The most important instrument for Edgeryders bringing and keeping communities close is the activation of networks (ERs have high social capital in general) through peer relationships. This is multifaceted, and it can be expressed through sheer solidarity in light of ideals (like the initiative to support people of Greece); or thinking about global problems and solving them in one’s community (like Lucas’s plan for health provision break downs); or networking for shared political causes, not necessarily or better said, least in formal politics (for example as commons carers).
In general, from Edgeryders experiences surfaces a great need to re-interpret social policy by de-constructing categorizations and focus on common aspirations and giving youth the space to build bottom up initiatives in search for a better future for and by all. Barbara adds that: “the main idea of the edgeryders’ governance is the departure from the bureaucratic machinery and the implementation of co- models (co-working, co-housing, sharing of decisions, etc.)”
- Recognition of a role and voice of young people in society, as peers
- Recognition of young people’s agency, talents and potential beyond the logic of ordinary curricula and market economy; instead of targeting those who are considered the marginalized and reinforcing labels, focus on commonly held aspirations;
- By placing a lot of value in coaching, mentoring, inspiring role models, which are provided by both ‘seniors’ and their peers and mostly outside formal work relations, young people like Edgeryders should be provided with fair access to scant resources, in order to continue to work together and make sustainable work where they choose to put their own creativity
- Young people should be involved in designing, implementing and evaluating youth-related policies. In other words, they should be empowered to participate in the ex-ante evaluation and needs assessment, as well as in the ex-post evaluation.
- The rules of the space: Making sense of interactions as we navigate different spaces
- You, me and everyone we know: how do you build networks in the offline and online
- We-mix culture: Tell us about a project you know or have started that looks into cultural blends. What statement does it make?
- Mine becomes ours: The CO trends - co-housing, co-working, co-building, co-ops, co-owning - as spaces to build relationships.
- Meet my family: Have family constellations changed?
Other research summaries awaiting for your feedback, just pick the topic that most interests you