Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

Prototyping Welfare

The Vici-funded project ‘Prototyping Welfare in Europe: Experiments in State and Society’ takes a comparative look at the future of the welfare state. Across Europe, neighborhoods, schools and community centers are experimenting with doing welfare differently. These ‘living labs’ aim to create new approaches to welfare provision, essentially prototyping welfare. Principal Investigator Anouk de Koning, together with Tessa Bonduelle, Martha Kapazoglou and Vénicia Sananès will research a sampling of these welfare experiments in four cities in Europe: Amsterdam, Marseille, Thessaloniki and London.

2022 - 2027
Sarah Smith
Vici (NWO) Vici (NWO)

How can we generate cohesive neighborhoods and foster community welfare? The grassroots organizations, non-profits and semi-state actors across Europe tackling this question are finding answers in innovative, collaborative ways. Their ‘welfare experiments’ are not only changing the present welfare landscape, but help to shape future welfare arrangements and relations between government, citizens and society. 

Ethnographic approach

The types of welfare experiments studied in this project have the potential to further our understanding of how welfare can work differently – even better – but they’ve not yet been examined using a comparative, ethnographic approach. ‘Prototyping Welfare’ seeks to fill that gap. It’s central questions include: How do experiments shape relationships between state, society and citizens? Do they perpetuate existing social hierarchies, or do they move beyond them? And what do they tell us about the future of European welfare states? 

Thessaloniki, Marseille, Amsterdam and London

A comparative approach is a key part of the ‘Prototyping Welfare’ project. The research team consisting of the PI, Postdoc and two PhD students will conduct fieldwork in four European cities of similar size, but with distinct governmental traditions, welfare structures, social and racial fault lines and political anxieties: Thessaloniki (Greece), Marseille (France), Amsterdam (the Netherlands) and London (UK). By placing these different cases side by side, the project seeks to gain insights into how welfare experiments reflect and transform their specific contexts.

A new approach to European welfare worlds

The project findings on the dilemmas and potentials of welfare prototyping are not only meant to further the academic study of welfare, but speak directly to practitioners. The results will be shared with policy officials, social professionals and community actors who help shape European welfare states. The end goal of the project is to contribute to the public debate on the future of European welfare states and inspire a new approach to European welfare worlds and futures.

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