The welfare state and social innovation

The course provides students with the tools for the political understanding of recent transformation of the welfare state, the welfare mix and social innovation.
For almost three decades, European countries have been striving to reform their social models, tailored on increasingly surpassed economic, socio-demographic and cultural structures. The consistency between programmatic ambitions and reform practices is not easy to evaluate. Reforms introduced at the national level, largely focused on the large programs of social protection, do not exhaust the array of ongoing transformations. In order to understand the breadth and nature of change, this course moves beyond the perimeter of the public sector, directing attention towards developments in the market and in civil society, and especially towards those new forms of intertwinement, collaboration and synergy that have been emerging between these two spheres (and often between them and the public sector) in welfare provision.

This course focuses on “poorly visible” forms of welfare mix and social innovation initiatives, projects and policies, and describes recent achievements in some selected European countries. Firstly, the course will illustrate some analytical distinctions and clarifications on the notion of welfare state, welfare mix and “secondo welfare” (for denoting the array of non-public welfare provisions which have been expanding in the last decade, the Italian debate has recently coined a new label : “second welfare”, a notion that is very much connected with the discussion on social innovation and the future of social policy at the EU level). Secondly, the course will analyze some emerging trends and achievements (i.e. emblematic initiatives, projects and policies) within the European countries taking into consideration the nation of social innovation and social investment. Finally, the course will aim at highlighting problems, risks, and prospects of such trends.

Students who attend the course will be able to address the issue of why different countries implement different social measures and policies, especially in times of crisis ; explore important concepts in the field of comparative social policy, including social citizenship, risk sharing, de-commodification, welfare mix, public-private partnership, social innovation, social investment ; examine the historical foundations of welfare regimes and the forces driving their development in Western nations ; analyze contemporary policy issues affecting Western welfare states, including globalization, demographic aging, labor market instability, gender equality, vulnerability and social exclusion, migration, populism ; envisage the social and economic consequences of processes of welfare state reforms and the emergence of the “second welfare” paradigm ; identify different approaches to explaining institutional variety in advanced welfare systems ; examine the relevance of tools and frameworks for the study of Western welfare states and their transformation.

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