European Committee for Specialised Action for Children and Families in their living environment / INGO AT THE COUNCIL OF EUROPE

International trade to social changes in Europe ¹

Rurka Anna (1978), social pedagogue formed at the University of Warsaw. Doctoral studies in France at the Université Paris Ouest Nanterre Defence led her to the position of Assistant Professor at the same University. The engagement within the European Committee for Home-based Priority Action for the Child and the Family in their environment (EUROCEF), INGOs of the Council of Europe, that she currently chairs, allow to associate scientific activities conducted within the University to the actions conducted by EUROCEF. With a single goal to put these projects in favor of professional training students and policy makers in the field of social work.

Mascha Join-Lambert (1947), educated at Institut d’Etudes Politiques in Paris, has both a German and a French background. She has been involved since 1972 with the International Movement ATD Fourth World and has been striving most of her time to support civic participation of disadvantaged youth and their efforts for social justice.

This article presents the findings of the European project “Innovative Outlook socio-educational intervention in Germany, Belgium, France and Poland: users, volunteers, social workers and students in research and dialogue” called simply INNOV 2010 ². Led for two years (2009-2011), he met a hundred participants from different horizon researchers, trainers, social workers, social work students, local politicians and European users of the social services activists. About the addressed refers to the conclusions that the participants made at international seminars and written reports they made after visits in each country.


A project is a projection into the future, some anticipation of action by reference to the values ​​and purposes for which the participants relate. Initiated by four associations (EUROCEF, Globul’in, ATD Quart Monde Poland Haus Neudorf), the Innov2010 project was funded in part by one of the “educational Grundtvig Partnership» ³ under any program Education sector programs throughout the life of the European Union.

From a philosophical point of view, the project is that by which man tends to change the world or himself. In this sense, the project has served us to produce the meaning of our actions. For the scenario “non-ordinary”, he invited us to excel in our thoughts and in our practice, regardless of our place in society. The poetics of this innovation would build it for its realization. This involved different types of learning and knowledge: learning to be, to do, to live and learn seems to know.

1. Project presentation

The innovation of this project stems from the diversity of actors involved, eager to intensify the debate on the role of social work for children and families living in poverty in Europe.

For EUROCEF (European Committee for specialized child and family in their living environment share) project coordinator and Globul’in Belgian project partner, the intention was to achieve a sharing of best practices and initiate debate the identity of the social worker and socio-educational innovations in Europe.For ATD Fourth World Poland, under the leadership of Pierre Klein, interest was twofold. Having completed in 2004 a European study on child protection and family (DTA, 2005), this project provided an opportunity to discuss these issues with new partners in Poland. For the “Forum for a Common Europe” Haus Neudorf in Brandenburg (Germany), observation of the deep gap between the expectations of the users of social services on the one hand, and the constraints and priorities of social workers, other hand, had created the desire to provide social work students on opening a European civic mission of their profession. 
This partnership was not obvious. Social workers and users are in a ratio of power inherent in professional social work based on a state aid mission and social control. To construct the epistemic foundations of this project, Mascha Join-Lambert at the time director of Haus Neudorf, launched in September 2008 “Four Theses” who founded the agreement between the instigators:

  • Thesis 1: The professionals of the socio-educational intervention are privileged witnesses of social developments.
  • Thesis 2: The professionals and service users can become partners.
  • Thesis 3: Professionals can participate in formulating social policy objectives.
  • Thesis 4: Facing such opportunities and challenges, professionals are too often alone.

The formulation of these principles helped organize this long journey, for a hundred professionals (education and / or exercise), users and volunteers who have explored the sources and perspectives of social work in Europe with four stations :

  • Warsaw (November 2009)
  • in Paris (March 2010)
  • Brandenburg / Berlin (October 2010)
  • Brussels (February 2011),

First station : Warsaw (November 2009)
Seminar entitled: Children at risk, families in danger 

Warsaw hosts in November 2009 about 120 people (social workers, activists ATD, users of social sectors, researchers, politicians, professionals, students) from four European countries, offering a multitude of topics is the question Family and insecure child.

The home page of this very large group in one place of accommodation and training outside the city, as well as many activities of non-verbal encounter facilitate a first contact. These visits for many participants constitute a discovery of Poland, leave deep traces in memory. Here is an excerpt of testimony made by the participants, after a meeting with the children of underprivileged district of Warsaw. “Praga is a popular area marked as dangerous. The particularity of educators, social pedagogues called in Poland, it is their site of action. They do not work on the street but in the courtyards. Escorted by the teacher and our translator, we headed to a porch and we came out onto a courtyard, three buildings forming a U, define the courtyard space. Dilapidated buildings, blind. Some windows are lighted, a very yellow light of low intensity. The building is fully walled background, according to the educator, a fire that would not be accidentally dislodged order inhabitants. September educators working in these courses to meet the children. The population is very margin. The families are large, from 8 to 10 children. These courses are invested by children. This is often the only place they go outside. We learn that educators court does not work with families. They are focusing their efforts on the youngest.

Distrust of all social actors is resonance. The daily lives of educators is primarily attempting to cross the porch for children, creating “outputs” beyond the neighborhood. “The people of course” is survival, no access to health care, family allowances, most having no gas or electricity. They are outside of all association activities and not engage in any event, be it cultural or informative.

Night falls quickly in Warsaw, educator invites us to leave the area. We visited several classes and each time we had the same feeling of a forgotten world, excluded, before the creation of this association, which works with children who resists the difficulty of being around them, to establish a link, and often in their project seeks only to make them cross the bridge over the Vistula for their gaze focuses on other issues, other curiosities. It is with regret that we left the street educators4.

In Poland, the participants felt meet a rather poor country and they found themselves with professionals close to the poor, inventive and highly professional to allow families slowing not flow in life. The astonishment and self-discovery through the other are the strengths of this project.

Second Station: region Paris (March 27-April 2, 2010)
Compare teaching, research, policy and practice for the protection of the child in his family in Poland, Germany, Belgium and France

The bar had been set up by the Poles in terms of thinking in terms of usability. Again, we saw how we could get out of the usual logical thinking our daily work differently. The research team family education and social work from the University Paris Ouest Nanterre Defence welcomed the hundreds of participants to share the specificity of its teaching and its research. The characteristics of social policies in France, Germany, Poland and Belgium were introduced by keynote lectures, but these are the visits in the Paris region who could best promote exchanges on laws and practices in France. An in-depth meeting with the approaches of the International Movement ATD Fourth World, in the field of “Crossroads of Knowledge and Practices” and the memory of poverty and the poor in Europe helped to formulate questions that have marked the following this project.

Third station Uckermark / Berlin (from 11 to 17 October 2010)
The challenges of isolation in rural and urban areas

 Two totally different places, Schwedt one hand, Berlin another to apprehend reality deeply contrasting today’s Germany. Through visits to the Uckermark, we realize the precariousness of many funding, attention to mothers with young children and single-parent families, the desire to involve parents in the care of children , innovations on a cooperation agreement between kindergarten (public status) with a home for the elderly (private status), etc.. The intervention of Dr. Traber5 and the conclusion of Professor Buck6 could only hold the attention of the audience: “We can not engage in social work according to economic criteria …. The social worker must be confident, sure of its usefulness and indispensability, it must be able to claim utopia. And if there are thresholds to define, it is no longer those of poverty, but those of wealth … “

As each of the previous meetings, the participation of the beneficiaries of social services has been sought, encouraged, facilitated. And so we were able to share our work with a women’s association in the Uckermark well as a beneficiary of the Belgian association Globul’in that during project became a volunteer in this association.

Stay in Germany marked a turning point in the dynamics of group decision-largest personal position. Links have already created an opportunity to discuss the reports and rankings for problematic exclusion and child protection in a more experiential and individually. The relationship of alterity, created throughout the project came to fruition in Germany, as a string of words in which each participant has named what is important to him in this experience: “looking for another way, hope , determination, discovery, creativity, courage, initiative, humility, openness, values, belief in the impossible, solidarity, recognition and commitment “. The objective of this project was to meet individuals horizon different, not only for the technical question of social practices, but also to question the meaning of these actions. “Are we free in what we do? How do we protect our freedom of action? … Now, we know, we recognize, and appreciate the complicity of living together on the issues that shape our professional lives, but also our citizenship. “

Fourth station: Brussels (from 13 to 17 February 2011)
How consumers, professionals and policy co-construct the Social Europe? The art of innovation …

Participatory democracy has been discussed several times during the meeting in Belgium. The power of civil society which induces a discussion around the “triple mandate” Social Work with questions such as: who exercises power over whom? Mandating social work? The State withdraws – the company does? Social work is a big responsibility – but it is not considered, and constantly questions itself, reinventing itself every day.

But the problem is there is not much more deeply? The Company does not it itself produces such misfortunes? Should we not change the attitude towards life and its meaning in society rather than squeeze some in a system that man has invented to bully himself? Do not we all shut our identity in a prison made by ourselves? Each question leads to another …7

The positive impression made ​​by representatives of the administration and the political life of the Wallonia-Brussels and reflected : ”  In Belgium, we found that professionals gave a prominent place to the rights of the child , which seems less well known in France. It was also an opportunity to discover other tools and working methods including the absence of mandatory reporting by professionals which gives them more leeway and rethink the limits of their intervention8.

Apart from the question of so-called participatory governance, the participants focused on the artistic dimension in the field of social work. The art in social work could be considered both as a third party mediators enabling participation but also a necessary changes rupture. This theme has staked all times of these meetings, illustrates the thread that asked participants to excel in thought and in practice. It is bringing out the creative abilities of each other can be avoided social indifference and exhaustion in work and in life.These are frames officer who should worry about the creative potential left for users and professionals in a proposed decision-making institutions.

2. The evolution of the project following the evolution of minds 

This project has given rise to several observations and several questions. Although the discourse produced by participants are at different levels (which is their training and their different socio-cultural backgrounds), the conclusions made are very homogeneous. This is an indicator of the consistency of the whole project.

  • The project that questions our powers:

In Warsaw, the melting pot of stakeholders leads to many questions on the status of each intervention in welfare. Levels of speech are different, each developing its place, with its role and power in the organization.However, the question of legitimacy to speak, to explain the intervention of the user and to state how it is defended, together, framed, does not arise. Everyone has the right to be in relationship with knowledge in the knowledge according to its own function and its mission if it is professional, and according to his rights in the case of users.

This project, which meets in Europe stakeholders and users of all training, questions the nature of knowledge and its prevalence: the knowledge that comes from the training he has more legitimacy than the experiential knowledge? Do we build our representations of the social world on the difference or identity?

Arrived in Brussels, with the active and obvious presence of “user-actors”, or even “user-militants,” the issues of dialogue, reciprocal powers and rights of the users, the tasks of the social worker and vital support, the necessary partnership with elected and therefore citizen action emerge first.

  • Evocation of “civil society” examples of successful cooperation:

In Brussels, we have become aware of a collaborative project, involving very poor families and supported, other public and private actors active in the various fields that determine the success of a social family. This working group is now named AGORA associated with the Ministerial Conference of the Community Wallonia-Brussels for Social Inclusion. The latter’s mission is to establish together a course to build good practice in social work. And are around the table the Directorate General of Save the Children, ATD Fourth World Wrestling Association for Solidarity and Labour, Minister’s Office, the Federal Observatory for the Fight against Poverty and equal opportunities. This makes us say in conclusion: participatory projects, as they can be dreamed need time, but the temporality of social workers and policy is the same? This group lives participatory dialogue with the support of the Directorate of Youth Aid, for close to 11 years. At the heart of this participation, there is encouragement to very poor parents to develop an individual and then collective thinking from personal experience.

It is a model for other areas of governance: but we must not underestimate the resistance to power sharing.It should also be very aware of the time and specific means to implement for families deprived of citizenship can organize a group that serves as their identity support.

  • “International trade” commitment to social Europe

After days in Paris, written on behalf of many participants  : “beyond comparison between our country, we also found a true” letting go “in our ways of thinking we were at capacity As to accept new concepts without necessarily seek equivalent or correspondence. “So inevitably force meeting, each dropped its barriers to extradite to the other, the stranger who works on the same EU directives and, therefore, is not so far away.Space was then opened to allow oppose our concepts and practices to seek a hyphen that connects us: inquiry into the profile of social Europe is activated.

3. Some arrests for Social Europe 

If this project questioned the design of social Europe, it is because the players have found a contradictory logic introduced by the market economy in a field that a priori should not be subject to the same rules as lucrative services .

However, innovation is born where necessity knows no law. If the State should not be thought of in the sole provider of social innovation, this reduces the creativity of the players who can not formalize practices already established an innovative nature. Obstacles and pitfalls of publicly supported innovation prove many.The general observation concerns the procedure calls for proposals (bids) present in four countries visited.These organizational and financial arrangements are fragile devices and lose energy to small organizations do not have the energy to respond to these calls annually while continuing their actions. This poses a real problem of sustainability of innovative practices or they are temporary practices that perpetuate and are not in the official evaluation cycles. Administrative and financial realities hamper innovative targeted: administrations remain compartmentalized, services engorged, insufficient finances, “and we put a young person in a place where there is room cheap and not where it would be the better. “

We emphasized participatory democracy allowing everyone to become more involved in the search for the expression of values ​​and conduct social lines of Europe. Here below are some observations made relating to social policies:

  • Hereditary poverty

Throughout the project, poverty, whether economic, social or psychic was asked, also in its intergenerational form. One person accompanied by the insertion company “Working and Learning Together”9 ,proposed a definition which will be a key phrase for some: ”  Poverty is to be an exile in his own country  . “The story about the people on the street in Brussels told a young German: ”  One thing seems certain: you die of boredom and loneliness long before dying of hunger. “

Multiple and rich encounters with ATD which reflects the collective memory of the poor as rich lead of questions: poverty is a process or a frozen status? Can it be a springboard for institutionalized social participation?

The findings of the Ombudsman for Children’s Rights of the French Community in Belgium10 apply to all participants in the project countries. We can highlight four key points:

  • The individualization help power users to develop strategies to conceal the face of social workers.
  • Users want to be involved in all areas of corporate and do not want to be reduced to its status as poor.
  • Nothing has changed in the mechanisms of impoverishment from the first Belgian report on poverty (1989), except that they apply to new segments of the population including the working poor.

Faced with these realities, we identified the lines of force in the responses in each country:

  • reinforced families and foster care support in Poland,
  • community-based approaches in Belgium
  • the integration of long-term unemployed or career guidance for young school leavers in Germany
  • approaches “social economy” as the company insertion “Working and Learning Together” in France.

Although social work face these realities has enormous power, social worker face of poverty is in a great11 insecurity. That is one fear which makes controlling qu’émancipatrice given more help.

  • Forgotten values

A Belgian study of social workers in positions of responsibility12; confirms discussions between participants throughout our project priorities that appear are the most important aid in the middle of life, prevention, the right to assistance specialized and respect the human rights of young people.

A common sense of subordination to European decisions appeared and allowed us to ask questions about our new angles. In this sense, under German schemes for unemployed people, we have made the observation that Europe thinks the work as the central value when there is no work for all. Holders innovative projects in Germany after obtaining financing, have a large enough room to maneuver, while in France, the projects are enclosed in many regulations whose official purpose is to ensure safety and quality. We wondered if this German flexibility is possible. The projects in Germany involves many volunteer workers, while in France a movement decades professionalized the socio-educational work.

  • “Innovative paradoxical injunctions”

 During this project, parallel were also made between the institutional functioning in four countries. One of the criteria for these comparisons was a strong need to respond constantly calls for projects without being able to sustain actions beyond this framework. Calls for proposals (bids) are now present in four countries visited. Although they may provide greater flexibility for introducing new elements into the practices, the organizational and financial conditions fragile devices and wasting energy to small organizations may not have the energy to meet these calls constantly continuing their actions.

In France and Germany, the financiers have the initiative to define the field of innovation through tenders, which may lead practitioners to have to spend a portion of their energy trying to access editors tenders for orientation.

This poses a real problem of sustainability of innovative practices (1 year in Poland, 3 years in Belgium).These are great organizations that take the market (the term which is today and accompanies this dynamic).Small because often more innovative, flexible and scalable associative institutions, are less likely to get funding. What is the director of the logic used by the sponsors principle? Participants identified two contradictory messages made by sponsors from different countries: be innovative, experiment, but at the same time expand your institutions, gather you.

It turns out that the cavity size of the organization determines its ability to innovate. 
In Poland, there seems to be a less difficult access to finance at a price lower subsidies. In French Community of Belgium, we saw freedom of innovation, with financial support, and especially proximity, accessibility policy. A crucial step, however: the annual calls for projects with a political will to reduce the dispersion of funds, and therefore the number of elected projects.

Another fundamental question is that of the duration of funding is often inadequate to the temporality of families together, the pace of project evaluations and shape. Even though these families have well identified the pace of a program that could introduce changes are minimal, but as what?

Associations therefore use a technocratic set of rewriting projects by changing one or two words, to meet annually to the word innovation. This also has the impact on users of social service. Germany and Poland, a group of single mothers said they spotted annual rhythms that bind to this process: momentum and maximum availability of professional early in the project, concern and diversion of energy in the second quarter, with net reduced activity in their direction. 
Which effects can be such a precarious teams on users, so that they are offered to rely on themselves?

  • The rights and remedies of the user:13

Remedies, access to files, users agree to measures / contracts / proposed / projects negotiated / imposed and evaluation have an impact on the relationship between the user and the social worker. The error would indeed confine participation, co-construction professional / duo users forgetting that there is a chain of decisions that occurs before a socio-political context and institutions that are there, and it is within these frameworks need to successfully build without losing the collective life and civic dimension of social work.


This project is primarily participatory. Although participation is a political principle of governance, it is to consider the crisis of citizen participation in the general sense and the necessary conditions to avoid “participation facade” in the field of social work.

This project has shown that the appropriation of power requires an organization other institutions of power in society. Participatory governance refers primarily a decentration of thinking, decision making, and evaluation, with a proliferation of places and actors involved in the decision.

[1] Although this article was written by two people, it was developed by a group of participants from partner organizations.
[3] Part of this project was funded by the Office Franco-German Youth, the Office German-Polish Youth, the training in France through the participation of professionals in the Association Jean Cotxet
[4] Authors: Moussa (educator Association Jean Cotxet ) and Joceline host of educational workshop, instructor in a school of social work.
[5] Dr. Traber, Medical Aid Association, Mainz
[6] Prof.. Dr. Gerhard Buck, Fachhochschule Potsdam, who accompanied the whole project
[7] Sebastian Thiede, FH Potsdam
[8] A participant from Jean Cotxet Association, Paris
[9] TAE, an initiative of the International Movement ATD Fourth World, was the subject of study in our project by students ETSUP, Paris.
[10] Bernard de Vos, Brussels, 16 February 2011
[11] Dr. Anna Rurka, Brussels, 14 February 2011
[12 ] Maïte Bustet Questionnaire speaking Belgium on implementation of Decree 1991 Help Youth, Brussels, 14 February 2011
[13] Dr. Anna Rurka, EUROCEF, UPO, B. Van Keirsblick DEI International Maitié Bustet FISSAAJ, Brussels, 14 February 2011 

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