Contributing to shaping policies is among the principal aims of Responding together.
Beyond conventional policies to fight poverty -increasingly based on targeting and conditionality that we all know could lead to stigmatisation- nowadays there is a need for non-stigmatising public action. By public action we understand a well-balanced combination of public and citizens’ resources. Thus, we call for policies based on a shared responsibility approach. The sharing of responsibilities implies that the society as a whole ensures support to those who are in need while at the same recognising their role in the well-being of all. The Council of Europe explores such an approach using the SPIRAL methodology (see: wikispiral.org)
There are several key aspects in the shaping of relevant policies. We are going to explore some of them here:
Enlarging the perspective on available resources.
The use of resources is often framed in restrictive rules. For instance, while people affected by precariousness are in need of open spaces, the use and management of spaces (including the public ones) are ruled by concepts like exclusivity and property rather than inclusivity and common good. Schools, meeting rooms, etc. could be transformed into “multifunctional” spaces, so as to allow plural use and access. Moreover, real change could be generated by avoiding the privatisation of public goods as the only possible path to alternative uses. Public goods could be transformed into “common goods” by transferring their management to users responding together to the needs of those suffering the consequences of poverty. Finally, some private goods could contribute to meet society's needs by integrating the concept of sharing, for instance car-sharing, the sharing of competences, etc. What public authorities could do? As part of their policymakers’ role, they could set the rules to make such transformations possible; facilitate the process through consensus-research; mediate between interests and needs; legitimisation of innovative processes; and finally, set the conditions for building trust among citizens and actors.
The current discourse about resources is focused on “scarcity”, while waste, abandonment and false obsolescence of resources is a widespread and perhaps unconscious social behaviour. This is paradoxical: waste of food, of housing, of water, of energy, of land, of goods, is considered “natural” while there are people who don't have access or are facing inaccessible prices. Waste has a social cost and should therefore be reduced. Policies should integrate the idea of non-waste of resources, for example by raising public awareness. Some further measures could be developed: mapping what’s abandoned (private and public buildings, spaces, land); mapping what’s wasted (food and any other good); create incentives for sharing (cars, tools, food). Public authorities should encourage campaigns and pedagogical paths to relearn a valued relationship with resources.
Combining public and citizen initiatives.
Shaping non-stigmatising policies implies the combining of resources. For instance, encouraging approaches of collective buying (as AMAPs in France or GAS in Italy) by people facing precariousness, and complementing such collective effort with food-banking distribution; linking recycling to creativity of those facing precariousness and poverty; pooling together resources of public, private and civil society organisations around “Multipartite social contracts” to provide an integrated support to the unemployed, over-indebted persons, young people in transition, etc. The Council of Europe has successfully encouraged this approach
Enlarging policy evaluation to immaterial gains and multiplier effects.
Policy evaluation should be focused on the double capacity of public action to foster immaterial gains and multiplier effects. Both are essential contributions for evaluations: the immaterial gains, like trust in citizens to act, social linkages, solidarities, lesser fragmentation, ... and the comprehension of multiplier effects, such as how to reproduce actions by taking advantage of existing knowledge, how to expand engagement beyond those categories considered as “poor”, how to create new forms of dialogue, cooperation, sharing of spaces, goods, ... have an important and often unevaluated impact on citizens' well-being.