SPIRAL - Societal Progress Indicators for the Responsibility of All

November 6, 2023 Frédéric ALBERT
July 15, 2022 Nina Sartor
June 28, 2018 Lucy J Parry, Participedia Team
February 7, 2017 Frédéric ALBERT
July 11, 2013 Frédéric ALBERT

Problems and Purpose

What you measure affects what you do; however, if our measures are flawed, decisions may turn out to be inappropriate. Policies should aim not to increase GDP but to increase well-being in society ”. The Council of Europe takes the same approach as that instilled by the Stiglitz Commission, summarized in this short extract. It is thus upstream of public policies, with the desire to ensure a new, more inclusive democracy, that the SPIRAL methodology (Societal Progress Indicators for the Responsibility of All), developed by the Social Cohesion Division of the CoE, is located . Since 2005, it has set itself the objective of "ensuring the effective participation of the actors concerned, or at least of their recognized representatives", in a new public sphere.

The deliberative methods exploring the levers of social cohesion and directly addressing citizens by including them in the decision-making process through consultation and deliberation, do not appear in the review of the academic literature on the issue. Political scientists and other researchers in social sciences, study and measure rather visible participatory actions, because “ordered from above”, which target a limited public.

For its part, the participatory method SPIRAL ( Societal Progress Indicators for the Responsibility of All) of the Council of Europe (CoE), is based on the fight against inequalities and exclusion, by seeking to activate the economic optimum and social in our societies. This "bottom-up" method is unique in that it proposes to address directly to all citizens and not to groups already formed or to "typical" individuals. It also aims to develop partnerships, to constitute a “local public sphere”. The Council of Europe's SPIRAL deliberative methodology thus generates the creation of homogeneous groups of citizens, through consultation and discussion, on the opposing notions of well-being and ill-being. This approach allows the development of indicators, which can establish the conditions to reach the path of societal progress.

The SPIRAL deliberative method is thus based on the definition of the concept of co-responsibility by the actors themselves, manufacturers of the indicators of well-being in a first consultative phase called "consultation". The consultative process is built using 7 stages, which fulfill the normative criteria of deliberation (rationality, reciprocity, impartiality and universality). The SPIRAL methodology also tries to develop, with the help of deliberation, new instruments to measure social cohesion. During the process, when we move from the consultation phase to action by improving social ties, the operationalization stage risks remaining unclear and therefore ineffective. Thus, the evaluation of deliberative democracy is not limited to seeking its effect (s) in public policies. By developing a process through coordination groups, homogeneous groups and then rainbow groups, the SPIRAL methodology makes it possible to build a local public sphere, which offers the possibility of deliberating on current issues, with the possibility of continuing in the time. The originality of the method is that it integrates and applies an evolving concept: when an improvement is detected in practice (generating a multiplier effect), it is reproduced and integrated into the original scheme. The method must therefore be able to adapt to changes. Pilot actions (more than 1,600 actions for “living together” are currently listed, just for Wallonia), define framework projects and are evolving based on a participatory co-evaluation of the impact. We can thus presuppose a cyclical process fueled by objectives (normative frameworks), instruments (set in motion) and institutional frameworks (structure).

SPIRAL is thus located upstream of public policies, to anticipate problems and include citizens in the public sphere. Thus creating a parallel framework, this ingenious method can identify resources and other means of action, to “think outside the box” of the fabric of social innovation. The intergovernmental institution based in Strasbourg, has thus orchestrated experiences of this type throughout Europe and the world (France, Belgium, Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russian Federation, Sweden, likewise than in the Cape Verde Islands and Gabon for Africa and Turkey for Asia). This international experience aims to develop areas of co-responsibility, transposable across the continent, with the aim of creating a “welfare society”. This new vision, where the responsibility would be shared between all the actors and not only entrusted to the State, could be one of the answers to the current problems of exclusion and rising inequalities.

In his book What is Integration , Dominique Schnapper specifies that the welfare state has gone from an "insurance" system (before the oil shocks of the 1970s), to an "assistant" system and therefore stigmatizing. . This paternalistic position, making it possible to respond to targeted weaknesses without necessarily solving the basic problems, must evolve because it does not prevent either inequalities or social fractures from growing. In view of the global crisis, it is clear that post-industrial societies tend to turn to “social avarice”, a method which calls for restricting state aid and other subsidies, so as not to disrupt the work market. This theory, making it possible to reconnect with what was once called "utilitarianism" (a concept developed in 1789 by the British Jeremy Bentham), wishes to demonstrate that society is doing its best for the maximum number of people (the common interest is the sum of special interests) and that we must accept that the happiness of all is not achievable. This vision of society is opposed to that of the general interest, which goes beyond each individual and is in a way, in the light of the enlightened thought of the Enlightenment philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, " the emanation of the collective will of citizens ”. The general will must however integrate particular interests, the role of the State having to be that of mediator, capable of carrying out the synthesis emanating from the members of the civil society, also encompassing the interests of future generations. Considering the social cohesion sought by the general interest as being the ultimate goal of the State, we can thus qualify the State as "the architect of the social". But the instrumentalization of public policies partly prevents the state machine and public and private decision-makers from “thinking” about social cohesion. Robert Putnam, working on the notion of social capital ( Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community , New York, 2000), even describes a " weakening of the structures of sociability and the forms of an individualistic withdrawal, which lead to a decline. of trust between individuals and towards institutions ”. At the same time, political actors often lack precise, serious, organized, structured and even usable information on the realities of daily life.

To create social cohesion, the production of rules (or regulation) would complement the efforts of individuals to integrate. In other words, individuals “include themselves”, rather than “integrate” into “public affairs”, both by using and by creating social norms. This is why, through this article, I propose to seek the inclusion of citizens through their participation in society, by forging the tools of deliberative democracy with the fundamentals of social cohesion, thereby giving it mechanisms for its operationalization. In addition, deliberation, which is not limited to a simple consultation of citizens, must aim to create social links in order to be effective. By favoring the deliberative method, the State would allow citizens, who after having discussed and reached a consensus, to develop their own indicators to participate in politics, thus avoiding instrumentalisation and manipulation. The CoE's deliberative SPIRAL method engages citizens who can participate in all cycles of progress, allowing from exchanges of point of view, seeking a consensus, to produce social actions for oneself and for others, modifying by even there their attitude, their commitment and thus allowing inclusion . This paradigm would be the foundation of a new community, visible through a local public sphere. All the reasons that we have just mentioned (overhaul of the State-society-economy partnership, search for the general interest, better information, legitimacy of the action, participation of all, confidence, changes in attitude, commitment and inclusion), would serve to convince decision-makers to complete their vertical approach to social cohesion, with an approach aimed at horizontal microsocial links between the actors of a territory. We can thus build our reflection around the following problem: Is the deliberative method suitable to strengthen social cohesion at local and regional level?

Origins and Development

Considering that " the definitions of the notion of social cohesion bring into play the representations that a society has of itself " (Guibet Lafaye 2011), it is clear that globalization and its economic and social consequences have modified the basic structure of the State and the vision of the relationship of societies to social cohesion. In view of the very gloomy picture of the current social architecture, we must more than ever demonstrate that the interests of the market and more generally of the economy, are not opposed to the protection of the poorest and most fragile. This is why integration should not be confronted in a primary way with forms of exclusion or other forms of stigmatization, but seek a co-responsible solidarity by recognizing, like the vision conveyed by the CoE, that any citizen can make his or her contribution (whatever it is) to society, through debates or organized deliberation.

The objective of co-responsible solidarity would be to build bridges to match the notion of social cohesion to the concept, thus allowing sustainability over time. This is why the methods of participatory democracy seem to be able to inspire a strong commitment to the citizen, who can build social ties, while nurturing a feeling of confidence. At this stage, we could propose an approach through that of “sustainable social cohesion”, which would be defined as “ the intrinsic capacity of a democratic society to share power, integrating current and future generations; the search for the inclusion of all through active participation, making it possible to build lasting bonds of belonging and to unearth new resources ”. This is why social policies must more than ever include all citizens (those who participate, those who engage, but also the fragile categories, the marginalized), without stigmatizing them. This response may correspond to the current institutional movement, namely that which aims to activate greater power of participation and decision “from below”.

Deliberative democracy, as we understand it today, was developed using a socio-historical approach, by the German philosopher Jürgen Habermas and the American sociologist-historian Robert Sennet. Both defend the idea that “ the democracies of the XXth century. must be erected in a real and critical public space ”. The latter explain the weakness of the democratic model in our current societies, by the decadence of this same “public space” and this, from the 19th century, at the time of the industrial revolutions. The transformation of society, leading to the decline of family values and the development of mass culture, would thus lead to the inability of individuals to develop a critical mind. This paradigm, called by Habermas the “ fetishism of the community ”, unlocks a mechanism which makes that individuals gradually find themselves disconnected from the public sphere. The tools of this mechanism, which then formed the cog of the capitalist and industrial State of the XIXth and XXth centuries, go through the bureaucratization and the selection by the State itself, of its interlocutors (what we call today intermediate bodies).

Thus, deliberative democracy (when the state sphere is separated from that of citizens) is exercised through the active participation of individuals, who constitute a "critical public opinion". The mobilization and appropriation of questions by this new public sphere are developed with the help of the famous Principle of Discussion (known as “Principle D”), systematized by the philosopher of the Frankfurt school: “According to ethics of discussion, a standard can only claim validity if all those who may be concerned agree (or could be) as participants in a practical discussion about the validity of that standard ”. Deliberation is thus perceived as the result of agreements taken together, while leaving a possibility of openness for the future. The deliberative group formed can solve cross-cutting problems of today but also of tomorrow and meet the criteria of sustainable social cohesion, which we seek to forge. This system seems to create confidence, which is essential for developing the economic and social optimum. It has been instrumentalized by the political class through the notion of “ win-win” and used to develop new public policy mechanisms.

Our approach is to integrate deliberation into a process of modification of the very nature of democracy, called by Loïc Blondiaux the "new spirit of democracy", or even "a paradigm shift in the way of doing politics" , according to Yves Sintomer and Julien Talpin.

Recruitment and Selection participant

SPIRAL " offers a framework, procedures and tools that make it possible to give back to citizens and actors of a territory the power to qualify the well-being in their living space, to measure its contours, to define on this basis action strategies and support the implementation of local action plans ”(IWEPS Working Paper n ° 10). This is why the process must be carried out "from below": responsible and organized citizens call on the institution which in turn provides the tools.

These instruments fit into three sets:

  • Transmit trends in social cohesion (conferences, reflections on the subject).
  • Develop appropriate indicators.
  • Propose a method of deliberative democracy that allows projects to be scaffolded.

These devices are financed jointly by the European Union and the Council of Europe, which is responsible for implementing the whole. This partnership between the European institutions has made it possible to develop indicators which can all be measured by the States, falling within the general desire to probe the well-being of all, a notion that is both very broad and very personal. The originality of the approach is to integrate three levels of measurement, starting from the most general to go to the particular (societal capacities, areas of life and vulnerable groups). Its objective is to reach out to all individuals and to make fragile social categories (seeking social justice) as visible as trends in society or even public actions. These three “levels of integration”, which were developed directly by the participants, make it possible to provide criteria for the operationalization of social cohesion.

Could this originality not lead to fundamental problems? "Starting from the bottom", the SPIRAL method would run the risk of encountering a major contradiction, lying between the search for the general interest (defined in its methodology) and the defense of particular interests (which could be developed in homogeneous groups. who by nature defend their condition)? Indeed, citizens, through this interpretation of deliberation, may be led to focus on their personal problems (use of public places, problems linked to the residential area, to the nature of the homogeneous group), rather than the search for general interest (co-responsible society), even through the universal concept of “long-term well-being for all”. This limiting factor, lets us presuppose that the transposition of the methodology to a higher stratum (regional, national, continental or even global), seems complicated but should not, like Joseph Schumpeter in his published work Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy. in 1967, which considered "ordinary" citizens to be intellectually limited to local matters, proved impossible.

The empirical study of several municipalities in the Walloon region, which have been applying this method for some time, will perhaps allow us to confirm or invalidate the normative criteria for the operationalization of deliberation (attitude, commitment and inclusion). Article 23 of the 1994 Constitution of the Federal State of Belgium specifies “ access for all to fundamental rights ”. By referring to the risk indicator produced by the Walloon Institute for the Evaluation of Foresight and Statistics (IWEPS), we note that “ compared to the Belgian average, a greater part of the Walloon population is exposed to the risks of poverty ”. Moreover, the macro-social approach which aims to defend economic, social and cultural rights in Belgium is by nature incomplete, because as we have shown previously, wanting to apply fundamental rights "from above" is not enough. to make social cohesion effective. “Living together” must be complemented by the creation of horizontal interrelational links. This is why, as part of the “fight against poverty and inequalities”, the Walloon government created in 1992 the Interdepartmental Directorate of Social Cohesion (DiCS), which has since developed a coordinated approach both at the horizontal level ( local link), that at the vertical level (regional link). This approach, aimed at defending the fundamental rights of all Walloon citizens, has become effective and efficient through the Proximity Prevention Plan (2003-2008), which will be succeeded by the Social Cohesion Plan (PCS), with a duration of 5 years for the first part which ends this year. A device for social emancipation, it is inspired by the concept of social cohesion of the Council of Europe (the capacity of a society to promote the well-being of all ). The original SPIRAL method applied in Wallonia is a tool used by the Social Cohesion Plan, which makes it possible to coordinate and develop a whole set of initiatives within the municipalities, so that each person can live in dignity with reference to Belgian fundamental rights. , thereby creating a “territory of co-responsibility”. With the first PCS coming to an end in 2013, the new Social Cohesion Plan under construction for the period 2013-2019, currently lists 195 French-speaking Walloon municipalities, having responded favorably to the call for applications launched by the DiCS at the start of the year. 'year. This dynamic process, which interests the municipalities of the region, is based on a contract between private and public institutions and individuals, formalized by a Partnership Agreement . We will pay particular attention to the 14 pilot municipalities that participated in the deliberative project “ Concerted development of indicators of well-being in Wallonia ”, orchestrated by the IWEPS and the CoE. This project will allow us to confront the SPIRAL method with the normative criteria of the deliberation for its operationalization, which seeks to activate social cohesion at the local and regional level. Our approach will consist of a critical vision of SPIRAL, seeking to verify:

  • On the one hand, if deliberation makes it possible to create social links.
  • On the other hand, if these links are dynamic, through the different “levels” of social cohesion that we have defined previously.

How it Works: Process, Interaction, and Decision-Making

After having listed 100 homogeneous groups from 14 coordination groups (or support committee) and archived on the site, we can make a classification, using the name they have given themselves; It is useful to remember that the nature of the groups of deliberation, are constituted in a completely free way on the territory with the help of an approach "from the bottom". Thus, these homogeneous groups can be distributed according to the three levels of social cohesion defined by the CoE for an inclusive society:

  • Vulnerable groups” , defined in the 2005 methodological guide of the CoE as being: “minorities”, “migrants”, “children”, “elderly”, “people with disabilities”, “women”.
  • " Areas of life" indicated by "employment and activities", "income and purchasing power," "housing and living environment", "health", "nutrition", "education "," Information "," culture ".
  • The base, formed by " societal capacities", marks the tendency to: "ensure equity (fundamental rights)", "ensure dignity and recognition of diversity", "autonomy and personal development", " participation and engagement ”.

Let us compare the 100 homogeneous groups of Wallonia, according to the three levels of social cohesion:

The groups representing “societal capacities” are the least numerous (15%). “Vulnerable groups” represent 23% of the total and “areas of life” are the most represented homogeneous groups with 55%. The results allow us to observe an over-representation of groups linked by “areas of life”, which can be described as “the most individual category”. From this typology, we can confirm that for all 14 pilot municipalities, the constitution of a “local public space” is effective: the three spheres of social cohesion are thus represented. There is nevertheless a tendency to reproduce the individualistic societal pattern through the distribution of groups, which demonstrates a predisposition to want to deliberate on the private sphere (relationship to society, areas of life). Nevertheless, the activation of a public sphere at the local level already makes it possible to relay the demands of the actors of the community, which are part of their relationship to the State, society or the economy. Participants should then be able to build social cohesion, using and creating new social norms. Based on this observation, we will test the method with regard to the criteria for its operationalization.

To be legitimate, deliberation must at all costs seek the general interest, which may be based on individual and / or community interests, which must however remain in the minority. Deliberation works when it enables a new public sphere to be activated, maintaining a partnership between the State, the economy and society. This is why, the search for the general interest as well as the inclusion of all (future generations included), are the two fundamental concepts, which can make the deliberation effective and generating social links, in a "welfare society" which structures “strong democracy”. In view of this information, let us hypothesize that the SPIRAL deliberation makes it possible to identify an attitude that would target the general interest, thus granting a commitment within the community and making it possible to achieve inclusion at the level of the local territory, or even regional.

Personal ties: attitude.

The attitude in the participation, thus touches the personal bonds and the intimate sphere: we will call this the 1st level of social cohesion . The attitude of the participant must contribute to defining the criteria of the “ virtuous citizen ”, who commits standards, values, initiatives, wishes, in the society which he observes and dreams. Let us test this theory with regard to the first level of social cohesion , which is found in family n ° 8 of the SPIRAL nomenclature, representing 16% of all the 16,000 well-being criteria developed through the 14 pilot municipalities ( The indicators are constructed from expressions of well-being and ill-being collected from citizens, gathered and structured within a nomenclature organized into eight families: 1) means of living; 2) the living environment and environment; 3) relations with institutions (public and private); 4) personal relationships; 5) societal balances; 6) personal balances; 7) feelings of well-being; 8 / values / attitudes and initiatives / commitments). These criteria, which we can find on the CoE website, allow us to study the frequency of indicators linked to the attitude of the “virtuous citizen”. Initially, these indicators will be classified according to their objectives, targeting either particular interests, or the general interest. This approach is fundamental in trying to determine the legitimacy and consistency of the SPIRAL approach, which defines itself as being jointly responsible.

The criteria do not all relate to the same “level of efficiency” for building social links. Thus, the most individual attitude such as, " work on oneself / self-respect ", (Example of criteria expressed: " take the time to listen to yourself, get to know and respect yourself, do not set the bar too much. top, put certain problems into perspective ”) , as well as“ private activities and initiatives ”, (Example of criteria expressed: give oneself the means, embark on new projects, reserve time for my family and for myself, re-educate oneself, using my experience, my know-how ”), allow to create a favorable ground for social cohesion, but are part of an“ individualistic ”approach of search for well-being for oneself, or possibly for one's family and loved ones. Conversely, by observing criterion H07, “ dynamic, collective will ”, (Example of criteria expressed: “ remain united to maintain achievements, invest in new technologies, think about future generations from an environmental point of view, think about sustainable development ”), we then observe an optimal level of co-responsibility, sustainability and solidarity, aimed at the general interest. These examples, placed at the “antipodes” (H01 and H07), are revealing of the attitude aiming to seek well-being for oneself and well-being for all . The frequency of the criteria of the H family, expressed by category (H01 to H07), could allow us to identify a dominant or even a variation of the attitude, to assess its qualitative aspect. Using the search engine provided by the site, we identified and classified a total of 2491 criteria, about the well-being approach, emanating from the 13 coordination groups in Wallonia (the indicators developed by the Braine l'Alleud coordination group are not yet available). We can now engage, among the 7 indicators appearing in the H family ( values / attitudes and initiatives / commitments ), 642 criteria which establish an attitude aimed at personal well-being and therefore particular interests (H01-H02) and 1849 (H03-H04-HO5-HO6-H07) which aim at the general interest , with regard to a virtuous attitude on the well-being of all.

We note that the search for the common good by the participants is a largely majority trend with about 3⁄4 of the criteria falling into this category. This information makes it possible to identify the “universal” character of the attitude of the participants, who seek the general interest, making it possible to legitimize the process. Let us nevertheless refine this one, by observing what happens, when we distribute the criteria according to the seven indicators of the family H:

Community ties: participation through engagement.

Engagement in the field activates community ties and the second level of social cohesion . This level allows participants to confront the " time of democracy " and other issues of partners in our "new local public sphere". We can assume that this 2nd level of social cohesion will create links between the various partners and actors of the co-responsible territory through the rainbow groups, which we will analyze through the leverage and multiplier effects sought. Adrien Fiévet, head of the PCS of Liège, warns us during a telephone interview, in view of his experience in the field, of the possible disinterestedness of citizens after the first phase of social cohesion: “ We must be careful with this approach. : the citizens say I am given the floor, I noted the problem and you (the municipality) do nothing. It is not deliberative democracy: we raise the problem in the neighborhood, we activate the principle of co-responsibility, participation and credibility of actions by putting people around the table. The solutions require joint action, including with the municipal authorities. Find a collective response to a local problem. This whole process is being built and takes months: we have to educate individuals. It's a complicated job that requires experience, a good knowledge of people. We have to find the right contacts among the population. The time of democracy is not known by the population: it is a very long procedure (the creation of a pedestrian crossing requires important steps which consist in contacting the town planning department, the municipal council, in within the framework of the regulations in force and can sometimes take 6 months) ”. The citizen, after having developed an attitude conducive to creating a social bond, must then confront the commitment, to match his words with his actions and thus test the application of his ideas. This phase can thus be operationalized through standard actions, creating links between people, but also with the State and the economic world. The criteria for the plurality of groups that get involved (leverage effects), as well as the external impact of actions (multiplier effects), established by the academic world and desired by the CoE, are the normative criteria, so that this phase is effective in terms of creating the community social bond.

Leverage effects and their limits: activate the partnership.

Through the engagement of the participants-deliberators, the links between the social and the economy are put to the test and make it possible to activate the “leverage effect”. For Samuel Thirion, of the CoE's social cohesion division: “It is clear that when we talk about social cohesion we have an impact on the economy. We cannot separate the social and the economic. This is the case when we improve the situation of a person in a phase of exclusion, who has lost his place in society, that we find a place for him either through an unpaid activity or a job. (...) A co-responsibility approach makes it possible to reach resources which in a classic market approach are not "touchable", because those who have them do not make them available, because they are only used for one thing. . For example, carpooling, social taxis, the use of free spaces to make them into shared gardens, the recovery of all agricultural surpluses thrown in the trash to redistribute them, the recovery of medicines (in Greece there is a social pharmacy that collects drugs in people) ”. The leverage effect thus makes it possible to free up new resources that were unsuspected at the time, thanks to the commitment of different groups of citizens who find solutions, using their complementarity. This phase can make it possible to create social links between groups that might never have met and unearth new resources, which can be found outside the traditional economic and social circuits. The resources released must however be used wisely, with the help of precise and complementary indicators: “ It is important not to confuse the population and the territory. The concentration of resources in areas of low socio-economic status can benefit very unequally the different categories of the population often opposed by contradictory interests. In the absence of adequate regulations on the housing market, the use of these means to improve public spaces and buildings can lead to price increases and compromise the retention of the most vulnerable socio-economically inhabitants, or induce degradation. their living conditions in terms of housing or sociability. However, such strategies, based on public-private partnerships, and without restriction as to the recipients of the housing produced, tend to take precedence in Wallonia over the old integrated endogenous approaches ”(Territorial diagnosis of Wallonia 2010, p.42). The limits of leverage effects are thus clearly exposed through this example. In order not to stray from the general interest (well-being of all), actions must continually adopt an inclusive approach and therefore integrate the possible consequences of actions, against fragile social categories, depending on the territory. Remember that what we measure is what we seek to achieve.

Multiplier effects.

All of the actions were listed in the 2010 DiCS Report, under “ 140 social cohesion plans which bring together more than 1,600 actions across four axes ”. These actions are thus directly linked to the social cohesion plan, but the nature of the links between the deliberations within homogeneous groups and the achievements on the ground in terms of social cohesion, are very difficult to establish. The leverage and multiplier effects are not aimed at a linear process deemed reductive, which nevertheless has the advantage of being visible and more easily measurable (approach chosen by public policies). The SPIRAL approach (the aptly named) seeks to inspire new actions, with the help of already existing social innovations. Note a notable increase in Axis 1 actions, affecting “ job search assistance” (approximately + 22%) and “ socio-professional reintegration ” (approximately + 28%). The other three areas do not show significant progress. We can specify that a report for 2013, must soon be made public and will mark a new assessment for the first complete cycle of PCS. This regular measurement is essential, because as we have shown previously, it must make it possible to assess the impacts and verify whether these approaches are good and inclusive.

The links of a co-responsible territory: inclusion.

At any scale, a weak territorial heterogeneity can always coexist with strong social inequalities on a finer scale. The reduction of the differences between the socio-economic levels of the territories cannot therefore be confused with the reduction of social inequalities ”(Territorial Diagnosis of Wallonia 2010, p.40).

Inclusion is the last level of social cohesion . This step seeks to position guiding actions (minimize inequalities, avoid polarization, co-responsibility of actors), to reach all individuals and thus aim for what is called inclusion. This level highlights the particular difficulties which differ according to the territorial space concerned (urban, semi-rural, rural) by bringing together all the actors of the public sphere or at least their known representatives. The Responding Together meeting, jointly funded by the CoE and the EU, held in Namur at the beginning of 2013, set itself the objective of making all the main representatives of the PCS in Wallonia aware of the actions on the ground for redefining the inclusion criteria. Three “symbol” actions can be used, to make explicit the inclusion which places the 3rd level of social cohesion :

  • Action for housing in dense urban space.
  • The semi-rural area and the “Jardin solidaire” project.
  • The isolated rural area with few public services and the “Social Taxi” initiative.

Finally, inclusion is not only conditioned by economic resources, even if the latter play a major role. In this last step, the citizen participates in the life of the community. All the same, we must remain vigilant as to the reproduction and sustainability of the approach, especially in an increasingly difficult context: “ The most vulnerable social categories tend to remain under-represented in participatory mechanisms. Territorial development is one of the areas where citizen participation is traditionally sought. According to the Leipzig charter, "the scale of the district is that which allows the most important involvement of the inhabitants". However, the institutionalized participation structures (public inquiries, meetings, local commissions, etc.) are often out of step with the culture of the weakest groups ”(Territorial Diagnosis of Wallonia 2010, p.44). With regard to these new factories of social innovation, we see that deliberation always generates the creation of standards (“Rules for shared accommodation”, “charter for shared gardens”, “regulation establishing a level of priority for social taxis ”) Otherwise, the action cannot continue. Thus, deliberation creating social links seems to work at the local or even regional level, but must be integrated into a larger dimension (a new spirit of democracy), to reach more people and allow a “return effect”.

Participants in the focus groups, seeking inclusion and using their differences as a strength, incorporated an attitude that affected them in their relationship to others. This triptych gives citizens an opportunity to influence policies and regain power in the decision-making process.

Influence, Outcomes, and Effects

The social cohesion diagnostic is a PCS device that coordinated the consultation of local actors. Florence Gesnot, working for the unit in charge of evaluating the PCS at the DiCS of Wallonia, spoke about the project during a telephone interview dated May 2013: “ It is a multiple evaluation and not a standard evaluation. statistics. The University of Liège is responsible for evaluating the PCS in a global manner; the CoE, is responsible for carrying out an impact assessment of the PCS. The evaluation is done through a participatory co-evaluation method using round tables between beneficiaries (citizens) and partners (associative services, project managers), of the same action within the local PCS (...) At this stage of the evaluation, 63% of project managers believe that the situation {in terms of well-being} has changed significantly in the municipality ”. The social cohesion diagnostic carried out by local actors identifies the public and private initiatives already implemented on the municipal territory, the expectations of the population and the shortcomings to be satisfied, with regard to the objectives of the plan. Let us recall that the new strategy of the CoE in terms of social cohesion drawn up in 2010, aims at “social justice”, “democratic security” and “sustainable development”.

This is why any democracy must strive for a balance between the economic and social optimum. This balance (or social justice ) is possible by seeking the application of social cohesion, which is practiced as close as possible to the population, that is to say at the local level; aiming to develop social links, to combat social anomie and insecurity, very present in our post-industrial societies. Participation, through consultation and active deliberation of citizens, helps to develop targeted qualities through attitude, commitment and inclusion and fights individualism. This new state of mind makes it possible to accumulate social capital: the performance of the company in terms of security is then improved and trust, the communication platform (or hub ) of any action, can develop. This regained confidence must then target what is designated as the general interest, a guideline for achieving sustainable development , which sets a next spiral, integrating a new balance between the economic, social and, this time, environmental optimum. . This process could thus nourish our regimes based on “representative democracy”, reducing its negative effects in order to relativize, which Aristotle, by disserting on Politeia (notion linking citizenship to the mode of organization of the city-state or Polis ), referred to as " the least bad of bad diets ".

Analysis and Lessons Learned

Social capital, which synthesizes co-responsible solidarity, encompasses three levels: individuals , in the affective and pragmatic sense, the State , in the Durkheimian sense of the term and finally that of the sustainable community , which consists in redefining a true social and inclusive architecture. Sustainable development, seeking a balance in the ecumene (which can be defined as “all of the land inhabited by man”), seems to be able to form the basis of the project, making it possible to achieve universal values. To reach a consensus and legitimize its actions, the sustainable community must therefore use the deliberative tool, which seems to be an instrument that can create social links. Thus, so that this process does not remain on the sidelines of public actions, it is necessary to integrate the procedures for “living together” in the reality on the ground.

Could this project nevertheless serve as a model for Europe?

The EU's current approach is to associate its top-down approach with the need to link up with communities. This is why it is involved in many projects and in particular in the actions implemented by the CoE. With SPIRAL, the approach necessarily comes “from below”, because it is the individuals or other institutions who are always the “project initiators”.

In view of the results obtained with the help of this work, could we consider transposing the SPIRAL method outside the territory of Wallonia, while preserving its efficient and inclusive nature?

First of all, it is clear that this approach is a success with regard to the many actions, due to internal factors. Belgium is a state which seems to be fractured on a national scale, between two communities in permanent conflict (the absence of political consensus, had resulted some time ago in a vacancy of political power for almost a year). This example demonstrates a strong community feeling on a regional scale, resulting from this national divide.

Could effective inclusion in Wallonia be transposed to another more complex territorial level, such as the Greater Region (which brings together Lorraine, Sarre and Rhineland-Palatinate, Luxembourg and Wallonia), for example?

It is clear that the CoE method works in Wallonia, because the effort is distributed between a set of independent and united partners. What still needs to be demonstrated lies in the study of the links between the different localities of the territory. The new approach of the CoE and the European Commission associated with the Responding Together project, allowing the various protagonists of Wallonia's social cohesion plans to exchange their experiences, goes in this direction. We must therefore ask ourselves if this effort would be feasible in other countries, with a greater bureaucratic burden and a political practice of the distribution of shares less efficient, as in France for example? This study simply demonstrated the possibility of creating social links in a territory, having previously an administrative, cultural and linguistic unit. Remember that the CoE does not have a central function in power relations in Europe. Therefore, we can assume that the major reasons preventing the development of deliberative democracy could lie elsewhere.

Alexis de Tocqueville, dazzled by the American democracy then under construction, enlightened us in his time on the stakes of power: “ The man of the people who is called to the government of society conceives a certain esteem for himself. As he was then a power, very enlightened intelligences put themselves at the service of his. We constantly turn to him for support, and by trying to deceive him in a thousand different ways, we enlighten him ”.

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External Links

Site of the Social Cohesion Division of the CoE:

PCS pilot actions:

Site of the DiCS of Wallonia:


This article is taken from my Master's thesis defended at the University of Luxembourg in June 2013.