Chapter 5: The impact of social innovation on local welfare policy: lessons from a capability perspective
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Socially innovative initiatives have gained consensus in recent years as one of the modalities through which citizenship can promote a democratisation of local welfare provision. The bottom-up approach and communitarian practices that characterise these experiences have opened up processes of co-production and responsibility-sharing in which citizens can have a say on how they want to ensure their well-being, and actively mobilise to achieve this for themselves. However, empirical evidence demonstrates a socio-economic bias in participation in these initiatives, with high-skilled (although not necessarily affluent) middle-class citizens benefitting more from SI than more vulnerable groups. This evidence questions the capacity of such initiatives to tackle social inequalities. The chapter argues that SI in local welfare can foster the empowerment of people who are involved in these experiences, because they allow them to pursue their own values, in line with the Capability approach. Using evidence from the experience of a socially innovative early childhood education and care (ECEC) in Barcelona, the chapter shows how applying an analytical framework based on the Capability approach can highlight the potential capacity of SI in local welfare provision. Furthermore, socially innovative practices can also trigger a process of policy learning in local bodies, promoting beneficial consequences in terms of increasing diversity in what provisions offer, improving gender equality and better tailoring local provision. However, the tension between democratisation and socio-economic bias in access to SI can only be solved by their full integration into local public childcare provision.

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