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Local Matters

How neighbourhoods and services affect the social inclusion and exclusion of young people in European cities

by Simon Güntner (Volume editor) Louis Henri Seukwa (Volume editor) Anne Marie Gehrke (Volume editor) Jill Robinson (Volume editor)
Edited Collection 322 Pages

Summary

Where young people grow up makes a decisive difference to their life chances. Drawing on case studies from ten European cities, this book looks at how the local environment and the services available for young people affect their socialization. What comes to the fore are the local matters. On the one hand, there are experiences of discrimination and marginalization due to distance and isolation, decay and neglect but also related to piecemeal and top-down approaches to youth and social services. On the other, we find signs of positive transformation and drivers of social innovation: community building projects, the revitalization of abandoned places, appreciative approaches to servicing and a whole array of tactics that young people deploy to overcome their daily struggles.

Table Of Content

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the editors
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Editorial Note
  • Local Matters - the significance of neighbourhoods and social infrastructure for the social inclusion of young people in European cities (Simon Güntner / Louis Henri Seukwa)
  • Athens: Aghia Sophia and Elefsina (Stella Tryfona / Maria Pothoulaki / Pyrros Papadimitriou)
  • Barcelona: Trinitat Nova and Raval (Olga Jubany / Berta Güell)
  • Birmingham: Lozells and East Handsworth and Bordesley Green (Ajmal Hussain / Helen Higson / Jill Robinson)
  • Brno: Cejl and Husovice (Tomáš Sirovátka / Jana Válková / Ondřej Hora)
  • Hamburg: Dulsberg and Langenhorn Essener Straße (Anne-Marie Gehrke / Simon Güntner / Louis Henri Seukwa)
  • Kraków: Mistrzejowice Nowe and Rżąka (Robert Chrabąszcz / Maciej Frączek / Maciej Grodzicki / Tomasz Geodecki / Piotr Kopyciński / Stanisław Mazur / Michał Możdżeń)
  • Malmö: North and South Sofielund (Martin Grander / Mikael Stigendal)
  • Rotterdam: Afrikaanderwijk, Bloemhof and Hillesluis and Middelland (Suzanne Tan / Henk Spies)
  • Sofia: Fakulteta and Hristo Botev (Marko Hajdinjak)
  • Venice: Marghera and Mestre (Francesca Campomori / Francesco Della Puppa)
  • Conclusions: Mixed signs of transformation between neglect and appreciation (Anne-Marie Gehrke, Simon Güntner, Louis Henri Seukwa, Jill Robinson)

Simon Güntner / Louis Henri Seukwa /
Anne-Marie Gehrke / Jill Robinson (eds.)

Local Matters

How neighbourhoods and services affect the social
inclusion and exclusion of young people
in European cities

About the editors

Simon Güntner is a Professor of Spatial Sociology at the Department of Spatial Planning at Technische Universität Wien.

Louis Henri Seukwa is a Professor of Educational Science at the Department of Social Work at Hamburg University of Applied Sciences.

Anne-Marie Gehrke is a research fellow at the Department of Social Work at Hamburg University of Applied Sciences.

Jill Robinson is a practitioner fellow at the Centre for Critical Inquiry into Society and Culture at Aston University in Birmingham.

About the book

Where young people grow up makes a decisive difference to their life chances. Drawing on case studies from ten European cities, this book looks at how the local environment and the services available for young people affect their socialisation. What comes to the fore is that the ‘local’ matters. On the one hand, there are experiences of discrimination and marginalisation; they may be due to distance and isolation, decay and neglect but also related to piecemeal and top-down approaches to youth and social services. On the other, we find signs of positive transformation and drivers of social innovation: community building projects, the revitalisation of abandoned places, appreciative approaches to servicing and a whole array of tactics that young people deploy to overcome their daily struggles.

This eBook can be cited

This edition of the eBook can be cited. To enable this we have marked the start and end of a page. In cases where a word straddles a page break, the marker is placed inside the word at exactly the same position as in the physical book. This means that occasionally a word might be bifurcated by this marker.

Editorial Note

This book is based on the collaborative work of research teams from ten European cities1 who contributed to the CITISPYCE project (“Combating Inequalities Through Innovative Social Practices of and for Young People in Cities across Europe”). The project ran from 2013 to 2016 and was co-funded by the European Commission under the 7th Research and Development Framework. We would like to thank the European Commission for the opportunity to carry out this research and all partners for their engagement and the friendly and constructive way of collaborating. Complex interdisciplinary and transnational projects like CITISPYCE hold many challenges for administrators and researchers alike, and we were lucky to experience flexibilities, innovation and teamwork to make the project a success. We also wish to thank the over 600 people that participated in interviews and site visits for the insights they shared with us. Simon Güntner, Louis Henri Seukwa, Anne-Marie Gehrke and Jill Robinson, Hamburg and Birmingham, August 2017.←7 | 8→ ←8 | 9→


1 The participating cities were: Athens, Barcelona, Birmingham, Brno, Hamburg, Krakow, Malmö, Rotterdam, Sofia and Venice.

Simon Güntner and Louis Henri Seukwa

Local Matters – the significance of neighbourhoods and social infrastructure for the social inclusion of young people in European cities

1. Introduction

Does it make a difference to the life chances and social inclusion of a young person, in which neighbourhood of a European city she or he lives and which public services are provided there? We presume that, yes, place and infrastructure do matter and that there is a power in the locality that mediates and shapes such manifestations. Poorly equipped and isolated neighbourhoods can amplify experiences of inequality as can discriminatory service delivery. Well-equipped and accessible neighbourhoods on the other hand can be important resources to cope with deprivation and even escape poverty; empowering services can be a decisive factor of social inclusion.

Thus, the basic assumption of this book is that the social and physical environment plays a crucial role in the life trajectories of young people. In ten European cities, we looked at how the neighbourhoods in which young people grow up and the social infrastructure available to them influence the ways in which they lead their everyday lives and how they look into the future. This focus does not deny the importance of wider societal trends, e.g. the increasing social uncertainty related to financialisation and neoliberal policies more generally (see Stigendal 2018). And it also appreciates individual competences of young people to make their own choices even in tough circumstances (see Seukwa 2007). We perceive neighbourhoods and social infrastructure as “structuring structures” (Bourdieu 1979: 77 ff.) through which a particular order is achieved and perceived.

The role of neighbourhoods and the services allocated there in both producing and tackling inequalities is well described by Alan Murie (2005). He refers particularly to local articulations of social exclusion, which we regard as one of various expressions of inequalities (see also Stigendal 2018)1:←9 | 10→

“The dynamics of social exclusion both affect neighbourhoods and are affected by them, and the understanding of deprivation and exclusion is sterile without reference to neighbourhood and place as key elements in the production and experience of exclusion. Such reference includes aspects of the local welfare state and rebalances accounts that neglect the welfare state altogether or are selective about what they include. Some neighbourhoods are better placed to access jobs and training; some have a greater diversity of public, voluntary and community services – more acceptable to a mixed faith and diverse population. Others are less diverse. The perceptions and realities of opportunity, security, and safety relate to all of these and are important aspects of the experience of exclusion” (Murie 2005: 165).

Two EU-wide trends feed our presumption of the significance of the neighbourhood level at which we explore manifestations of inequalities as well as services to tackle them. Firstly, residential segregation and social polarisation have been on the rise in European cities since the late 20th century so that where one lives is more and more decisive about one’s health, safety, educational achievements and career prospects. Secondly, in a still ongoing process of rescaling public spaces, the urban neighbourhood as a geographic entity has become an important site of social intervention, a “key spatial and institutional force field for post-Keynesian regulatory experiments” (Brenner 2004: 272).

The importance of social infrastructure for the quality of life has seen renewed interest in recent debates about tackling poverty and exclusion in Europe. The EU’s “Active Inclusion” and “Social investment” strategies explicitly recognise the contribution of quality public services to tackling poverty and exclusion (Güntner 2017). We define social infrastructure as resources provided in the public interest with the purpose of facilitating wellbeing and social inclusion.2 This includes childcare facilities, schools and hospitals, but also affordable housing, neighbourhood services and other social services. We use the term infrastructure to emphasise not only the service that is provided but also its physical side, e.g. the place and setting, so social infrastructure is synonymous here with social services infrastructure. For the purpose of this book, we concentrate on services used by young people such as schools, youth clubs, sports and leisure facilities.←10 | 11→

2. Research method

To get to grips with neighbourhoods and social infrastructure empirically, we looked at the composition of the population and the more recent social history and at the social and youth related services in 20 neighbourhoods of 10 European cities.

The fieldwork was carried out in 2013 and 2014 by local research teams on the basis of a research strategy paper that had been developed by the CITISPYCE project consortium and had identified a number of analytical categories and research dimensions that were to be addressed. The selection criteria were: a) a socio-economic situation that is less favourable than the city-wide average; b) an age structure that ensures that the neighbourhood is inhabited by many young people (under 25); and c) a population composition that characterises the area as ethnically diverse. Within each city, two areas were selected that show these characteristics, but differ in their social structure and social history as well as in the opportunity structures and social infrastructure that are available for young people. Given the profound differences between the participating cities and their institutional make-up, significant room for discretion was allowed and each partner was asked to find a plausible rationale for the selection. Area sizes were to be within a range of 5,000 to 50,000 inhabitants.

Methodologically, the fieldwork was based on a mix of social research methods, including document analysis, site visits and around 600 interviews with young people (between 15 and 35 years), living in the research areas and/or using their infrastructure, as well as with local policymakers, service providers, local associations, businesses and other experts. Documents that were analysed include recent and past administrative reports and plans, policy papers and research reports. The site visits included an account of the appearance and condition of local infrastructure, service facilities and public space. The interviews focused on the socio-spatial characteristics of the neighbourhood, characteristics of local social infrastructure, the relation of social infrastructure to inequalities, and incidences of social innovation in the area. We acknowledged the importance not to “subordinate the knowing subject to objectified forms of knowledge” and sought “a method of inquiry that works from the actualities of people’s everyday lives and experience to discover the social as it extends beyond experience” (Smith 2005: 10).

Biographical notes

Simon Güntner (Volume editor) Louis Henri Seukwa (Volume editor) Anne Marie Gehrke (Volume editor) Jill Robinson (Volume editor)

Simon Güntner is a Professor of Spatial Sociology at the Department of Spatial Planning at Technische Universität Wien. Louis Henri Seukwa is a Professor of Educational Science at the Department of Social Work at Hamburg University of Applied Sciences. Anne-Marie Gehrke is a research fellow at the Department of Social Work at Hamburg University of Applied Sciences. Jill Robinson is a practitioner fellow at the Centre for Critical Inquiry into Society and Culture at Aston University in Birmingham.

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