1963-2013 - 50 years of Research for Social Change

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Back | Project: New Directions in Social Policy: Alternatives from and for the Global South

Concept Note: New Directions in Social Policy

  • Project from: 2013 to 2016

This three-year research project examines the emergence, nature and effectiveness of recent developments in social policy in emerging economies and low-income countries. The purpose is to assess whether we are seeing the development of substantially new approaches to social policy or welfare systems within emerging economies that can provide alternative solutions to the critical social development challenges facing low-income countries in the 21st century.

Notwithstanding an environment of persistent economic uncertainty and social tension or crisis in many parts of the world, remarkable changes in the nature and scope of policies (both social and economic) designed to achieve better social outcomes are taking place in some emerging and developing economies. Social policy and programme innovations in the South have demanded widespread attention in the international community, and various ideas and policies such as conditional cash transfer programmes, public works, and the idea of Buen Vivir are being widely studied, evaluated and replicated.

From a comparative social policy and political economy perspective, however, a number of critical questions about these initiatives remain insufficiently answered. The questions of concern for this research project include:
  • What are the notable changes in the approaches to or contents of social policies and programmes in emerging and developing countries?
  • Why and how are these changes occurring – through what kinds of economic, social or other policies, programmes or institutional and political arrangements?
  • What are the relationships between different (orthodox or heterodox) economic policies and the social policy options being pursued in different contexts?
  • What are the implications of these changes, whether in terms of short-term welfare goals or broader development processes? In particular, what are the impacts by gender and across the life course?
  • How is learning about these new policies and programmes being shared among countries in the South?

The project’s cross-country comparative work will explore these critical questions through analysis of social policies and programmes, and their wider institutional and political arrangements, in (i) five single-country studies selected among Brazil, China, Ecuador, Ghana, India, Russia, Rwanda, South Africa and Sri Lanka, and (ii) two or three studies of clusters of countries selected among Bahrain, Jordan, Morocco, Oman, Tunisia and United Arab Emirates. Each Middle East and North Africa (MENA) study is expected to cover two or three of the six MENA countries.

To read the full project concept note, use the link to the right.