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Insights and Input: New Directions in Social Policy Project Kick-Off Workshop and Panel Discussion

17 Apr 2014

UNRISD last week successfully launched its newest research project New Directions in Social Policy with two well-attended events: an inception workshop and a public panel discussion.

At the kick-off workshop, which took place on 7-8 April 2014, 25 leading researchers from a variety of relevant disciplines gave short, thought-provoking presentations which were followed by extensive discussions to identify and frame priority research issues for the new project. About half of the speakers were from global South.

Identifying policy alternatives

Their discussions focused on evolving risks, opportunities and challenges for social policy in the 21st century, and how these factors are likely to impact on diverse trajectories of social policy development in the post-2015 world. The workshop helped shape the theoretical and methodological foundation for the new project, which looks at recent and emerging trends in social policy and aims to identify alternative policies for social development, particularly for low- and middle-income countries, in the 21st century.

“We received a huge amount of input during the workshop,” said Sarah Cook, Director of UNRISD. “We got some very concrete ideas from different parts of the world about what works, what fails and the consequences, but we also discussed new challenges like the middle class being hollowed out in middle-income countries. We gained a lot of insights into how different institutions and policy areas, like the macroeconomic, fiscal and social, work together as well as how we might take these ideas forward in a research agenda.”

Lively panel discussion

On the day after the workshop, a stimulating public Panel Discussion was held as part of the UNRISD Seminar Series, in partnership with the UN Library in Geneva, and moderated by Sarah Cook. Over 100 participants heard four panelists, each from a different continent, discuss the changing nature of and challenges to social policy regimes in developing countries. The discussion was opened by Per Ronnås, Senior Specialist at the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), UNRISD’s largest donor. In his opening remarks, he stressed how much his agency appreciates the partnership with UNRISD as an independent UN research institute.

  • Jimi Adesina, Professor and DST/NRF SARChl Chair in Social Policy at the University of South Africa
  • Michael Cichon, President of the International Council on Social Welfare, Professor of Social Protection at UNU Maastricht, and former Director of the ILO’s Social Security Department
  • Rana Jawad, Lecturer in Social Policy, University of Bath, and founder of the MENA social policy network
  • Andras Uthoff, Professor in the Faculty of Economy and Business at the Universidad de Chile, and former Director of ECLAC’s Division of Social Development

Make your contribution

The panelists' reflections provoked a lively discussion with the audience, which carried on into animated exchanges at the reception after the event. If you were there and have a comment to share with us, you can visit our Panel Discussion web page and make your contribution there. If you would like to watch the event and respond, the video recording is now available online with space for comments.