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This research topics will be worked through potential case studies. Case studies can be seen as the nexus between research questions addressed and developed in the review work packages, scenario-focused and spatially flexible methodological approaches and scientific and policy impact. At the same time, the chosen locations for case studies are the concrete places where links to stakeholders on various scales are established and local and regional practice partners get interested and involved in the project. Different mechanisms (including the project’s interactive website as a knowledge-sharing environment, focus group discussions, workshops) work towards this involvement, from analysis to scenario building. Furthermore, the case studies link the findings from longitudinal studies of socio-spatial inequality to an analysis of the wider socio-economic and territorial context in which these are produced.

Case study locations will thus be chosen to allow for a balanced representation of different institutional contexts, manifested in terms of five welfare regimes. These are:

  1. a) Society-based (social democratic): Finland (2), Sweden (2)
  2. b) Liberal: UK (Scotland 1, England 2)
  3. c) State-based: Netherlands (2), Luxembourg (1), France (1), Germany (2)
  4. d) Family-based: Spain (4), Greece (4)
  5. e) Transitional-post socialist: Hungary (4), Poland (4), Romania (4)

Social group identities, the definition and salience of social issues, political systems and issues are context-dependent, and vary according to historical, cultural and institutional differences. This poses a well-known challenge to the task of comparing developments across places and deriving generalisable conclusions.

The project refers to the methodology for studying comparative development politics developed by Kantor and Savitch (2005) which aims at achieving rigour while remaining sensitive to local contexts. The Kantor-Savitch methodology is based upon the definition of concepts and key variables which are operationalised using quantitative and qualitative data sets. It will be defined steering variables (agency) and driving variables (structure) that influence the impact of place-based strategies in terms of achieving balanced and sustainable development. Steering variables are those which reflect how place-based development is shaped on the basis of preferences, options, and values. The steering variables include local culture and public participation. The driving variables reflect what shapes the place-based development as structural forces and framework conditions. The driving variables include multi-scalar policy integration and Territorial and socio-economic position of the locality. Both kinds of variables are interrelated, though they capture different resources available to “successful” place-making, from an agency and structure perspective.

Scenario methods are part of a qualitative approach used by researchers representing various disciplines and practitioners to present key drivers for a certain phenomenon or process; for RELOCAL the key spheres are spatial inequalities and spatial injustice. At the local level focus is on development agendas, stakeholders and their interests and experiences with cohesion policy in order to determine how greater local-level involvement can promote spatial justice objectives. At the local level approach also aims to incorporate the perceptions, values and needs of local populations and thus strengthen the potential for public involvement and more effectively connect social demands and needs to development policy.

Selected groups of people (local and regional stakeholders, experts involved in local and regional development strategies and planning, journalists involved in these issues) will participate in scenario development in order to determine the impact and probability of occurrence of a certain factor in an upward, downward and stabilisation trend. The results allow identifying and assessing the strength of the impact under specific circumstances and the probability of different trajectories.

Measures of spatial inequality are typically defined based on the spatial aggregation of geo-coded data into some discrete spatial units of varying sizes and shapes including countries, NUTS-regions, municipalities, or census tracts. However, differences in the size and the shape of the geographical units used to measure spatial inequality will lead to different results.

The sensitivity of results to the choice of geographical units is known as the Modifiable Area Unit Problem (MAUP). This is important in the context of RELOCAL because it has been demonstrated that measures of spatial inequality can be more strongly influenced by how the geographical units have been constructed than by the underlying spatial variation. Therefore, it will be addressed these issues by developing tools for the analysis of spatial patterns of inequality at different geographical scales. Mapping different aspects of inequality on a variety of geographical scales is a way of showing appropriate levels of inequality at which territorial injustice can be found.

Longitudinal microdata permit important gains for empirical analysis of socio-spatial inequalities, which allow producing more reliable estimates of the different factors determining inequality. By following the same individuals over time, longitudinal data allows to measure how much of the differences in individual socio-economic outcomes are due to changes in their residential locations (e.g. cities vs. rural areas), or to differences between individuals (e.g. high vs. low education levels). Furthermore, it allows measuring these effects over the life-course of individuals and hence provides a unique opportunity to evaluate the effect of specific policy interventions, both place-based and people-based interventions.

RELOCAL will develop empirical models to assess the importance of location and contextual factors and people factors on inequality using longitudinal microdata obtained from (either or both) EUROSTAT microdata surveys such as the European Union Statistics on Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC), and country-specific national microdata surveys.

RELOCAL focuses on spatial justice in the context of Cohesion Policy. Consequently, from a thematic point of view, gender issues, social concerns and needs of more vulnerable groups will be addressed generally in the project and specifically with respect to localities (case studies). As such, the RELOCAL consortium will address gender issues to the extent that they emerge during investigations of local perceptions of Cohesion Policy as an opportunity structure. Some of the fields within the project in which a gender sensitive approach will be taken into consideration are use of primary data reflecting gender aspects, consideration of gender aspects in the field of social conditions and effects; awareness of gender aspects within the elaboration of illustrative cases, gender balanced interviewing; adequate participation of women as part of interaction with stakeholders (focus groups and workshops) and as researchers in obtaining insights which reflect gender perspectives as part of spatial justice and fairness (e.g. policy options and tools); and efforts to achieve dissemination to in a gender balanced way.

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