The Strategic Unit Inclusive Development is a group of experts in social and economic research, who are interested in the twin track development of both theoretical and evidence-based researches within a micro and meso-level perspective.

The ethic and motivational background of the unit is based on three main pillars:

  • People belonging to vulnerable groups (children, people with disability, women, etc.) should be targeted as a priority by policy makers;
  • The increase in vulnerable people’ voicing ability is directly linked to the quality of democracy and to the ability of socio-economic systems to foster a sustainable and shared development;
  • The ways of life and the practices implemented by vulnerable and marginalized people can be a priceless source of information to build wide and deep change and innovation processes.

The human development paradigm and the capability approach surely are a strong background for the work of the unit, but they are conceived as a launch pad – and not as a limit – to the research activity of the group.

The group is one of the units of the research lab ARCO (Action Research for Co – Development), an action research lab of the University of Florence.

The  Strategic Unit on Inclusive Development benefits from the expertise of its different members – economists, statisticians, health workers, practitioners, civil society activists – and uses innovative and advanced methodologies in order to deliver high level and policy-oriented research studies, as well to provide support services to policy-makers and to stakeholders organisations.


I. To be a pro-active participant to the academic debate on key topics, such as gender, disability, children well-being and human development.

II. To provide technical assistance and support services to policy makers, international and non-governmental organizations, stakeholders associations.

III. To promote and spread innovative practices, approaches, theoretical and applied methodologies for the analysis of vulnerable groups and for the design and delivery of inclusive policy measures and services provision schemes.


The Unit’s Scientific Director is Prof. Mario Biggeri (Department of Economics of Florence University) and its Coordinator is Dr. Federico Ciani, PhD (expert in research on poverty, food security and disability issues). Substantial contributions to the work of the unit is given by a team of academics and research fellows specialised in economics within the University of Florence, as well as by external professors and consultants, such as Prof. Renato Libanora (co-founder of ARCO Lab, actually working for AIFO in Liberia).

The unit relies on a wide network of external experts available depending on the subject and peculiarities of each specific activity. The Strategic Unit on Inclusive Development operates in close collaboration with the other units of the research lab ARCO – Impact Evaluation, Third Sector and Social Innovation, Local Development – and has access to a large number of high level academics and professionals, both in Italy and other countries.

Main activities and services  

  • Applied and operative research on vulnerable groups (children, women, people with disability etc.) and human development with focus on both quantitative and qualitative methodologies;
  • Support to stakeholders associations with needs assessment, evaluation of services provision schemes and provision of instruments aimed at increasing their voicing ability;
  • Elaboration, design and support to implementation of services provision schemes, programs and project;
  • Support to the identification, analysis and scaling-up of best practices in the field of support to vulnerable groups; SuppoSu
  • Impact Evaluation of policy measures and services provision schemes  (with ARCO Impact Evaluation Unit);
  • Training and capacity-building on human and inclusive development issues (courses, workshops, summer/winter schools, etc.) for civil servants of national/local governments, NGOs’ staff, stakeholders associations and students;
  • Ex ante microsimulation of the impact of policy measures such  as support programmes, social protection schemes, investment in basic services etc.

Principles underlying our work 

  • Our Action-research approach is based on multi-disciplinary analysis and cross-fertilizing theories, with an integrated (top-down and bottom-up) and context-based perspective;
  • Our research topics have to be policy-relevant and contribute to the well-being of society;
  • We believe in our own continuous upgrading and innovation in the methodological approach;
  • We use Participatory approach in diagnostic studies, policy design and research design, basing results and processes on stakeholders knowledge and ownership of  development strategies;
  • Our studies and researches are independent and transparent.


Federico Ciani – Unit Coordinator