In October 2020, a small group of beneficiaries of REI, Inclusion’s Income, has been involved by the Inclusive Development Unit in an Emancipatory Research process. The research group is made of women, who use Prato’s Social Services. The objective of this process is threefold: first, it will allow users to share their experience about the Social Board model. Moreover, the goal of emancipatory research is to transform users into real facilitators who – in the future – will be able to work closely and in synergy with Social Services, exploiting the potentialities of a peer to peer approach. Finally, this peculiar applied participatory methodology, centered on the principles of self-determination, will make users increasingly aware of the dynamics of their own marginalization, and will promote their empowerment.
The Social Board Model
The REI income is a national policy to contrast universal poverty that is divided into two parts: in one hand the economic benefit and on the other the development of tailored projects for social and work inclusion. The payment of the economic benefit is managed by INPS, the National Institute for Social Security, while the creation of tailored project for inclusion is delegated to local Social Services.
The implementation of the REI income in Prato, active since January 1st 2018, is mainly based on the Social Board Model. This model fosters a methodology built on: the promotion of particular types of projects focused on teamwork, the active participation of users and an integrated and personalized planning. The main aim of the Social Board model is to find flexible and integrated responses for disadvantaged persons that can, at the same time, contribute to break the mechanisms that perpetuate the conditions of poverty. Therefore, the involvement of users in an Emancipatory Research process empowers the actors that are called to participate as social researchers.
Emancipatory Research is a participatory tool for promotion and empowerment for marginalized groups or people at risk of marginalization. This type of approach finds its roots in the analysis of power relationships incorporated in research activities. These types of analysis challenge the traditional relationship between researcher and object of research with the ultimate aim of making the most of the analytical skills of marginalized subjects.
People participating in an Emancipatory Research process faces different types of change. First of all they acquire practical knowledge on “how to do research”. Secondly, they can exercise their analytical skills in a collective and shared manner. In this way, they become aware of their condition as individuals and as part of a group, for example they gain awareness on their rights and how these are respected and actually exercised. Finally, they undergo a process of collective and individual empowerment resulting in a greater control over the mechanisms of knowledge production and information analysis.