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Mainstreaming Social Inclusion Project

The Mainstreaming Social Inclusion website is now online at

Background and Objectives

Poverty and social exclusion remain deeply disturbing problems within European society, with 15% (or 55 million people) living below the official EU poverty line. Poverty and social exclusion have many and varied causes and to address them there is a need for wide ranging and integrated policies and measures across many areas of society and government.

A new understanding is emerging that to do this successfully, all national policies should have a poverty perspective. This is known as mainstreaming social inclusion. This is a new concept and, consequently, what it means differs across the Member States.

In 2003, the Combat Poverty Agency, along with transnational partners in Europe and the European Anti-Poverty Network (EAPN), undertook a three-year research project to advance an understanding of mainstreaming social inclusion. The partner countries/regions are: Ireland, Czech Republic, France, Northern Ireland, Norway and Portugal.

The project was part funded by the European Commission through the Transnational Exchange Programme. Mainstreaming Social Inclusion (MSI) is one of 64 projects in the EU Transnational Exchange Programme (TEP). The primary objective of TEP is to support mutual learning between Member States, accession countries and EFTA and EEA countries.

The objectives of the MSI project are:

  • To contribute to a wider understanding of how mainstreaming social inclusion might be integrated into national policies
  • To develop the concept
  • To provide operational tools for those involved in the formulation of policies, in decision-making, for administrators and service providers responsible for the implementation of these policies and for non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that represent people experiencing social exclusion and poverty

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Mainstreaming Social Inclusion - Phase I (2003)

The aim of Phase I was to map out how mainstreaming social inclusion is understood in each partner country or region and to identify the key features of what constitutes mainstreaming. This phase of the Project has been completed. Two publications, a Research Report and Seminar Report, are available below.

Key Findings from Phase I

To increase information on what is understood by mainstreaming, the partner countries/regions that participated in Phase I set out their understanding of mainstreaming and provided two case studies to illustrate this understanding.

The project found that there was no common understanding of, or approach to, mainstreaming social inclusion. Rather, it identified a number of approaches amongst the partners, which are attempting to shift existing policy and delivery models to produce positive outcomes for people experiencing poverty.

These approaches may be classified as follows:

  • Administrative Types of Mainstreaming - Ireland and Portugal
    Policies are assessed to identify their impact on poverty and in some cases try to ensure that they do not worsen poverty. In addition, in Ireland there are policy targets for poverty reduction and social inclusion. Implicitly these may also act to direct policy. In Portugal, there is also a well-developed strategic planning system which involves coordination and partnership between stakeholders at the local level.
  • Executive Mainstreaming - Northern Ireland
    Targeting Social Need (New TSN) is where efforts and available resources within existing public programmes of the Northern Ireland Executive are redirected towards people, groups and areas in greatest objective social need. Finding additional resources for New TSN activities involves targeting resources within existing programmes or making bids for additional resources within the annual public expenditure round.
  • Judicial Mainstreaming - France
    There is no formal attempt to mainstream social inclusion. However, there are many examples of policies and measures that enable individuals and groups experiencing poverty and social exclusion to get back into the mainstream of society. These are developed and implemented through partnership between different sectors and are facilitated through the political system by legislation.

There are two distinct approaches that determine whether or not the inclusion of a poverty perspective is ‘integrationist’ or ‘agenda setting’. The former is where social inclusion perspectives are introduced into existing policy processes but do not challenge the existing policy paradigm. The latter involves a fundamental re-think of the ends or goals of the policies themselves so as to include a social inclusion perspective. However, the two approaches share a number of features, including:

  • The European Commission and the European Council have continued to press the need for Member States to mainstream social inclusion
  • The inclusion of a poverty perspective when developing policy
  • Cross-boundary working arrangements
  • Mechanisms for the involvement of people experiencing poverty
  • An evaluation and monitoring system


Benefits of Mainstreaming Social Inclusion

The research has found that mainstreaming is a neutral concept as it is not clear whether or not it can result in a reduction or elimination of poverty or an improvement in the lives of people who are experiencing poverty. However, the research did find that there were potentially positive outcomes following implementation of mainstreaming processes, some of which were demonstrated in the different case studies. These include:

Outcomes for People Experiencing Poverty:

  • More actions within existing policies for excluded people
  • Greater participation and dialogue for social partners and people experiencing poverty
  • More resources within existing policies/ programmes directed towards social inclusion

Outcomes for Policymaking and Policymakers:

  • Change in attitudes and working culture to include a poverty perspective
  • Greater responsibility and ownership for social inclusion outcomes across all policy areas
  • Better data and information around poverty and social exclusion and improved systems for spreading innovation and learning about poverty and social exclusion
  • Greater coherence in policymaking

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Mainstreaming Social Inclusion - Phase II (2004-2005)

The aim of Phase II was to build on the work of Phase I, and, in particular, to investigate the potential of mainstreaming for achieving positive outcomes for people experiencing poverty and the benefits that mainstreaming can generate and to develop a framework for the evaluation of how social inclusion is mainstreamed into government policies.


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Phase III (2006)

During 2006 the MSI Project will undertake an evaluation study of the mainstreaming of social inclusion into public policies. Using the questionnaire developed during Phase II of the Project in 2004-2005, this study will evaluate how the concept of mainstreaming social inclusion is incorporated into public policies with a particular focus on the NAPincl process. More specifically, research on all levels of governance, NGOs and social partners in nine partner countries (Ireland, UK, Norway, Netherlands, Portugal, France, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Bulgaria) will be undertaken to determine a scale to measure mainstreaming. The study will also apply qualitative techniques – in-depth interviews and good practice case studies from each participating countries to complement data from the survey.

The results of this study will provide a benchmark for the future measurements of mainstreaming social inclusion into the public policies of the Member States. The research is funded through the EU Transnational Exchange Programme.

The objectives of the study are:

    • To develop methodology and policy tools for assessing mainstreaming social inclusion
    • To establish what the understanding of the definition of mainstreaming Social inclusion is across participating countries
    • To compare the different structures of governance in participating countries, with regard to the design and implementation of policies
    • To evaluate the commitment in public policies to the eradication of poverty and social exclusion at each level of governance
    • To provide a European benchmark for the measurement of progress towards realisation of Lisbon objectives on eradication of poverty and social exclusion

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MSI Publications

  • Better Policies, Better Outcomes: promoting mainstreaming social inclusion (2006): Click to open brochure in PDF format (large file - 3mb)
  • Better Policies, Better Outcomes - summary (2006): Click to open brochure in PDF format
    French version: Open document in PDF format Norwegian version: Click to open in PDF format
  • Mainstreaming Social Inclusion Research Report (2004): Click to download Research Report
    French version: Click to open brochure in PDF format Portuguese version: Click to open brochure in PDF format
  • Information Brochure (2004): Click to open brochure in PDF format
  • Mainstreaming Social Inclusion: working for the prevention and elimination of poverty in a changing Europe. Report of Seminar 6-7 June 2003: Click to open brochure in PDF format


Presentations from Phase II Research Workshops

  • Social Inclusion & Poverty Policy Development
    • Spatial Deprivation in Northern Ireland: Click to open PowerPoint presentation
    • A Strategy for Children & Young People: the poverty dimension: Click to open PowerPoint presentation
    • New Targeting Social Need: the way forward: Click to open PowerPoint presentation
    • Resource Allocation and Targeting Social Need: Click to open PowerPoint presentation
    • The EAPN and the fight against poverty in Europe: Click to open document in Word format
    • The process leading to NAP SI in the Czech Republic: Click to open document in Word format
    • The National Action Plan on Social Inclusion in the Czech Republic: Click to open PowerPoint presentation
    • Poverty and Social Inclusion: policy development in Portugal: Click to open PowerPoint presentation
  • Participative Methodology
    • Innovative Methodologies in Participation: Click to open document in Word format
    • Participation in the Czech Republic: Click to open PowerPoint presentation
    • Participation: The French Way: Click to open PowerPoint presentation
    • Theory & Principles of Participation: Open document in Word format
    • Political & Policy Development Process: Northern Ireland Anti-Poverty Network: Click to open PowerPoint presentation
  • Monitoring & Evaluation Methodology
    • Deprivation and its Spatial Articulation in the Republic of Ireland: Click to open PowerPoint presentation
    • Monitoring & Evaluation Methodology: Click to open PowerPoint presentation


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Contact Information

For further information on the Mainstreaming Social Inclusion Project, visit the MSI website at or contact:

Kevin O'Kelly
T: 01 602 6620

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