Social Quality Theory in Practice
Projects Developing the Theory of Social Quality
The following projects concern academic activities to start, elaborate and enhance the theory of social quality and its dissemination. The start of ‘social quality work’ began in the 1990s. It concerned expert meetings, giving lectures, writing untold numbers of letters, and first of all the theoretically oriented work. The ‘founding scholars’ from different EU-countries were able to use the now defunct the ‘Dutch Interdisciplinary University Institute SISWO’ in Amsterdam for the coordination and orchestration. The so-called ‘theoretical projects’ flourished in conjunction with empirical oriented social quality research, expert-meetings, and a multitude of articles in – at this stage – the International Journal of Social Quality (IJSQ) and other international journals. Here, the theoretically oriented projects will be reviewed shortly. They have been published in books and main articles to which will be referred. Since 2008 the results of the tentative theoretical explorations have been published in working papers. Therefore, this section also connects with working papers published on this website. Both sections implement each other. A summary of the current state of the social quality theory can be found here.
Main Theory and Theory Supporting Projects 1990-2000: The Start of the Theoretical Development
- Project IASQ’s First SQ-book . This is prepared by a British and Dutch team. The purpose was to ‘introduce social quality thinking’ as outcome of three European expert-meetings organized by the Dutch Interdisciplinary University Institute SISWO in Amsterdam in the 1990s. These meetings happened with support from British, French, Belgium, German and Dutch universities, paid by the Dutch government, the European Commission and these universities. Based on this academic work, this team produced the IASQ’s first book on social quality, published in June 1997 The Social Quality of Europe. Because it functioned as the rationale of the European conference on social quality (see following project) the Dutch government paid the costs of the publication.
- Project European Foundation on Social Quality (EFSQ). This legal entity is started in 1997, localized in Amsterdam. The initiators or ‘founding people’ at this stage were from universities of the UK, Belgium and The Netherlands.. Its purpose was to develop communicative based relationships with academics all over Europe, for elaborating the social quality theory (SQ T), in order to stimulate new designs for policy makers, non-for-profit organizations, companies, ngo’s etc.
- Project ‘European Conference’ on Social Quality’ for economists, jurists, political scientists, sociologists, anthropologists. This was prepared and organized with support from the Dutch Government, the European Commission, members of the European Observatory of Social Cohesion, the Board of the EFSQ (and its European relations). The aim was to debate the preliminary ideas about the SQT, as presented in the first sq-book. The conference took place during the EU Presidency in Amsterdam, June 1997.
- Project ‘Amsterdam Declaration on Social Quality’. This is prepared, executed and published by the Board of the EFSQ and its advisors and published into fifteen languages, signed by 1000 European scholars and presented throughout the EU Presidency in Amsterdam. This has been solemnly presented during a pubic meeting in the famous Berlage Goods Excahnge in Amsterdam, right after the conference. You can read the declaration here. Three months later the Declaration was officially presented to the President of the European Parliament in October 1997.
- Project European Journal of Social Quality (EJSQ). This is an initiative of the Kingston University near London, Berghahn Journals in Oxford/New York, with support from the EFSQ (afterwards IASQ), made in 1999. During the following six years this journal aimed to provide analysis and a debating forum around social quality. The Kingston University delivered the chief editor and assistants. The first double issue was based on contributions from scholars of ten universities in the European Union, debating many aspects of the new social quality theory and its societal meaning. Indeed, social quality is according to the first Editorial, just starting to establish its legitimacy as an analytical tool as well as a normative principle. This issue and the elaboration of the 1997 conference (see above) delivered points of departure for the IASQ’s second book (see below). This book paved the way for the European Network Indicators Social Quality (ENIQ, see below).
- Project Social Quality and Modern Public Health. The EFSQ and the Department of Public Health of the municipality of The Hague started in 1998 a project group with which to confront the principles of social quality with the traditional suppositions and practices of public health. This work was also inspired by explorations in the Canadian and British Healthy Cities Movement in the late 1980s and the 1990s. Their first experiences are theorized in the WHO Healthy Cities Papers and published in 1989 with support of the WHO and the Dutch government. It was called ‘The New Public Health in an Urban Context’. It should function as a source of inspiration for the connection of public health interpretations and the theory of social quality. In 2000 this project group published a hereupon based philosophical-theoretical oriented study (see projects public health of the website) This study should play an inspiring role for at least two decades in theorizing the connection of social quality and public health, going beyond the biophysiological approach Read more about the public health project.
- Project Social Quality and Age and Autonomy. A project group under the lead of the Kingston University started in 1999 the publication of studies with scholars from other countries about age and autonomy from the social quality perspective in statu nascendi. A herewith related assumption is that with regard to older people, increased activity and participation as well as the need for support and care are aspects of a complex picture that are often obscured in political debate. It is possibly with the social quality theory (SQT) to stimulate a cross fertilization between different ways of analyzing societal and individual relations for staying in touch with the variety and depth of human experience of especially older people. The outcomes were published in 2000 in a thematic issue of EJSQ
- Project Social Quality of Employment. A project group under the lead of the Sheffield University started in 1999 the publication of studies with scholars from other countries of a key determinant of social quality, namely employment. This work paved the way for a European network about this topic, the ENEF, see below. A central assumption is that unemployment has a critical bearing on welfare states and their acceptable continuity, regardless of whether they are in the Beveridge or Bismarck molds. Employment is, equally obviously, crucial to the social quality of people’s lives. The outcomes were published in 2000 in the thematic of EJSQ.
Main Projects 2000-2005: Elaboration's first Contours
- Project ‘Conference of the European Parliament’ . The target was to discuss the meaning of the SQT and its policy implications for also the European Commission. It was organized by the social-democratic party of the Parliament in Brussels in collaboration with the Board of the EFSQ in March 2000. At the end of the day social quality was appreciated as an umbrella concept of the European social model, social protection, or social standards for social cohesion. The implicit question was if the SQT may become functional (or productive) of the socioeconomic dimension of the EU, as main target of the Lisbon Treaty in 2000. As explained later, this was based on a fundamental misunderstanding.
- Project towards European Cities of Social Quality. Staff-members and advisors of the IASQ (at that time EFSQ) started to explore the meaning of the preliminary ideas about the social quality theory (SQT) for the European discourse about the transformations of European cities. It is published in 2001. It concerned the first endeavor to confront the first contours of the SQT with changes of the urban context as main space of daily circumstances. It acted as an opening move for later social quality studies on urbanization (see different working papers below).
- Project IASQ’s Second SQ-book. This is prepared by a British, Dutch, Belgium and German team since April 2000. The aim was is to present the first contours of the theory of social quality. This was based on the outcomes of the Conference in Amsterdam in 1997, the Conference in Brussels in 2000 and new inputs from the side of ten universities. It is presented as the IASQ’s second book on social quality and published in 2001: Social Quality: A Vision for Europe, by Wolfgang Beck.
- Project European Network Indicators Social Quality (ENIQ).This network, as most important project for the elaboration of the theory of social quality indicators in general sense, in particular has aroused global interest. Its outcomes were applied in fourteen European countries. Points of departure for ENIQ were the IASQ’s first and second book and a comprehensive application. This paved the way for the European Commission and fourteen universities to finance the work of ENIQ from 2001 till 2005. The theoretical-analytical outcomes were at the center of two Working Papers, 3 and 12 and the IASQ’s third book, see below. This project delivered the points of departure for fourteen empirical oriented national research-projects concerning the application of social quality indicators (see the website’s project sq-indicators). The summarizes of the first outcomes of this empirical oriented work are presented in the double issue of the European Journal of Social Quality, published in 2005.The Editorial opened with the words that to date the social quality project has been dominated by theoretical, philosophical and policy agendas. The ENIQ projects lays the foundation for fourteen empirical analyses. It concluded, that any project for producing internationally comparable operational measures of social quality faces huge intellectual and practical difficulties. However, the articles in this issue show that a great progress has been made by the ENIQ project and that an empirical framework for social quality research has at that time successfully established. See European Journal of Social Quality, Volume 5.
- Project European Network Employment, Flexicurity and Social Quality (ENEF). This network was dedicated to the start and elaboration the theory of social quality indicators with regard to the policy area of employment of seven European countries, between 2001 till 2003. It was strongly connected with the previous project (see above). The European Commission and seven European universities financed this project. The outcomes of this theoretical work with regard to ‘employment and flexicurity’ are presented in 2003 in the double issue of the European Journal of Social Quality, published in 2003. In the Editorial explained is, that flexicurity, insofar as it would help to reduce unemployment risks and improve the quality of daily circumstances of people at work, as well as contribute the adaptability of labour within businesses, appears to be a worthy aim for employment policies. It will be one that at first may appear to be squaring the circle, and one which needs considerable further clarification. Trade unions especially are very wary of a strategy that appears to accept the inevitability of labour-market deregulation and transferring to the welfare state, in a way or another, at the cost of security. This issue examines how on the other hand flexicurity may be a useful way of exploring the present situation and tracing new avenues in policy-making Europe. This project delivered the points of departure for seven empirical oriented national research-projects concerning the application of these indicators in the policy area of employment with this Editorial in mind (see IASQ project Employment).
- Project Theorizing Quality of Life and Social Quality. This project from the side of the Sheffield University started in 2004. The aim was and is to deepen our understanding of the theoretical and practical aspects of the ‘quality of life approach’. Explained is that the problems, disagreements and even contradictions in this popular approach start to emerge as we move from the general, rather vague, warm and fussy vision of quality of life through to more specific definitions. At the individual level, first, are the objective aspects of quality of life, including income and longevity, more important than its subjective elements, such as happiness and emotional fulfillment. At the subjective level, how do we measure the difference in quality of life between, on the one hand, someone who is happy but leads a pleasure-seeking life, making less of themselves than they could do an, on the other, a person who fulfills their human capabilities, seeks enlightenment rather than pleasure. At the collective level the problems are perhaps more intense. How to understand a society which maximizes its members’ quality of life on the basis of a vision of a perfect society? This has been confronted with the assumptions of the social quality theory (SQT) and it delivers the points of departure for comparing both approaches. This study is published in 2006. See David Phillips: Quality of Life: Concept, Policy and Practice.
Main Projects 2005-2010: SQ in Asia and Australia
- Projects Eight Asian Social Quality Conferences with which to prepare and operationalize international conferences in Asia between 2007 and 2015. Both above mentioned projects (ENIQ and ENEF) opened the doors for collaboration with Asian and Australian universities. The initiative was taken by the Chiba University in Japan. Ground work was carried out thanks to the long-term connection between the University of Sheffield and Hong Kong Baptist University as well as the link between Sheffield and Chiba. With a well-prepared first Asian conference in Japan the start was made for the collaboration between scholars in Japan (1x conference), mainland China (2x conference), South-Korea (1x conference), Taiwan (1x conference), Hong Kong (1x conference), Indonesia, India, Malaysia, Thailand (2x conferences) and Australia. The scientific journey of European scholars in articulating the social quality theory, methodology and application was compared with the contributions by Asian scholars about human security and the different policies for enhancing welfare. These conferences were financed by the national governments and the leading universities. They provided the fundamental starting points for the collaboration with Asian, Russian, Australian, African universities and later universities in the USA.
- Project Theorizing Human Security and Social Quality: the start of the sq-project group The Hague. In 2007 the International Institute of Social Studies in The Hague (ISS) and the EFSQ signed a Memorandum of Understanding for a project-collaboration. The ISS generously offered all the office facilities required for the EFSQ for more than a decade. At that time a project group of the ISS and the EFSQ (now IASQ), the Department of Public Health and the Esloo-Group of Schools started the ‘sq-project group The Hague’. This collaboration offered the opportunity to compare the orientation of many ISS employees on human development’ and ‘human security’ with the orientation on ‘social quality’. A begin is made with an exploration of their contrasts and complementarities. The first has been focused on the quality of individual human lives, understood as influenced by interconnections that transcend conventional disciplinary boundaries; its ‘human security’ branch goes deeper into study of human vulnerability and the textures of daily life. The second, namely social quality, tries to understand individual lives as lived within societal wholes to identify and understand key elements of these wholes and to develop a correspondingly grounded public policy approach. The outcomes of this theoretical exploration is published as Working Paper no. 462 of the ISS in 2008. It is also presented in 2008 as the first IASQ Working Paper "Working Paper 0" of the EFSQ (now IASQ). This working paper was published afterwards in a book of the Bielefeld University in Germany, published in 2013 and in a New Horizons of Human Development, edited by Ananta Giri of the Madras Institute of Development Studies in India, published in 2015.
- Project Employment, Precarity and Social Quality’, initiated from German academic side in 2008. The argument is that although the ‘old problems are not problems of individuals and expression of their ‘personal’ failure. Precarity – seen in the context of the theory of social quality - means a new stage of socialization of the problems of transformation of economic systems. At stake is not de disintegration with regard to the labour market, at stake is the disintegration of an employment and perhaps even work-based model of society. The outcomes of this project are published in 2008 as Working Paper 1.
- Project Exploration of the Role of Social Quality in Urban Processes’. The ‘sq-project group The Hague’ made in 2007 a start to analyze the nature of urban processes in the highly multicultural borough of Laak North, based on also previous studies by the ISS. In their study the main question was, if in the light of processes in this part of The Hague – with help of some principles of the social quality theory – and adequate ‘urban methodological framework; can be designed in order with help of exiting community groups to address urban challenges at that time. According to national and international institutions such framework is missing. This resulted in the Working Paper 2 about ‘the experimental urban space of Laak North of the city of the Hague’, published in 2009.
- Project Theorizing first Outcomes of Social Quality Indicators. This indicators project of staff members of the EFSQ presents preliminary theoretical considerations of the applied social quality indicators in fourteen European countries. This application happened in the context of the ENIQ-project (see above). This project tries to answer the issues about the (1) adequacy of these indicators, (2) their coherence, (3) their appropriateness, and (4) the availability of data to use these indicators. It also argued, that social quality indicators are not measurement tools as such but they are tools to analyze trends of developments of societal wholes and people as main actors. By orienting these indicators on societal processes, they essentially differ from for example quality of life indicators. This exploration is done on behalf of new applications in Europe and also on behalf of applications in Australia and Asia. It is also based on the outcomes of the double issue of the EJSQ from 2005 (see ENIQ, above). The result of this theoretical exercise is published in 2009 in Working Paper 3.
- Project Comparison different Approaches seen from a Global Perspective. From the side of the Board of the EFSQ the need was felt to reflect on the similarities and differences of existing approaches with the social quality theory and approach. It concerns (1) quality of life, (2) social capital, (3) human security, (4) human development, (5) capability approach and (6) social harmony. This comparison is inspired by the in-depth study from the side of the Sheffield University of 2006 about quality of life, including social quality (see above) and the ISS’s working paper about the similarities and differences between the human security and social quality, also published by the IASQ as its first Working Paper 0 (see above). Such a comparison may be of interest for knowing the different value bases and theoretical points of departure with which to make choices what to use for which circumstances. We know, the quality of life is more or less embraced by the European Union, the social capital by the World Bank, human security discourses, connected with the human development by many institutions of the United Nations, the capability theory and approach plays an important role in American and Asian debates and the social harmony discourse is supposed to be important for addressing current Chinese questions. The hypothesis of the authors is, that the social quality theory (SQT) and its application will add something really new. This exploration is published in Working Paper 3b.
- Project Asian Strategies to Pave the Way for Social Quality. The National Taiwan University decided – as outcome of the social quality conference in Taipei 2007- to support an Asian project group ‘social quality indicators’ of universities from Taiwan, Thailand, China, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Indonesia. The IASQ (at that time the EFSQ] supported as well. Targets were, (1) to reach consensus about the meaning of social quality for Asian regions, (2) to reach consensus about the possibility and problems of the application of the social quality indicators in these regions, (3) to pave the way for surveys for applying these indicators. They stimulated since then more than 12 empirical oriented national research-projects. The outcomes of the state of affairs of this project group are presented in Working Paper 4. It concerns an overview of strategies to develop the social quality approach in Europe and Asia and is published in 2009. At that time, this theoretical oriented research-group should be coordinated further by the Institute for Social Development and Policy Research (ISDPR) of the National Seoul University. The first outcomes of as well theoretical reflections as empirical research would be published in the Journal of Development and Society (Now 'Journal of Asian Sociology', see: publications; other journals and reports).
- Project Urban Methodological Framework and Sustainable Urban Development. Thanks to the results of urban explorations in the borough of Laak North of Laak North (see above, Working Paper 2) - whose quality of daily circumstances has significantly decreased over the last decades (according a report from the municipality) – the ‘sq-project group The Hague’ started in 2009 a study about a new urban methodological framework for a European context, based on these explorations. Also the European Commission concluded at that time, that “a social reality stocktaking implies to analyze afresh the complex dynamics of urban societal change as to be able to judge the relevance and appropriateness of current policies and to develop a solid base for the future”. The rationale of this study was, that indeed new challenges come up by forces both from within and outside the European Union. On the other hand this causes especially a shift in socio-economic processes, demographic relations by far-reaching processes of migration, an important increase of older people and changing-life-styles. This study is presented in Working Paper 5 and published in 2010.. The purpose was with help of the SQT and its application to deliver a depth investment in the future problematic of urbanization.
Projects 2010-2015: The challenge of Sustainability
- Project Theorizing Justice, Migration and Sustainable Urban Development in/of the Neighbourhood Laak North/The Hague. The ‘sq-project group the Hague’, playing a role in Working Paper 2 and 5 (see above), started in the beginning of 2010 with a preparation of a study on behalf of the 15th global Metropolis Conference in The Hague. Also in this case, the borough of Laak North became the frame of reference, thanks to the new contacts and experiments in this borough. As argued, the focus on the urban context – thus also of the borough of Laak North – is becoming more interesting since the urban context will determine the daily circumstances of an increasing part of human beings due to global trends. In the case of Laak North, with more than 50% of immigrants, it is viewed generally to be a problematique part of The Hague. The reason is a relatively high extent of different forms of exclusion, poverty, cultural deprivation, low levels of microeconomic activities and inadequate housing circumstances, low levels of educational achievements and sport due to this silent transformation. This has a negative influence on the health conditions of the population: what ‘has the social quality theory to say”? This exploration is published as Working Paper 6 in 2010.
- Project International Association on Social Quality (IASQ) as successor of the EFSQ (European Foundation on Social Quality). This change happened in 2010 is caused thanks to the extension of social quality work to Asia, Australia and Russia. This legal entity remained localized in Amsterdam. Gradually, a difference arose with the activities from the terminated EFSQ. The latter has assumed responsibility for research projects and their funding. This required an increasing infrastructure, which was not feasible as an ‘extra-university’ institute. The IASQ became a small ‘catalyst of change’ for promoting theorizing social quality and its application with help of university institutes all over the world, engaged with the social quality. They became responsible for research and application. On global level, the amount of investments increased since 2010 substantially.
- Project Urban Neighbourhoods, Women and Public Space: An Example In Laak-North/The Hague. Thanks to the collaboration between the IASQ and the ISS (Institute of Social Studies in The Hague) and the explorations by the ‘sq-project group The Hague’, a study is made about the Koffiepot Mother Centre by a researcher of the ISS. It concerned a functional women’s organization in the context of Laak North (see also Working Paper 2, 5 and 6). The study brings to light the significance of understanding the social construction of urban space. It discusses the role of the ‘agora’ world of communities, groups and networks of citizens, as actor in the ongoing process of determination of the quality of the social in urban space. The special focus is oriented on the potentials of the Mother Center in relation to processes of cohesion building in reference to community in spatial terms as well a stirring towards individual and social empowerment. Further unwrapping particular understanding of these over-encompassing terms, it points out how functional organizations, like the one studied in Laak North can in a context of an aggregate Neighbourhood contribute to development of the urban space. This study of 2009 is published at the IASQ-website as Working Paper 7. Questioned in this study is, that downwards from the theoretical level debate, what can social quality theory and application as a set of ethical principles on integration learn from grassroots actors like the Koffiepot Mother Centre on specific notions of empowerment and cohesion? The aspect of societal activation discussed in this study should be also borne in mind the debate about the social quality indicators for understanding aspects of social cohesion and empowerment. If cohesion is about necessary value consensus, celebration of diversity should present one of the core values here and this acknowledgement should not remain unnoticed in the quality of cohesion measurement.
- Project Five Methodological layers Constituting the Urban Methodological Framework of Social Quality. The aim of this study was (1) to summarize the bricking stones of Working Papers 2, 5 and 6 oriented on the ‘case Laak North of the Hague’, and Working Paper 4 on Asian explorations, (2) to apply the preliminary distinction of the sq-project group The Hague between the Agora, Politeia, Oikos, Civitas and Academia to the two basic tensions of the social quality theory, (3) to distinguish the usual applied monitoring devices for exploiting elements of urban life and the specific social quality indicators, (4) to connect these three topics with each other, in order (5) to develop a frame of reference for discussing the so-called ‘urban model’ of the city of Hangzhou. In other words, elements of the social quality theory are applied to understand this Hangzhou model. The outcomes of this study are published in Working Paper 8 in 2012.
- Project Reflection on the Urban Strategies of the City of Hangzhou. From the side of the IASQ, participated is in two international conferences about the urban model for developing ‘the Life Quality of its Citizens’. Explicitly the attention during the conferences was oriented on the reciprocity between the physical aspects of this metropole and soci-cultural/welfare aspects. The point of departure was the accent on ‘we make life better in Hangzhou’. Argued is, that in the Western world the accent is laid upon ‘I’ and not ‘we’, ignoring history and supposing, all contemporary problems can be resolved by science and technology. In this study an endeavor is made to understand what the differences and similarities are between the consequences of this Chinese assumption and the social quality theory concerning general urban questions and the role of communities. The idea of Agora, Politeia etc (see Working paper 8) is compared with the four Hangzhou circles as point of departure for urban strategies. The study is published as Working Paper 9 and published in 2012.
- Project Economic globalization through the Lens of Social Quality. This study concerns the challenges arising from the development of economic globalization as the so-called ‘ creator of the new world’ order’ and its tendency to deteriorate the foundation of a global order in terms of social justice solidarity, equal value and human dignity, the four normative factors of social quality. As main point of referral functions the report of the ‘Commission Stiglitz, Sen and Fitoussi cs’ on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress. This refers to the European Commission’s strategy of development, acknowledges the need for these values. This study involves the issue of social quality indicators, regarding them not only as measurement instruments but especially as instruments for societal change. They are pointers for developing and understanding of complex realities. In the report , indicators are interpreted as technical measurement instruments. Therefore the authors could not avoid the trap of ‘progress’ as a technocratically interposed societal phenomenon, linked to an undefined conception of ‘quality of life’. The unknown is defined with the unknown. The study is published in Working Paper 10 in 2012.
- Project Dutch Think Tank Sustainability. This project, initiated by the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS), the IASQ, and the ‘sq-project group The Hague’, aimed to pave the way for the social quality theory and its application to be functional and constructive for the global movements for underpinning the development toward the overall sustainability. The outcomes after two years of work is published in a Working Paper 11 in 2012, and signed by many scholars in Europe and Asia and sent to a manifold of participants of the Rio sustainability Conference in June 2012. The finances are delivered by participating universities and three Dutch funds. Point of departure was, that for understanding sustainability we need an adequate framework for determining its consequences of the whole of the natural system. The traditional accent on the environmental dimensions as well the economic dimension (according the dominant economic paradigm) - without being able to integrate the consequences of politics and policies concerning both dimensions – prevents a real understanding of the ‘state of dynamic equilibrium’ of the natural system. This refers to the most crucial problem of current discourses on sustainability. The global acceptation of the ‘social dimension’ as the third one has taken on the property of an unstructured, internal incoherent and inconsistent ‘black box’. From the perspective of social quality proposed is first, to make a distinction between: the (1) socioeconomic/financial, the (2) sociopolitical/legal, the (3) sociocultural/welfare and the (4) socioenvironmental dimensions. Second, to elaborate the social quality’s (a) conceptual framework and its (b) analytical framework and to start with the elaboration (c) of the procedural framework in order to be more adequate to approach comprehensive challenges related with the development of the overall sustainability. This think tank opened real new pathways for also the social quality theory and approach.
- Project IASQ’s Third SQ-book: In 2010 a project-group of representatives of universities from the UK, The Netherlands and Germany started with theorizing the state of affairs of the social quality work at that time. They stood on the shoulders of scholars, who contributed to the theory and its application in the past twenty years (1990-2010). In particular they dedicated this theoretical project to the extensive theoretical and empirical oriented projects ‘indicators social quality’, organized by the ENIQ-project and the ENEF-project (see above). The herewith related theoretical work and empirical research projects for understanding the nature and change of the conditional factors in South-East Asia, Australia was incorporated (see above). The challenge of this book was to present the ‘first design’ of the social quality theory and to enhance the theoretical foundation of especially social quality indicators and its application on national levels. These social quality indicators concern the tools for understanding the changes of the (at that time) four conditional factors, namely socio-economic security, social cohesion, social inclusion and social empowerment. This third book does not deal with the theoretical and practical elaborations of the constitutional and the normative factors This book was published at the end of 2012 (Social Quality: From Theory to Indicators).
- Project IJSQ (International Journal of Social Quality) paved thew way for the successor of the European Journal of Social Quality. It was a logical consequence of further globalization of the social quality work (theory and approach). The change and realization happened with support from the Zhejiang University in China, the IASQ and Berghahn Journals in UK/USA. The original journal has clearly outgrown its European origin. This implied new questions, e.g. how far is the European-originated social quality theory useful to understand circumstances, trends and challenges elsewhere? The Zhejiang University would support this journal from 2011 till 2016.
- Project Theoretical and Methodological challenges for Social Quality indicators with also regard the urban questions and the overall sustainability. Since the ENIQ-project (2001-2005) till the publication of the IASQ’s third book (see above) the attention for social quality indicators increased, also in Asia and Australia. Especially because the ambition to go beyond the empirical level of particular policy areas, the demand grew for a stronger methodological points of departure. As a result of the necessity to distinguish between four dimensions of the overall sustainability (see Working Paper 11), indicators should also address the change of conditional factors in everyday life as manifested in these four dimension, namely socioeconomic/ financial, sociopolitical/legal, the sociocultural/welfare and socioenvironmental dimensions. In this study, a main point is added. These dimensions will be expressed in at least for relevant fields: (1) the field of societal complexities, (2) the field of sustainability (or as later will be argued the field of eco-systems) and (3) the field of urban circumstances. Before 2010 sq-scholars in Europe, Asia and Australia were targeted only on the first field. Argued is, that it is essential to delve deeper into the social quality theory and its application for addressing the reciprocity between the three fields - as condition to meet the most important challenges of human kind. Based on the manifold of precious indicators’ research, this study tries to deliver an agenda of work in Working Paper 12, published in 2013. Attention is also dedicated to the difference between only empirical oriented monitoring devices (see also the report Stiglitz, Sen and Fitoussi, referred to above) and the theoretical based nature of sq-indicators.
- Project Analyzing the History of Social Quality Work between1994-2014. The IASQ published in the begin of 2014 an interpretation of the history of social quality thinking and work. Their rationale is at that time expressed as to contribute to an increased emphasis on humanity and humility instead of the incessant ‘look-at-me- ethos’ as expression of hedonistic egocentrism. The work would undoubtedly be worded differently in 2021. This Working paper 13 is published in 2014.
- Project Comparison of the Environmental Protection Model of the Chinese City Jiaxing. The EU-China Environmental Governance Programme started in 2012. Its object was to evaluate the outcomes of this project called ‘Public Participation of Environmental Governance in the Jiaxing Model and its applicability in Zhejiang Province’ (EGP-project). In this so-called model, mechanisms are applied to promote public participation to cope with environmental questions and to encourage citizens to participate in the supervision of strategies for preventing pollution in and around the city of Jiaxing. The IASQ was invited to participate in its evaluation given its work recently carried out to understand how to enhance the role of residents in the urban contact for contribution to the development of the overall sustainability as explained in Working Paper 12 (see above) and some related experiments in the Dutch city of The Hague (Working Papers 2, 5, 6 and 8). One of the IASQ’s activities as partner of this EGP-project concerned a first tentative exploration of the role of community groups and residents in Jiaxing, as well as a similar exploration of comparable groups in the Dutch city of The Hague. As tentative point of reference applied is the conceptual framework of social quality. This study is published in 2015 as Working Paper 14.
- Project ‘The Manifesto for the Paris Climate conference’ – an initiative of the ISS in The Hague and the IASQ - based on the outcomes of also the work of the ‘Think Tank Sustainability’ (see above). Nearly four hundred scholars explained that “we, academics from all prats of the world, invite all state leaders to stimulate and support their universities to address the severe challenge of increasing unsustainability of living conditions on our planet”. Herewith the initiators of this Manifesto became very close to the International Social Science Council (ISSC), which Executive Board supported the Manifesto with the words: “the Executive Committee of the International Social Science strongly supports the Sustainability initiative of the International Association on Social Quality. The content is also based on six studies, published in the International Journal of Social quality [ Vol 5 (2), Vol 6 (1), Vol 7 (1), Vol 7 (2), Vol 8 (2), Vol 9 (2).
Projects 2015-2020: Opening the Doors to See a New Horizon
- Project (unfinished) theoretical explorations in the light of the Paris Climate Conference started with the purpose the social quality studies already carried out in connection with the overall sustainability – in Europe and in China – to think again. . In an extensive working paper this exercise opened with the words, that comprehensive approaches are a condition to understand what ‘sustainable development’ or development toward the ‘overall sustainability’ means: It is also a condition to enable us – with a clear understanding of the overall sustainability in mind - to conclude which strategies are socio-economically and socio-politically viable. It is too easy to present a simple axiom that robust economic growth and rising prosperity are consistent with the objective of deep decarbonisation (as an objective for combatting climate change as an implicit aspect of the overall sustainability) as happened in the SDSN-Report. The president of the International Social Science Council argues in his letter for supporting the Manifesto initiative, that “we live in a world where environmental change, poverty inequality in its countless forms, corruption and social discontent are intricately linked; the cannot be disentangled or addressed in isolation. Undoubtedly, the biggest challenge we now face is to secure [with this in mind] the transition of societies to global sustainability. The preliminary results are published in 2016 in Working Paper 16.
- Project exploration application of the social quality theory and approach in Ukraine. The aim of this theoretically oriented project was to analyze the possibilities, to apply the theoretical and practical aspects of the social quality work in Ukraine. The initiative for this in fact globally oriented work has come from the Institute for Economics and Forecast of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine (IEF/NASU). Their question formulated at the end of 2015 was, if – with support by Western European universities – the SQA could be applied in this country, being in a state of transition. This led to the start of the previous International Joint Research Project Ukraine (INRU Project). Objective was (and is) to explore the possibilities for an extensive project and for an application of the SQA in other Central and Eastern European countries and elsewhere. This invitation particularly stimulated social quality scholars to reflect again on the rationale and nature of contemporary SQT and SQA in also other continents. This preparatory work is finished at the end of 2019 and published in Working Paper 17. During this four-year project also a start is made for the preparation of a thematic issue of the International Journal of Social Quality about interesting societal processes in Central and Eastern European Countries. This analytical work started and is completed in 2020.
- Project ‘The Post Brexit Declaration on Social Quality in Europe 2017. Referring to the original Amsterdam Declaration on social Quality from 1997, from the side of the Sheffield University and the Liverpool Hope University a initiative is made to launch a new Declaration, also based on recent studies about the Brexit in the International Journal of Social Quality. Four critical overlapping developments call for a renewal of the Declaration made in 1997. First, the unheeded warnings have come to fruition. In particular, neoliberalism has encouraged inequality to grow exponentially and is now the biggest threat to democracy, as the Pope and President Obama among others have pointed out. Today the 8 richest people in the world hold the same wealth as the 3.6 billion poorest people. In 2010 it was the 388 richest people. Oxfam estimates that by 2030 an additional 200 million people will live in unnecessary extreme poverty. Second, the European migration crisis caused by war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa has presented the EU with stark moral and economic challenges. For some countries, such as the UK, EU enlargement coupled with free movement of labour led to additional problems, notably racism and xenophobia. Third, the urgency of the need for action on climate change has reached crisis level so that now the societal and environmental futures of Europe are inextricably bound together. Fourth there is the rapid rise of populist nationalism across Europe which contributed to the UK’s Brexit vote and the political rise of Donald Trump in the US (a phenomenon Trump dubbed ‘Brexit plus plus plus’). But combatting nationalism was one of the compelling reasons for the creation of a supra-national European project in the first place. The unprecedented Brexit decision should provide a severe jolt to those EU leaders who failed to heed earlier warnings about the need for an inclusive Europe. Without a radical change in direction, the UK is a lost cause for the EU but, elsewhere, there is still time to regenerate and refocus the European project. It is published in 2017 and signed by 250 British scholars. Very soon this document will deliver arguments for studying from a social quality perspective what the outcomes are and what the general or global oriented consequences of these outcomes are.
- Project for analyzing points of departure for connecting natural sciences and human sciences by the ‘sq-group The Hague’. As the challenge of the overall sustainability concerns a far-reaching collaboration between the natural sciences and human sciences, than a well-founded interdisciplinary approach is a conditio sine qua non. This study opens the potential to bridge the theoretical divide between physics and other natural sciences on the one hand, and social quality and other human sciences on the other. For the human sciences, social quality provides the tools to make this possible, because in ontological sense it incorporates crucial aspects of the evolutionary thermodynamics, of modern physics and its related dialectics. This may open pathways for meaningful interdisciplinary approaches within and between natural sciences and human sciences. As said it may pave the way for addressing challenges like the overall sustainability in a comprehensive way. Herewith the social quality theory (SQT) comes into a new light. This study was published in 2020 in the International Journal of Social Quality and is freely available.
- Project theoretical aspects of paving the way for empowerment of vulnerable people. This study from the Netherlands Center for Social Care Research of the Radboud University medical Center in Nijmegen – called Impuls – is the first investigating the constitutional factors of social quality. It describes how the social quality theory (SQT) has been used as the theoretical framework to structure and ground a person-centred intervention. This intervention (Pathways to Empowerment, PTE) aims to improve the quality of the daily lives of persons who experience losing control of their lives. PTE focuses on their strengths, and stimulates personal agency, participation in society, and self-direction. So far, this intervention has been implementednowadays in 75 care organizations in the Netherlands. The practical results of this implementation delivers at their turn comments on the existing SQT and SQA. It is an example how theory inspired practices and how results of practices inspire the enhancing of the theory and approach. The outcomes o this study – made in collaboration with the ‘sq-group of The Hague’ was published in 2020 in the International Journal of social Quality and thanks to open access available.