Bringing rEUsilience to the social policy community at ESPAnet 2023


Holly Shorey and Mary Daly

From the 7th to the 9th of September 2023, the social policy research community gathered in Warsaw for the 21st European Social Policy Analysis Network (ESPAnet) conference. rEUsilience consortium member LabFam from the University of Warsaw played a key role in hosting the conference on the timely topic of ‘Challenges for the welfare state in turbulent times’ which the rEUsilience project also seeks to respond to. Project joint coordinators Mary Daly and Rense Nieuwenhuis hosted a research stream focused on how resilience relates to social policy, questioning how useful this politically popular notion can be. Six papers were presented and discussed across two streams:

  • Resilience and Precarious Housing in the Aftermath of the Financial Crisis: Protecting Owners and Selling-out Renters, Dr. Richard Waldron, Dr. Stephan Köppe 
  • Crisis Policies for Work and Family: Absorptive, Adaptive and Anticipatory Resilience of European welfare states during the Great Recession and Covid Pandemic, Prof. Bernhard Ebbinghaus
  • Social Resilience in Facing Risks of Poverty: A Life-course Perspective on Institutional Support and Individual Capabilities, Dr. Ariana Guilherme Fernandes, Prof. Rune Halvorsen, Dr. Ivan Harsløf, Dr. Ann McDonnell, Prof. Jacqueline O’Reilly, Dr. Mi Ah Schoyen, Mrs. Penille Skotte, Dr. Rachel Lyons 
  • Families Receiving Basic Income Support in Germany. Relationship Structures, Institutional Contexts and Adaptive Strategies in “Poor Families”, Dr. Christian Gräfe 
  • Building Resilience: A Framework for Housing Policy in the Face of Demographic Crises and Disruptions, Dr. Friederike Frieler 
  • Similar Households Are Not Alike. Why a Better Measurement of Family Diversity within Households Matters for our Understanding of Poverty Risks across European Countries, Prof. Wim Van Lancker, Ms. Lovisa Backman, Dr. Alzbeta Bartova, Dr. Rense Nieuwenhuis, Dr. Max Thaning

The papers covered resilience at different levels: the resilience of welfare states to shocks, the resilience of policy fields such as housing and local planning, and the resilience of individuals and families in everyday life. The stream closed with Wim van Lancker presenting a paper written together with other members of the rEUsilience consortium on “Similar households are not alike. Why a better measurement of family diversity within households matters for our understanding of poverty risks across European countries”. Using family relationships to identify family-based households from existing datasets, the paper shows that estimates of different family types in Europe are very different when the family relationship is the focus rather than the household structure. This paper lays foundational building blocks in examining the real structures of families in Europe and will contribute to a better understanding of family resilience. The findings will be taken forward in the next phases of the rEUsilience project (which will end in August 2025).

Core topics embedded in the rEUsilience project were discussed across the conference: family diversity, care across the life course, income support, and work/family reconciliation. The conference concluded with a plenary panel on ‘The future of European social citizenship: policies, perspectives and methods’. rEUsilience’s Rense Nieuwenhuis joined colleagues including Rune Halvorsen from the EU research project EUROSHIP which concluded its work with a final conference at the European Parliament in Brussels earlier this year, to discuss emerging issues and challenges for families, states and societies. Both projects are rooted in identifying how social policies can better support those at risk of poverty and social exclusion so building a bridge between the two projects is important.

The ESPAnet Conference 2023 provided a dynamic platform for researchers to exchange ideas, collaborate, and chart a path forward in the ever-evolving landscape of social policy. With spaces to present and develop rEUsilience research in different parts of the agenda, this conference served as a strong forum for taking the project and the concept of resilience forward. It underlined that, while resilience has application across levels and fields, there is a need to clearly define its use and meaning; to identify its relationship to risks and crisis; to clarify the temporal aspects (that is, anticipatory actions as well as actions to address a challenge in hand); to explore the different types and settings of resilience as well as the component elements (resources, behaviours, relationships) or both the problem and the response.  

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