Using a bottom-up approach in social policy planning and in regional development

Aleksandra Caloševic
Programme Officer
Social Innovations Fund
Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Policy
Republic of Serbia

Danilo Vukovic
Programme Manager
Social Innovations Fund
Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Policy
Republic of Serbia


This paper starts with the realization that participation of individuals, groups and organizations in all activities linked with regional development is not an exogenous given but should be regarded as a socially constructed capacity. This capacity depends on many variables, including developmental efforts, (e.g. deliberate investments in human capital), but also social capabilities of the constituencies and social institutions (hard work, innovation, physical infrastructure, interpersonal trust, associational activity, formal institutions, etc.) that should be taken into account, should there be an attempt to develop this capacity.

1. The Context

As other socialistic countries, Serbia has reached the fall of the socialism with the etatised (statised) social policy. The state has provided services that were of average quality but accessible to all: free education, free health care, subsidized rents for the socially owned flats, and also a range of subsidies for other services (child care, transport and food). These services were provided directly through the statutory social agencies, but also through firms, unions and other social actors. In addition, the state pursued a ‘full employment policy’: companies acted as shadow agents of social policy (through provision of employment, and also through housing) and in some ways that aspect of their work was regarded as being as important as their economic role. The official social services (social protection, professional help and later direct payments) were provided through a network of Centers for Social Work (CSWs) and through residential institutions. Even though ‘philanthropic’ associational activity was underdeveloped there existed a range of humanitarian organizations (such as the Red Cross) and membership organizations (such as associations for the disabled, blind, etc.) that practised humanitarian work. Most of the welfare programmes were associated with residential placement and direct payments. Even though there were attempts from the bottom that led to innovation, the use of the bottom-up approach in development has never been institutionalized by social planners, as it has not been encouraged in the economy. For instance, if a child was due to be leaving care, the social workers generally did not need to be proactive and solve the housing or an employment for their client; there were flats available for the vulnerable and the state looked after them, there were jobs available in large firms, and the state took care of this too.

The implementation of such social policies was clearly beneficial to the overall human development in Serbia; particularly through the effects it had on demographics (increased life expectancy, lower child mortality, higher educational attainment, etc.) and also in its attempts to solve the issue of distribution. However, it failed in the area of incentives. For example, although payment of productivity-related differential wages within enterprises was not forbidden, the tendency was to greater equality of wages within worker-managed Yugoslavian firms than in other economies (Wahtel, 1973). This led to a high degree of equality in the overall income distribution. In 1978 the quintile ratio1 for income in Yugoslavia was 5.86, whereas it was 5.6 for Sweden and 9.5 for the United States in 1972 (World Bank, 1981: 182–183). This high equality, comparable to Sweden, is all the more striking given the problem of regional inequality Yugoslavia was facing. By 1987 the quintile ratio in Yugoslavia had risen to 7.0. (World Bank, 1992). However, Yugoslavia’s income was never as equally distributed as that in the other socialist economies of Central and Eastern Europe.

In summary, like other ‘late industrializers’ during socialism and within former Yugoslavia, Serbia has experienced the pursuit of broad-based social policy agendas that have included strong state intervention. As Mkandawire (2001) notes, ‘Implicit in late industrialization (and one could argue in the legitimization of the socialism) was social policy that served not only to ensure national cohesion, but also to produce the social pacts and the human capital that facilitated industrialization’. According to Esping-Andersen (1996), ‘They sought to ensure moral discipline, social stratification and nation-building’.

This can explain the major role of the non-state actors in the provision of welfare during socialism. Community, firm and family were, if not official, then certainly the major actors in the pursuit of social justice, whilst statutory social services were expected to deal with unexpected failures, and they could do so only in situations where there was a single agency of orientation (the state) that could facilitate the embedding of social welfare activities in all corporate (formal and informal) structures that emerged in former Yugoslavia. However, such broad-based social policy has been shaped to fit the ultimatum of the rapid industrialization (Goodman et al., 1998), and as soon as the growth stopped and began to regress, state-sponsored social safety nets were eroded. Reliance on the non-state sector in social pacts meant that the families had to bear most of the burden and this reinforced the social problems. On the other hand, the lack of incentives in a rather strange leader-follower model prevented the statutory social services from developing locally based services. The model has been constructed in a rather authoritarian context and it became apparent that it had to undergo changes linked to democratization. However, on the contrary, the 1990 ‘recentralization’ constitution brought more power to the state.

1 Quintile Ratio is the ratio of national income of the top fith of the population to the bottom fifth (the higher the ratio, the more unequal the distribution).

Since then the pressures on state social services have been enormous, due to high unemployment rates, disturbed family relations and the ageing of the population.2 International donors have supported a vast number of developmental activities that have facilitated the formation of new associational and philanthropic activity. However, initiatives related to developing partnerships in social protection sphere have not brought about the true development of a mixed economy of care. While most of the funds were at disposal of the third sector, legal responsibility for resolving social problems remained with public institutions, which caused sectorial imbalance. The third sector has developed skills in collecting funds and elaboration of projects, while the power and legal obligation rested with the state sector. While the third sector has initiated development of partnerships, the state sector has offered mainly data from its archives. An additional factor influencing social capabilities has been the ‘postponed transformation’, which had even greater consequences for Serbia than in other Eastern Europe countries, primarily because of wars and sanctions but also because of the delays it caused to economic and political reforms.

Serbian social capabilities that were supposed to act as agents of change in the area of social protection at the beginning of the 21st century can be summarized as:

  • Project-oriented initiatives of local NGOs, that were not coordinated at central level
  • Lack of programme orientation by central government
  • High pressure on statutory social services, and no space in which new initiatives could be tested and introduced into the system.

1.1. Current situation

Since 2000, the Serbian Government started reforms in the area of social protection and policy. The main goals included:

  • To develop community-based care, in order to decrease the pressures on residential institutions, and in order to create more cost-effective services
  • To stimulate the development of services that are funded and maintained by the local government
  • To stimulate the human potential of professionals working in statutory social services, in order to have them practising more community work rather than acting as state functionaries.

2 According to the census for 2002, one-sixth of the total Serbian popuation is aged 65 years or over. According to the most recent census the average age is 40.25 years, which demographically is considered to be evidence of a phase of deep demographic ageing.

The approaches included top-down development of the reform agenda (the result of which has been the enacting of the National Strategy for the Development of Social Protection and support of innovative bottom-up initiatives (that have been implemented through the Social Innovation Fund (The SIF)).

In order to test how these goals are best achieved (at the level of statutory service), data from 135 CSWs have been taken from the 2005 Annual Report of the CSWs. The information in the report was further analyzed and data were grouped in order to:

  1. compare the number of service users in residential care with those in alternative community care
  2. compare the number of service users receiving a service funded by the local government with those services that are funded centrally
  3. compare the number of service users that are receiving payment-related services with the number of users receiving professional help related services.

According to the data for 2005, there were 407.045 people serviced in 135 Centers for Social Work in Serbia (i.e. 5% of the total population) – which means that only a small percentage of the population is addressing CSWs in times of need. However, the pressures have constantly been rising. In the last three years the numbers of service users has increased by 10% each year.

There are 2761 people working in CSWs. In terms of averages, one employee is servicing 147.5 service users during the course of a year. Out of 2761 staff, 1875 are professional workers (others being managers or providing administrative support), so the number of clients is actually 217 per a professional worker. Much of this work involves administration and paperwork, and there is no time left for preventive actions (professionals from CSWs constantly report feeling that they are administrators more than they are professional workers).

The services provided for 19,250 service users in residential care (irrespective of age), while there were a reported 3700 service users in foster care, 749 living in protected housing, 3800 people receiving home care, and c.2000 using the services of day care centres. Roughly speaking, it can be concluded that residential care is more used than community-based services for beneficiaries that could be regarded as the heavy cases (i.e. in need of a placement, need shelter, cannot look after themselves). However, this is a static measure. For example, the beneficiaries of the home care for the elderly, which may in some cases prevent the need for residential placement, have increased by 20% in comparison to the previous year, and the number of people in residential care has increased by only 2.5% (Cukic-Vlahovic, 2005).

Approximately half of the beneficiaries are receiving a service which is centrally managed and funded, and the other half are receiving a service which is locally funded. Therefore the system can be regarded as both centralized and non-centralized.

Furthermore, regardless of the source of funding, almost 80% of the reported services that are funded by the central budget, and 77% of those funded by the local budgets are related to direct payments (MOP, stipends, one-off assistance, etc.). This reveals that services are much more concentrated around payments; however some non-payment related services are not being reported.

In summary, these data reveal that a transition is in progress:

  • more services are being funded by local government
  • the amount of community care is increasing
  • many of the reported service users are receiving payment-related services (and many of the professional work related services are not being reported).

The SIF as an intermediary body. Some of the changes would not have happened if it was not for the space in which new ideas could be tested, e.g. if there was not a semi-independent body that could focus the development in the desired direction. The Social Innovation Fund is a body of this type. As mentioned previously, the centralized state-sponsored social policy did not provide any incentives for the community work. This system could therefore be regarded as overly bureaucratic, inefficient and non-innovative (Bežovan, 2000), since there is no systemic incentive that would help allocation of public funds in the most efficient manner; politicians and public servants are not encouraged to launch services that target the most vulnerable, and the service users themselves are not stimulated to use the services rationally (Reddy & Pereira, 1998).

The lack of provision of incentives has been considered as important impediment to the furthering of the community-based services and the enhancement of the human potential of the statutory social services by the Government of Serbia in 2000. For this reason the Social Innovation Fund (The SIF) was designed by the Serbian Ministry of Social Affairs in 2001 (currently the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Policy (MoLESP)). It is simply the reform mechanism, designed and implemented to help the social welfare sector face encountering the social challenges of a transitional society. It funds local services on competitive basis, provides models of good practice and shares experiences of service provision between the sectors, in order to enhance the quality of and access to social services in general. It also offers capacity building to local providers. The idea was to start the development from within, through incentives (projects), using a bottom-up approach rather than a top-down approach. The new problems meant that the system could not use only systemic approaches in order to solve the problems, but also needed some organic change.

1.2 Lack of Regional Government

Serbia today does not have a functional regional government. The country is administratively divided into districts (okrug) but these only have administrative functions and are more reflective of an effort of deconcentration than of decentralization. The administrative districts are established by the Law on State Administration, and their role is to undertake administrative duties outside those of administrative headquarters. Districts do not have institutionalized power which they could exercise in pursuit of their own policy agendas, and they act in the capacity of ‘the extended arm’ of the central executive power. Therefore, the burden of decentralization is mainly expected to target municipalities, of which there are 165 (excluding Kosovo), and it will certainly be difficult to ensure quality control of their exercise of the new powers of jurisdiction that they are or will be entrusted with in relation to social policy as a whole. The debate as to whether Serbia should have regions is rather undergoing a political arena than it is related to implementation issues. As Vacic et al. (2003) report, the debate includes discussion of the cost of regionalization, the fear of federalism, and the fear of strengthening of the state intervention through the duplication of its power to regions. On the other hand, the development of a rather active social state implies the enhancement of people’s responsibility for both their achievements and failures, and hitherto the responsibility of the primary constituency is at the core of the wished subsidiary principle (Puljiz, 2001). It is clear that municipalities will need to take over a certain amount of jurisdiction as a consequence of decentralization. Regardless of how firmly this can be legitimized by the democratization but also by efficiency, will the state be able to guarantee equity? Furthermore, it should be noted that Serbia has the largest number of municipalities in all Europe when compared to the average number of inhabitants and size of territory, which is not congruent with the efforts aimed at establishing efficient local government (Vacic et al., 2003).

1.3. Regional inequalities

In Serbia the regional inequalities are large. For example, the rates of registered unemployment vary per districts in the ratio of 1:3. The National Strategy for Employment (Government of Serbia, 2005) alleges that it would even be considered a success should such rates be maintained until the finalization of the privatization. The population mobility is low, and jobs need to be closer to the workers. The Strategy for Employment therefore suggests that regional strategies should be developed, that jurisdiction of local government should be increased, that unique methodology should be designed in order to measure the levels of development of individual municipalities, that active employment measures should be taken, and that targeting of donor aid should be made more adequate. The poverty rate is 4% in Belgrade, and 23% in Southern Serbia, (Lokalna samouprava, 2005). According to the Law on social protection and social safety provisions (LSP), local government is in charge of funding and maintaining several types of social services: home care, day care, shelter, provision of equipment for residential or foster care users, and one-off assistance. According to the LSP, the local government or the city do not have the discretionary power to decide whether or not their local citizens should be able to exercise their rights relating to social protection (Jovanovic, 2005: 93), though by law they are obliged to enforce these rights. Should there be opportunities, local government may extend the list of rights by including the provision of humanitarian aid, SOS lines, social housing, etc., as rights in their constituencies. This procedure is popularly known as the extension of rights.

However, the users of services that falls under the ‘extension of rights’, are mainly recipients of subsidies (discounts) related to payments of communal services and additional cash payments (62,000 in 2005). There is also a significant group (18,000 in 2005) of users of soup kitchen programmes (Cukic-Vlahovic, 2005). Furthermore, municipalities that fully undertake their legal obligations are rare. The main reasons are reported as being lack of funding and lack of incentives. There is no criterion for the minimum funding a local government needs to allocate for welfare activity, and there is no central agency to control whether local governments are acting in accordance with the law’s requirements (Government of Serbia, 2005: 44). Currently, local government seeks advice from the Centers for Social Work, since the CSWs are in charge of planning and suggesting measures of social protection at local level, according to the LSP. Some CSWs do not have pro-active attitude towards local government officials, and some report that local government is just not responsive to what they ask for. This situation does not represent favourable conditions for the development and the extension of community-based services (Vukovic et al., 2005). Due to this chain of events and state, according to some data (Government of Serbia, 2005: 45), in more of 100 municipalities (i.e. 60% of all municipalities) there are no local services for the elderly and disabled. Also, one survey has shown that one-third of municipalities have some level of provision of home care services for the elderly and some types of day care centres for disabled (Matkovic, 2006: 36; survey sample included 30 municipalities).

1.4. The SIF as a mechanism for development of Community-Based Services and Regional

As has been shown, the challenges are large: equal geographic allocation of services needs to be provided, capacities of the service providers need to be enhanced, the quality of services improved, and yet further properly informed policy making.3 Furthermore, community services need to be developed. Can the bottom-up approach help in resolving these issues? The invigoration. As explained, the statutory social services worked under pressure, dealt with directs payments and needed invigoration. For these reasons, The SIF has applied the approach of positive discrimination in the case of project partnerships at the First Call for Proposals. Organizations coming form the social protection system (SPS) could apply to the Call for Proposals independently, while the NGO sector was obliged to enter into partnership with SPS organizations. Finally, 76% of the approved projects were partner projects. Project implementing partners have developed partnerships with 150 organizations and informal cooperation with 215 organizations.

3 Since it was funded at the end of 2003, the Social Innovation Fund has funded 178 projects impemented in 70 municipalities in Serbia. The projects were implemented by CSWs, residential insitutions, NGOs, schools, etc. The total value of the projects amounts 3.6 million € (Euro). In the next three years another 6.1 milion € will be invested in the deveopment of local services. Several manuals and studies have been published and 600 professionals trained directly or through projects.

The invigoration. As explained, the statutory social services worked under pressure, dealt with directs payments and needed invigoration. For these reasons, The SIF has applied the approach of positive discrimination in the case of project partnerships at the First Call for Proposals. 4 Organizations coming form the social protection system (SPS) could apply to the Call for Proposals independently, while the NGO sector was obliged to enter into partnership with SPS organizations. Finally, 76% of the approved projects were partner projects. Project implementing partners have developed partnerships with 150 organizations and informal cooperation with 215 organizations.

Capacity building. Taking into consideration the above-mentioned sectorial imbalance and also the need for capacity building. The SIF organized training on project planning for over 350 of the employees in social protection organizations. Eventually, when people applied for extension of funding, regardless of much stricter evaluating criteria compared to the First Call for Proposals (including relevance to implementation of the reforms, potential for achieving sustainability, and level of success in developing partnerships), the previous ratio (60% of the projects where the implementing partners came from SPS organizations, 40% where the implementing partners came from the NGO sector) remained almost the same. This led The SIF to conclude that training and project experience have moderated the previous imbalance in skills and that the methodology used for developing partnerships required changing. This is why the Second Call for Proposals meant mandatory partnership for the SPS organizations also.

Community-based services. The SIF has helped to open 20 home care services, 7 shelters, 3 day care centres for the elderly, 6 day care centres for the intellectually disabled, and 7 admission centres, and has therefore served its purpose in terms of development of community-based services. Out of 178 projects funded, only three have not been successful in terms of proper project implementation. On two occasions beneficiary assessment has been organized and over 92% of those interviewed expressed great satisfaction with the quality of the services provided.

Sustainability. The largest problem service providers have been facing is programme sustainability. After the First Call for Proposals, 70% of the projects reached a form of sustainability. However, this meant that mainly local government continued to fund services in accordance with the funds availability (which meant less money than received during the project implementation) or that some of the project activities became integrated into the regular work of the statutory institutions (which was not an option for NGO-led programmes due to the insecure funding). Hence, The SIF decided to extend its work to the area of local government capacity building, which will be integrated into the new programme.

Regional balancing. One of the ways in which the goal of reaching greater regional balance can be realized is to analyze how successfully The SIF has managed to allocate funds to less developed municipalities. For the purpose of this analysis, the level of the municipal development has been measured by the GDP index per capita for 2002.5 The average for the entire Republic has been scored with 100. The average level of development for the municipalities in which The SIF worked in 2004 is just above the average and amounts to 107.8, and reaches 89.7 when projects implemented in Belgrade are excluded (since Belgrade’s central municipalities have three to five times higher GDP than the average for Serbia as a whole).6

4 THE SIF has so far launched three Calls for Proposals, the third one currently in progress. All of the calls have aimed at funding local social services.

When the 2005 social protection budget per capita is taken into consideration, at the First Call for Proposal the average value totalled 53% of the state average and 63% at the Second Call for Proposals. Belgrade excluded (since the Belgrade’s social protection budget is three times higher than the state average), the average value totals 49% at the First Call for Proposals, and 53% at the Second, for the municipalities in which The SIF has invested funds. This implies that the funds were indeed allocated to those localities that needed support.

These experiences show that provision of support and coordination of the bottom-up initiatives can:

  1. Enhance partnership and eliminate the mistrust between the statutory and non-statutory sectors (partnerships lasted beyond the lifespan of the originally supported projects).
  2. If combined with well-tailored training, BTA can lead to the balancing of skills and knowledge between the two sectors (the scores of the projects received after training, even after the criteria became more difficult, were equal when statutory service led projects are compared to NGO-led projects).
  3. BTA initiatives do not suffice for the attainment of service sustainability. In order to reach this goal bottom-up initiatives need to be combined with political commitment and local government needs to be involved in policy planning.
  4. Through this approach underdeveloped localities are given an incentive to implement innovative services.

The SIF uses a rather simple bottom-up approach. There are competitive Calls for Proposals (1000 applications have been received so far). After the rigorous selection, changes are developed in course of the project, while their sustainability is achieved at local level. The approaches applied so far have been successful. Generally speaking, quality services have been developed (beneficiaries show high levels of satisfaction), statutory systems have used this incentive thoroughly (the scores of the projects applied by the statutory organizations are at the same level as those coming from the NGO sector), public-civil partnerships have developed and regional balancing tackled.

5 The Bureau of Statistics and Publications data were used (RZS, 2004.)
6 If the policy has not been to pick the best and the brightest through the competitive process, the ratio would probably be different

What has been crucial to this success? According to The SIF’s experience it is of utmost importance to achieve synergy between the people in a system that will (Smale, 1998):

Make innovations – which is done by local project teams
Help innovations – which is what The SIF does
Allow innovations to spread – which is the role of decision makers at national and local level.

Work on the consolidation between the three listed factors implies balancing strengths as well as analysis and introduction of new actors and new approaches at the right time. Of these reasons, The SIF’s development follows these successive phases:

  1. Financing innovative ideas, and placing more emphasis on support to public social protection services, e.g. the big net approach.
  2. Analysis of the accomplished and creating standards, together with equal support to all actors implementing innovations, e.g. more systemic approach.
  3. Work on systematizing knowledge and sustainability of services, together with support to local authorities and in closer cooperation with the government, e.g. even more systemic approach.

2. The Reality

As mentioned previously, Serbia does not have a regional level of government (i.e. it is not regionalized). However, on several occasions municipalities have associated to solve issues of common general interest, including the provision of social services.

2.1. Top-down driven Functional Regions

Foster care development. As stated previously, the social protection system was based on a network of residential care facilities. These facilities not only provided the placement but were also used for education, vocational training and protected employment (of people with disabilities). They provided protection to children without parental care, and also aimed at isolating those physically or mentally challenged (Tobis, 2000: 5). Unlike the former socialistic countries, in Western Europe and in USA, during the second half of the 20th century, the professional public has loudly advocated for the closure of large residential facilities and for the development of community-based services. The prevailing factor that has contributed to this is the cost of service, since different studies have showed that the cost of alternative care is less than that of residential care (Tobis, 2000: 30). Data for Serbia show the same tendency: the average cost of residential placement is 201€ per month,7 and the average cost of foster care 152 € (Lišanin, 2005).

In contrast, community-based care is considered more beneficial since in residential care there is no emotional attachment, no individual treatment, life needs to be strictly organized, and there is isolation and labelling (Milic, 2000). Furthermore, some research shows that 1 out of 10 juvenile offenders have been raised in residential care (Tobis, 2000: 33). Development of specialized foster care, day care centres, admission centres, shelters, etc., and care leaving programmes (i.e. all services that have been developed through The SIF) have two complementary functions. On the one hand, they serve as gate keeping mechanisms, and on the other hand they enable the successful return of care leavers to their communities.

In Serbia there are currently c.19,000 people living in residential care. Of these, c.2700 are children in care (including 1600 children without parental care, 900 disabled and 200 juvenile offenders.

Due to the great efforts made by the foster care development programme implemented by MOLESP, currently there are greater numbers of children in foster care than in residential settings; in 2005 there were 2900 children in foster care. In 2003 the number of children in foster care had increased by 60% and the number of foster care families by 70% (Grujic, 2005). This programme established functional regions throughout Serbia, focusing on the trends of children in care admissions. The regions were not formed from within, but rather the statistics were used to determine them. The regional teams consisted of professionals who had shown interest and were experienced in this type of work. Once formed, the teams worked on the campaign and the recruitment in close cooperation with their original CSWs and in close cooperation with the MoLESP professionals, yet retained autonomy in their work. Some worked better, some were less successful (Belgrade’s CSWs were particularly unsuccessful in finding new foster parents). Some developed specialized foster care programmes, and some teams divided into three or more, due to the high pressure and the large numbers of foster parents that were supposed to be supported.

7 The highest cost is the placement of a child without parental care (238€), then ederly residential care (198€), followed by residential care for disabled (167€). These costs do not include health care, equipment and investment (Lišanin, 2005).

The experience of this programme (and their respective successes) shows that, even in the absence of the strict top-down determined regions, regions can be formed according to needs. The decision of the programme leaders was not to follow the administrative boundaries of okrug (administrative districts) because they believed that approach would not have been successful. Temporary regional teams served the purpose, have not mixed jurisdictions with other tiers, and are still acting as teams (some of the teams have continued meeting and have developed new services).

2.2. Bottom-up driven Functional Regions

Shelters. Center for Social Work (CSW) from Priboj, a town in an underdeveloped area of Serbia, opened a shelter for victims of domestic violence, through The SIF funding. The shelter successfully operated as a part of the CSW. Over time, the number of beneficiaries increased due to the fact that victims of violence from neighbouring municipalities also requested support. While this was considered as a credit to the good work of the shelter, the influx of beneficiaries threatened the project’s budget. In order to ensure continuation of the service provision, the CSW initiated a process of regionalization of the shelter. In consultation with the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Policy and The SIF, a price list for services was devised and CSW started charging the beneficiaries’ municipalities of origin for services provided. Today, the Center operates as a regional shelter house. This service is more effective then the institutional placement of victims of violence and at the same time more economically viable for municipalities. This model of regionalization of services is now being promoted in other areas of Serbia (Kragujevac, Leskovac and Zajecar). This example shows again that a bottom-up approach can help create regions from within, if there is an incentive and the need.

Home care. The NGO ‘Lighthouse’ based in Loznica received funding for home care services for the elderly. They partnered with the Primary Health Care Center and the CSWs from Loznica and the neighbouring municipalities (four of them). Lighthouse managed the service and the CSWs and the Health Center provided it. After a year of implementation, the nurses and the care givers were trained, the CSWs learned how to organize themselves and the local governments took over the funding of the service. Lighthouse gathered actors from three more (underdeveloped) municipalities from the region and is extending the service to them too. This experience shows yet again that regions can be formed from within, can even serve as a temporary form, and can be extended or shortened, according to needs. There are at least five more examples which serve to show how people operate in regional association should the need exist: Prijepolje, Vršac, Leskovac, Pirot, and Valjevo. The alternative to this formation would have been funding of the five independent services that would have cost more, or even would not have started due to the lack of management or professional capacity. The involvement of an NGO in this situation did not mean better targeting (in all cases CSW data have been used, as is the case in many other programmes The SIF supports8), but it did mean proper coordination and management.

These experiences have a very important implication for future policy planning. If there are issues of general interest (such as the protection of victims of violence, protection of the elderly) and their resolution overcomes the possibilities which individual local governments have at their disposal, and if these issues can only be solved with less efficiency at the central level, inter-municipal associational activity will occur, and if there are examples of the successes that this activity achieves (and there are) this associational activity should be encouraged and facilitated.

3. The Response

3.1. The implications for social policy development: What should be taken into account?

The success of the bottom-up approach in social policy development depends on few both internal and external, when it comes to service development.

Service financing system. The launch of many of the services is under the jurisdiction of the local government. However, in a large number of municipalities in Serbia these services either do not exist or have not been sufficiently developed, and so the majority of them are funded through external sources. The current level of fiscal decentralization does not suffice for the local social protection funds and autonomous planning. Thus, these services, once funded, face the challenge of reaching sustainability. Conversely, there are mixed jurisdictions. Residential placements and foster care are funded by the central government. Yet residential facilities are managed centrally, and local CSWs are supposed to manage the foster carers. Therefore, local government and the CSW, as the statutory guardians of a child, do not have any other but a moral incentive to develop further the community-based care (particularly care for the elderly or the adults) because there are no institutionalized (The SIF is a temporary body) financial incentives for the furthering of the use of the local resources, the residential care is paid regardless, and the CSW does not have an incentive to keep the client in the community because if they do so it would mean more work for them. Furthermore, the formation of coordinating bodies (municipal coordinating bodies for social policy) that was tested during 2003–2005 showed good results in planning, but not in the subsequent innovative budgeting (Caloševic, 2005).

8 Many authors highlight that NGOs’ involvement in service provision may mean better targeting. Yet, there are authors who claim that hype should be distinguish from reality in this respect (Clayton et al., 2000). THE SIF’s experience shows that better targeting may not be the benefit NGOs bring into service provision. The most repeated activity CSWs had in whatever type of project partnership (Caloševic, 2004) was the provision of lists of beneficiaries, including even the memebrship and self-help organizations. The advantage of NGO invovement, however, lies in management skills, innovation and organization.

Level of decentralization. In a decentralized system, some services remain at local level, some are maintained centrally,9 whilst some (such as shelters, specialized mediation and home care) are managed regionally. In order to establish such a system, there needs to be either a regional tier of the government or institutionalized incentive for inter-municipal associational activity in the field of social policy. Even in the absence of these, the region could be seen as a right and not an obligation, and as some experience shows, the creation of the regions from within shows good results in the field of social services.

Service providers’ structure. In the creation of efficient networks of new services formational thinking does not help, since most of the success depends on the pro-activity of an individual, who may be located wherever. Likewise, there is nothing ‘normal’ in wanting to carry out better work and leaving the quality issue to the morality of an individual. It is only through competition that an increase in quality can be expected. Therefore the private and the civil sector involvement in the service provision should be encouraged by systemic, equitable incentives.

Provision capacities. Until today, key incentives for the launching of new services in Serbia have originated from external sources of funding. As mentioned earlier, should there be no incentives; the assumption that local government will suddenly start providing better quality services to their constituencies is not grounded in empirical evidence. The external and temporary incentive provision is essential to the service development, and the Social Innovation Fund plays a major role in this respect. Through the provision of support to bottom-up initiatives it supports the development of equitable networks of services, and raises the quality of service provision and the capacities of service providers.

Standards and licensing: Our experience shows that bottom-up initiatives will not lead to the clear understanding of the standards that are to be applied, or licensing procedures. They can test services, but practices will vary. Therefore, within a certain time, central government needs to design a set of standards that will be applied and only up to the level modified by local level administration.

3.2. The implications for the social justice debate

Welfare policy, such as social policy, can be based on two distinct common themes, of which the most widespread is to define issues in terms of social risks. The alternative is to focus on capabilities. The first philosophy implies that it is possible to predict or at least estimate that the event (e.g. the problem) will occur. Thus, there is regularity in the prevalence and the incidence of what are called social problems. (It would probably be highly challenging to question whether the ‘lust for databases’, typical of post-Communistic social policy planning is a derivate (or a residual) of this philosophy). This philosophy, is linked to the substantive rationalist that implies that one social sphere is, should be and can be a monolithic rock. However, when such rationalism evaporates and a new one is generated, what remains is the moments that are in-between (but which can last for years) which are rather stochastic or idiosyncratic than predictable. This stands for all the states of today, since globalization causes unpredictable changes in the social sphere (new forms of families, consumption-based aspirations, etc.), but it is certainly true for the countries in transition. Family formation and subsystem changes make it impossible to rely only on the determined indicators when it comes to policy making, since many variables of these indicators that are in interplay are not that stochastic. This means that when there are attempts to solve the question of distribution, single parents’ benefits, universal insurance, affirmative employment actions, etc., it may not be the most effective way of pooling the resources. It is the correlates that should be identified and followed up, and this can only be done if a space in which the correlational answer to welfare correlation is provided. To view this point from the extreme, the work of Hayek (1976), the well-known critic of the notion of social justice, could be used. He argues that the individual is the only level at which justice is relevant, because only individual actions are deliberate. For Hayek, the idea of distribution or redistribution of wealth or resources is just only when people and the economy are free of external attempts to change them. Attempts to redistribute wealth, in his view, will destroy the wealth-producing mechanisms of societies. While this is a rather extreme view by the founder of the classical liberalism, it nevertheless adds to the confusion of the taxis and cosmos we live in.

9 Experience shows that residential care should remain under the management of central governemnt. Should the jurisdiction be transfered to the loca level, there is no incentive for their transformation or closure, since they maintain the higher levels of employment (Fox & Götestam, 2003: 19–23).

To conclude, when many variables are not under the control of the implementers (such as the political situation, people’s feelings about change, uncertain resources, unpredictable consequences of actions) the bottom-up approach offers a viable alternative, as The SIF’s experience shows. However, the bottom-up approach needs to be combined with process planning, which requires clear end objectives, but flexible implementation. When ideas are tried out, results must be evaluated, and actions subject to modification. It is on those who help innovation to follow these interplays and modify approach, gradually changing its impact from the organic to the systemic change.

Fig. 1. The SIF policy making cycle


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