4IM (Miskolc)

4IM – Establishing and testing integrated interventions aimed at supporting people in (the most) vulnerable situations – Initiative for innovative integrated interventions in Miskolc


The project will pilot the integrated way of organising the delivery of social benefits and services to the most vulnerable residents of the City of Miskolc, Bábonyibérc and Tetemvár; In each of these, to mobilise residents and connect them to services, including offering targeted employment support, a Neighbourhood Access Point will work with a Community Action Group. Both will be supported by a city-wide Social Innovation Resource Centre reporting to a Social Innovation Committee responsible for reorganising the systems of service provision on a city level.

The project’s aim is to jointly formulate an Action Plan (local action plan) to promote the integration of deprived neighbourhoods, under a complementary, two-fold approach – i) improving local governance mechanisms, including establishing local coordination and multifaceted partnerships as a basis for a successful integration process, creating a broad-based local government, setting commonly agreed goals and carrying out joint actions; and ii) Empowering communities and targeting at least 300 individuals through focused/direct testing interventions. As a result, the project offers to develop and pilot a scalable model of integrated service delivery, ensuring better targeted and channelled welfare services, combined with active inclusion measures.

You can find out more about the project in our video below

Tasks – Products

The services provided by AEIDL in this project are:

  • Methodological and innovation design advice for the overall implementation of the project, with particular attention to social innovation methodologies for the development of a model for the integration of social services delivery to the most vulnerable residents of Miskolc, involving stakeholders and beneficiaries.
  • Desk research and identification of good practices working with vulnerable groups around Europe to complement the project methodology and seek synergies with existing similar initiatives, encourage peer-to-peer exchange of knowledge and collaboration.
  • Elaborate dissemination contents, result products, publications, knowledge transfer documents.
  • Organisation of events, workshops, and study visits to foster knowledge transfer.
  • Knowledge platform management for the communication and dissemination of the project activities and results.
  • Co-design and delivery of the project communication strategy and plan, including the design of communication materials, dissemination of results, social media and press release.

Click here to find out more information about the project

The 4IM project impact

Watch the 4IM final video highlighting the project’s achievements and its impact on these local communities in Bábonyibérc and Tetemvár:

Learn more about the achievements of the 4IM project in the videos produced by the 4IM project partner HÁRFA Alapítvány.

Employment support trainings

Family day in Tetemvár

Carnival in Tetemvár

4IM: Revitalising Miskolc by empowering marginalized communities

“Miskolc is a caring city”, was the opening remark of the Mayor of Miskolc, Mr Pál Veres kicking off the 4IM project closing conference on 7 May 2024. The event gathered together consortium partners, project participants and stakeholders to showcase their achievements, discuss the challenges encountered during the past two and a half years, and share their hopes for the future. 

Mayor of Miskolc, Mr Pál Veres kicking off the 4IM project closing conference on 7 May 2024 

In implementing the project, the Municipality of Miskolc took on the issue of poverty, utilising social innovation tools, techniques and ideas to try to improve the situation of the city’s most marginalised citizens. The consortium, made up of five partners, rallied around the motto of “Miskolc is a place for everyone” to tackle poverty and create a sustainable model for the social and economic integration in the city’s poorest neighbourhoods.

In this industrial city in the northeast of Hungary, about 10,000 people, out of a population of 145,000, live in 16 neighbourhoods affected by severe poverty. The project focused on two neighbourhoods, Bábonyibérce and Tetemvár, with a majority Roma population, where 40 to 60 percent of inhabitants face extreme poverty.

4IM is helping residents of these marginalised neighbourhoods by improving access to social services, developing an innovative and scalable model of integration service delivery that coordinates social, educational, and employment services, and by providing vocational training, job search assistance, and access to childcare and education. The key focus of the model is to render these social services and supporting resources readily available in the neighbourhoods, integrating them into the local community.  

Reversing “learned helplessness” 

One of the approaches piloted in the project was “Community Coaching”. This provides an inclusive and participatory method for working with marginalised groups: it views the community members as “clients” who actively participate in the development of their community. They are encouraged to set their own goals for improvements and manage their own expectations, thereby taking ownership of the community. The Community Coaches serve primarily as catalysers for the community, ensuring that changes are sustained even after the coach leaves. This is a key step towards addressing learned helplessness, where individuals feel trapped in difficult situations and therefore lack the motivation to try to improve their conditions, leading to passivity, frustration and disappointment. 

Rózika Gulyás Béláné , resident of the Tetemvár neighbourhood, and Ádám Zakár, the Community Coach of the Tetemvár neighbourhood  

Ádám Zakár, the Community Coach of the Tetemvár neighbourhood, working alongside the Order of Malta, identifies the first step towards to creating self-sustaining, and self-motivating communities as gaining the trust and support of the local residents, an approach that takes time to develop, but has ultimately been welcomed by the local community.

“I can see a positive change since Ádám and the Order of Malta have been here. They help with everything. They helped me write a resume and sent my CV to several places so that I could find a job,” remarked Rózika Gulyás Béláné, a resident of the neighbourhood, who talks gratefully about the work of the community coach and The Hungarian and Charity Service of the Order of Malta.  

Community garden in the Tetemvár neighbourhood 

The Hungarian Charity Service of the Order of Malta, a non-governmental organisation, has been actively working in the Tetemvár neighbourhood since 2018, addressing long-term issues such as housing, unemployment, and environmental problems like illegal waste. The organisation’s Programme Leader Szebasztian Halás built trust with the local residents and supports them with everyday issues, but highlights the importance of involving the local government in Tetemvár: “If the local government is involved, residents can come forward and share their problems. I hope they will be present in a consistent and systematic way in the future.” 

The work has only just started 

Employment and job security have been the fundamental issues identified during the course of the project. The Social Innovation Resource Centre, a local support centre, has provided the locals with regular on-site career guidance whereby participants received training and guidance on how to choose a profession, present themselves during interviews, prepare a CV and showcase their skills to potential employers.  

Also, access to childcare services has enabled parents to enter the labour market and provide for their families. Consequently, their children have gained access to the education system, enabling their further integration into the system of municipal services, and boosting multigenerational integration. 

Prof. Zsuzsanna Török from the University of Miskolc described the project’s immediate impact.  “I’m not saying life has become easy, but the fact that a mother with a small child has reached a point where the child can go to school or a nursery and she can get a job, is significant. She trusts herself now.”

As multiple project participants pointed out, the work has only just started. The deeply rooted problems affecting these communities have developed over years and will take just as long to resolve – an additional reason for which the project has promoted the multigenerational approach. 

Creating cities for everyone 

The 4IM project has made significant steps towards sustainable social integration of marginalised groups living in poverty in Miskolc, notably by developing methodologies and pilots that can be integrated into policies at local, national and even international levels. This work proves to be all the more noteworthy considering that of the nine projects funded by Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI) strand of the European Social Fund (ESF), 4IM was the only one selected in Central Europe – a region where many cities and regions face similar problems.  

Creating long lasting change will take more time and sustainable funding and support by all levels of government, but the groundwork done during the 4IM project can make Miskolc a model for other cities in the region so that each can “be a place for everyone”. 

Even the poorest can be motivated with effective training

The leadership of Miskolc prepared an experimental plan for the development of its institutions based on the programs tackling poverty. The plan, which was selected for the European Social Fund’s employment and social innovation program (EaSI), was created with the aim to provide efficient public and social services to those in need, thus helping them also in becoming self-sufficient and at the same time active participants in the labor market.

The Social Innovation Resource Center set up within the framework of the project with the motto “Miskolc is a place for everyone!” and the competence development trainings were held in Tetemvár and Bábonyibérce, the two beneficiaries of the project.

Read here the interview with Andrea Krank, head of the Resource Center:

What was the aim of the trainings?

The household surveys conducted by the University of Miskolc in Bábonyibérce and Tetemvár focused on the educational and professional experience of the people living in the area and the collected data was evaluated by mid-November 2023. The data showed that in both neighborhoods there are a large number of young mothers who did not complete primary education. They are typically stay-at-home-mothers on childcare support (GYES or GYED). Based on their age, it was clear that most of them became parents to several children almost right after leaving school, so they lack any professional or work experience. The personal conversations that the community coaches had with the participants revealed that there are active adults living in both neighborhoods who are motivated to get a job, but for various reasons this hasn’t happened yet.

What was the composition of the participants in the training and what did the training offer them as revealed by the surveys?

Based on the preliminary interviews conducted by the community coach, the two main target groups for putting together the professional content of the training were stay-at-home mothers and motivated jobseekers of working age. The reintegration training for young mothers and those who have been on childcare support (GYES or GYED) for several years was aimed at helping them to explore, become aware of and make sense of their life situation, as well as to support them in self-awareness and in finding an individual life pathway that would be compatible with where they would enter the labour market. Through the development of self-awareness, the career guidance training helped mothers without a profession to broaden their knowledge of professions and careers and to support them in making career choices.

For motivated working-age people, the digital job search training aimed to familiarise them with ways to find a job through smart tools. They learned how to write a CV, the importance of a personal email account, how to create one and what password protection means. They were introduced to job search platforms and the registration process.

When did these trainings take place?

Between November 2023 and March 2024.

Did you conduct these trainings as staff members of the Resource Centre?

We coordinated the training, but the Abaújrakezdés Közhasznú Egyesület (Abaújrakezdés Public Association) as a consortium partner implemented it with the specialists of the Regional Civil Center Foundation. After the professional consultation with the foundation, we selected three trainings, in which a total of six groups from the two areas participated. At Tetemvár in November, all three trainings took place – in the framework of small group sessions – in the building of the Hungarian Maltese Charity Service. In addition to the community coach colleague of the Resource Center, others also took part in the recruitment.

How many participated in these trainings?

This kind of development trainings are usually not mass events, and in terms of efficiency, small groups are always more suitable for sharing knowledge. A total of 39 people participated in the trainings. This may seem like a small number from the outside, but if you take into consideration the social context and the educational level of the participants, it is a good outreach, because it stands for the same number of families.

What were the results of the training sessions?

The professional participated on the last day of the training. From the number of hours spent with the participants it has become clear that the selected trainings were relevant and that the people living in the area have a great need for such and other similar trainings, a fact that was confirmed by the participants. The young stay-at-home mothers had a chance to get away from their everyday life and had the chance to look at their own lives and futures with the help of an external assistant. Many said that they were willing to continue their education, this in and of itself can already be considered a great outcome. During the trainings they said that they had never encountered such tests and self-knowledge exercises, which- according to the trainers-, already contributed to improving their self-knowledge and building their self-confidence in these few days. They had no knowledge on employment which is connected to their situation.

The mothers in Tetemvár expressed the need to meet also in other occasions and maintain the group. This process is also supported by the local staff of the Hungarian Maltese Charity Service and the local coach.
The participants from Tetemvár and Bábonyibérce were motivated during the digital job search trainings. The trainer also found specific job advertisements for several of them, and the jobseekers submitted their resumes for positions during the training. The employment coordinator and the trainers mentioned to the participants that they could require and benefit of the support of the employment consultants of the 4IM program and shared their contact information. The additional goal is to provide the opportunity for the 8 participants without a finalized primary school education to finish their studies through the Dobbantó program, and later acquire a so-called partial profession in one of the school workshops.

From a professional point of view, how satisfied are you with the results?

It is difficult to talk about lasting result after such a short time, for longer term results we would need a continuous presence in both neighborhoods, but so far it has become clear that with effective training participants can be motivated. Obviously, it is necessary to monitor life circumstances in order to provide further assistance and support. This would be necessary for reintegration into the educational system of the mothers after the children have been placed in a nursery or kindergarten. So there is still room for taking further steps.

Job shadowing to leap forward

Watch the video about job shadowing programme ran by the Municipality of Miskolc and the Hungarian Red Cross to help members of marginalised groups access learning and career development opportunities:

The 4IM closing event to take place in Miskolc

The closing conference of the 4IM project will take place on Tuesday, 7 May 2024, in Miskolc. Attendees will be able to join the event in person or online.

The aim of the conference is to present an overview of the project results and innovative elements implemented during the project to local and external stakeholders, project partners, as well as those working in the relevant policy units and policymakers.

More details about the event are available in English and Hungarian.

Nine experiments in integrated support to the vulnerable

On 23 and 24 April 2024, the 4IM project was presented as one of the nine projects selected in the Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI) strand of the European Social Fund (ESF) project’s 2020 call in Brussels. All nine project aimed to establish and test integrated interventions to support people in the most vulnerable situation.

Márta Márczis, AEIDL President, and Andera Varga, Deputy Mayor of the Municipality of Miskolc, presented the 4IM project during the meeting of the nine projects funded by the EaSI

The nine projects are taking place within the broader context of the Council recommendation of January 2023 on “adequate minimum income ensuring active inclusion”. This sets out the three areas of action needed to ensure active inclusion: income, work and access to services. Member States have agreed to achieve by 2030 a minimum income which is above the national poverty threshold or the value of a basket of essentials including food, housing, healthcare and other essential services. While several countries are nearly there, overall many people are still surviving below the threshold. Calculating how high the minimum income should be is complicated by two factors. Firstly, the desire of governments to make it worthwhile to work, and not to encourage welfare dependency -as the poverty threshold is relative, set at 60% of the median income, there are fears that this could deter minimum income claimants from seeking work. Secondly, governments often provide a lot of services free of charge, and claimants risk losing access to them if they enter employment. But the range of services that are essential in today’s world is constantly expanding, into areas such as digital literacy and connection.

Nine experiments

The 4IM project aimed to develop a pilot model to facilitate the integration of deprived neighbourhoods in the Municipality of Miskolc. The model focussed on improving welfare services and empowering the local communities.

Marta Marczis (project leader and president of AEIDL) started by saying that during our study visit to one of the projects funded in the same call – Reticulate in Tuscany last November, she was pleasantly surprised to find that the 4IM project had already been done there! Both projects are based on local governance and partnership, and integrated, participatory service delivery. Community coaching on the ground is combined with a holistic approach within the local authority. The approach piloted in two neighbourhoods is to be replicated in other disadvantaged areas in Miskolc.

The other projects focussed on a wide range of social interventions:

  • The Lone Parents Digital Activation project (IR, FI, EL), aimed at single mothers, combined computer training with group and individual coaching and childcare.
  • The A Roof Over Your Head, A Job in Your Pocket project in Lyon (FR, UK) took a Housing First approach to getting young people into work. It included a rent guarantee to enable the beneficiaries to rent a flat.
  • Nova in Serbia and Slovenia offered benefit claimants training and child and elderly care, and had some fantastic successes, but ran up against the problem that many of them were happy to work informally to top up their benefit. Given that natalist polices make for high benefit levels for large families, the only solution would seem to be for wages to rise.
  • The Rights First project (BE ES, UK) took a holistic approach to homelessness, work and social rights, and had remarkable success with migrants from the rest of the EU. The project opened up collaboration between the public social services and big employers, but pleads for simpler, quicker procedures, like those that have been introduced for Ukrainian refugees.
  • CRIS (DE, HU, SK) aimed to integrate services for the most vulnerable people – the homeless and families. It found native-language outreach a necessity. It used two-day focus groups to identify needs, and used coproduction to design solutions. It found short two-hour lunchtime webinars a very cost-effective means of transnational transfer to skills.
  • COPE (IT, PT, HR, UK) piloted social prescribing, giving up to 16 hours of highly-tailored support to hard-to-reach young people.
  • Reticulate (IT, BE) aimed to defragment services provided by the public and voluntary sectors, covering multiple dimensions including housing, health, social issues and work. Its participatory approach aimed to identify the barriers to integration and then overcome them. This involved four steps: identify the problems (through questionnaires and focus groups); conduct interviews; implement solutions; and build capacity. It changed the culture by using codesign in multidisciplinary one-stop shop teams.
  • xEITU (ES, BE) targeted the non-take-up of activation services by long-term benefit claimants. It linked the social and employment services at a high level, then carried out pilots in three settlements of differing sizes. It worked at high intensity, not waiting for clients to get in touch but proactively telephoning them – an approach that worked best in a rural context. Digital skills training was particularly effective.

Mobility mentoring
On the second day of the event, the projects showcased their work to members of MINET, the Minimum Income Network working group of the Social Protection Committee, which advises the EU’s employment and social affairs ministers. The aim is to enable the projects’ results to be translated into policy.

Aaron Imperiale, AEIDL Head of Business Development, presented the 4IM project at the Minimum Income Network working group of the Social Protection Committee meeting

A welcome change of pace came when Elizabeth Babcock of Mobility Pathways in Boston, USA, gave a very upbeat explanation of the methodology of Mobility Mentoring.

Ms Babcock noted some of the features that the projects had in common: individual coaching and case management; outreach – meeting people where they are; codesign – working with clients and not for them; and evaluation and dissemination – understanding what works, so that you can improve. Also, all the projects involved partnerships between public authorities and NGOs. Even so, many of them reported difficulty in recruiting beneficiaries.

She emphasised how complex the issue of poverty is – it involves housing, health, money, education and careers. Addressing poverty means addressing both the individual concerned and the environment in which they live. The stress of living in poverty – without resources – swamps people’s minds so that they find it difficult to plan, take decisions and manage their behaviour. Therefore they act impulsively. We are all swamped when we receive bad news – but poor people are swamped all the time. Coaching plays a vital role in overcoming this.

The NGO Empathways has developed the Mobility Mentoring approach, which has now been used to help over 300,000 people. It builds a ‘bridge to self-sufficiency’ which is built on five pillars, all of which have to be sound: family stability, well-being, finance, education and work. Coaches work with their clients to set goals, and the evidence from the USA is impressive, showing that after 3-5 years, family incomes have nearly tripled from €17,500 to €48,700 a year.

Islands of cooperation and hope in Miskolc

Bábonyibérc – Photo: Gábor Osgyáni

Poverty has been a long-standing problem in Miskolc, and experts agree that it affects an increasing proportion of the population. Rehabilitation of deprived neighbourhoods and the integration of their inhabitants into society is one way to combat it. The Central European city has won a grant from the European Union to develop potential solutions that focus on the integration and active participation of local  population. Under the motto “Miskolc shall be a place for everyone”, the 4IM project aims to create opportunities for the development of underprivileged neighbourhoods and to help residents re-enter the labour market. The project focuses on two neighbourhoods: Tetemvár and Bábonyibérc, once thriving parts of the city that have since suffered from chronic poverty in the face of Miskolc’s steady deindustrialisation over the past decades. Through the project and the municipality’s efforts, these neighbourhoods have been turned these into tiny islands of hope for the city.

There are around 10,000 people living in the 16 districts of Miskolc in need of development, of which around 1,000 live in the areas selected for the “Miskolc shall be a place for everyone” project. The city’s rehabilitation plan provides an opportunity for residents of Tetemvár and Bábonyibérc to improve their living conditions via community engagement, outreach activities, improvement in the delivery and access to social services, and employment-promotion opportunities.

Tetemvár and Bábonyibérc

Miskolc was part of a network of wine-growing farming towns stretching from Gyöngyös to Tokaj-Hegyalja. These cities were once the most important links in the chain of settlements in the zone where the North Hungarian Mountains and the Great Plain meet.

Historically, Tetemvár and Bábonyibérc have figured among the 14 vineyards recorded in Miskolc. The former was the smallest nonetheless, its importance was manisfest shown by the fact that in the 18th century, the Greek Catholic bishop kept a wine-cellar there, among more than 300 others. Both districts were characterised by huts built next to the cellars by the locals which illegally offered food and drink and created a sort of rural slum. In the central valley of Bábonyibérc the Bábonyibérc-Újtelep housing project was established to house people in difficulty. After the First World War, most of its inhabitants – including refugees – lived in poorly-equipped, government-built huts that dotted the banks of the Pece stream.

Although the wine cellars of both areas played an important role in the social life of the citizens of Miskolc in the first half of the 20th century, the neighbourhoods became increasingly a hub for marginalised people.

Struggle out of hopelessness

“The difficulty with the development plans for these neighbourhoods is that no accurate official statistics for these parts of the city are available. Both districts have a predominantly disadvantaged or severely disadvantaged population. Additionally, there is constant movement in and out of the two neighbourhoods which makes working there exceptionally difficult” says Andrea Krank, head of the Resource Centre, an organisation set up by Miskolc to tackle the problem.

The people living in Tetemvár and Bábonyibérc have openly expressed that they feel worse off than those in other parts of the city: despite their proximity to the city centre residents have consistently had difficulty accessing basic public services – including health services, ambulances, etc. Paradoxically, they find it difficult to integrate into mainstream society despite their geographical proximity to the downtown area.

Few people participate in formal education and those that do frequently drop out before finishing. This has a profoundly adverse impact on their ability to access the job market as they lack not only the technical but also the social skills required to function in the workplace.

As part of the project, professionals will build contacts with local residents to assess the depth of the problems. One of the most pressing underlying issues in the two neighbourhoods is housing.

“Talking to the local population has shown that in nearly all households there is the desire to leave. Their life is made even more difficult by the fact that official ownership of most of the properties remains unclear, exacerbated by the very low market value of the houses. This makes many people’s dreams of creating better, safer and more secure housing for their families hard to realise, but we are here to try to keep that hope alive,” says Andrea Krank.

Painting: Sándor Gáspár – Miskolc Tetemvár

The centre of hope

In an initiative that is still a novelty in Hungary, a “Community Coach” has been invited to set up territorial working groups in both districts. These groups are made up of local residents, social workers, municipal representatives, a family support worker, a case manager, field workers and other NGO staff.

The Resource Centre, consisting of 11 professionals, coordinates the field work by targeting the key problems of the two neighbourhoods. One of the main objectives of the Centre is to build support, and maintain the motivation of local residents to encourage them to take action for themselves at community level. The Centre’s long-term mission is to improve the quality of life and increase employment-opportunities.

Krank concludes: “The Resource Centre has achieved promising initial successes in community-municipality cooperation. Trust and relationships with local people have been established whereby professionals have developed service packages tailored to the needs of the households. We work as a team to connect and coordinate the services of utility providers, municipalities and NGOs, so that professional assistance and problem-solving moves faster and becomes more efficient. Another recent success is the launch of employment counselling which has helped numerous local residents find jobs.”

Poverty is not just a question of money

Social innovation unique in Central Europe alive in Miskolc: an interview with the Deputy Mayor 

No municipality in Hungary goes untouched by poverty. In 2021, the leadership of Miskolc chose to face the problems affecting the city via a social innovation plan based on the idea of “Miskolc shall be a place for everyone” an EU-financed project the city is currently implementing. Andrea Varga, Deputy Mayor of Miskolc, responsible for human services, on the special urban development effort, is featured in the below interview. 

There are a number of development and social initiatives underway in numerous municipalities across Hungary. What is special or promising about the project you have started in Miskolc and what has the European Union seen in it as innovative? 

If we want to have a livable and prosperous city, we have to do something about poverty. The 4IM project is a comprehensive and complex: it addresses old problems using new methods with a strong focus on developing new institutional capabilities. It does not follow a top-down “what to do” approach, but, in cooperation with those living on the periphery, it defines new directions for the development of social and employment services, and for linking and building on them, which we then plan to extend to the entire population of the city. 

The 4IM project in Miskolc is one of the 69 pilot initiatives launched under the European Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI) programme as part of the European Social Fund. Nine of these received funding, of which Miskolc is the only municipality of Central Europe to be granted a project. Miskolc has thus become a member of a club where operational experience will be incorporated into the European Union’s policy guidelines and decisions. In other words, we are tasked with building an effective support system that promotes European-level objectives and can be used locally.

We will come to the old problems and new methods later, but first let us be clear: what is the significance of the project?

At stake is whether or not we have modern public services that live up to the reality of the city and are able to shape it. As a leader of the municipality, my job, together with the experts in the social and employment field, is to think systemically, just like managers of companies that settle here and offer jobs to Miskolc residents. We need to create public and social services that are responsive to the needs of the people; services that can help more of them become independent and autonomous citizens and active participants in the labour market.

Is it not what existing public social services have already been doing? 

We have the same legal framework, public service methods, and institutional capacity that we had 20-30 years ago, while the world has changed and is still changing. You only have to think of how the coronavirus epidemic changed our lives and how its effects linger on, but there are also the old problems that our existing service systems could not solve, or could not do much about. Life changes, needs and challenges change, regulations and institutional frameworks need to be constantly reviewed and updated. 

Let us start with the old problems. 

The 2010 census of the Hungarian Central Statistical Office identified 33 below-average, catching-up neighbourhoods in Miskolc with a total population of around 5-6 thousand people. Based on the field work of the city’s social policy and social services professionals, we know that, remarkably, the number of these neighbourhoods has now fallen to 16. A big problem however is that their population has almost doubled, with around 10,000 people now living in these neighbourhoods. We therefore need to find professional and institutional ways to help marginalised people contribute to poverty reduction.

How can this problem be tackled? 

We need to see that marginalised and underprivileged communities with complex problems receive via development professionals’ tailored methodologies social and employment services, innovations and interdependent solutions. These groups have fundamentally different experiences of living together, different norms that govern life, and a different sense of community participation in the municipality in which they live as compared to the majority of Miskolc’s residents.

What steps have you taken so far in the project and what have you achieved? 

First, in 2019-20, we started a review of our social policy system to see how well it can respond to the challenges of 2021-22-23. Then we started field work to see the reality on the ground and assess the depth and breadth of the problems. For example, we made use of the community coaching toolbox, a methodology that is still new in Hungary.

Is this a new profession? What does the community coach do in Miskolc? 

A community coach is a sort of guide who supports communities and organisations by first identifying and then assisting them in achieving their goals. They are a promoter of self-organisation and reorganisation of the local community. They support and mentor interested parties, and in particular those who want to play an active role. Community coaching is a development tool that encourages community members to act together according to their interests and to unleash the potential of individuals and the community to help them break out of extreme poverty. In the 4IM project, community coaches started their work in two of the 16 impoverished neighbourhoods: Tetemvár and Bábonyibérc. The aim of cooperating with them is to learn about local needs and, through dialogue, to learn more about the everyday lives of the people who live there, so as to develop a methodology adapted to their needs whereby social services may be better accessed.

What is the objective of the 4IM project? 

It is an institutional development project, through which we can develop new service pathways that can support the people of Miskolc living in disadvantaged neighbourhoods. The goal is to improve their situation and better integrate them into the Miskolc community, including into the world of employment. In Miskolc, we are in uniquely difficult situation that we have a shortage of jobs and a shortage of labour. As Deputy Mayor, I believe that with an appropriate social and employment support system adapted to our social reality, the gap can be closed and companies coming to us will find more able and available labour.

Will there be other innovations in the project? 

We are also exploring the possibility of introducing a minimum income scheme. Contrary to popular belief, poverty is not just about not having money, and money is not the only way out of poverty. Minimum income is a non-cash benefit, with the main function of ensuring access to adequate and basic public services, such as health care, childcare, energy, transport and digital communication services, for those who lack sufficient resources. Its function is to make up for what is lacking so that the persons concerned may live a life of dignity. Minimum income is not the same as unconditional basic income, as it is not unconditional. In addition to personalisation, an important part of the minimum income scheme is the cooperation of the person concerned with the designated social and employment services worker. No cooperation, no support. The social benefits are that professionals can learn more about the individuals concerned and identify additional circumstances, such as physical illness or mental blocks, that may have hindered the individual’s ability to work or enter the labour market and, through cooperation, may provide further personalised support to help them to enter the labour market.

How long is the project and what results have you achieved so far? 

The project will run for 30 months between November 2021 and June 2024. It is different from any previous programme in that we are helping people in the two selected neighbourhoods understand that they can do something to improve their conditions and that nothing will change without their participation. So, we cooperated with them to set goals and implement small but important tasks together. One such project was the renovation of the staircase in Bábonyiérc. Locals reported that the shoes of children going to school and of adults going to work became muddy in rainy weather, which often led to conflicts and reinforced stereotypical attitudes towards them. Together with them, we renovated the staircase. With such small steps, we can improve human dignity and reduce everyday tensions.. There was also a community streambed clean-up undertaken by the people from nearby neighbourhoods: they joined forces when they realised that they had similar problems and that it was worth working together to do something about them. There have also been children’s meetings with local schoolchildren, which have led to games, theatre visits, gardening activities, and foreign language learning.

What will be done with the lessons learned and experience gained from the project?

We are constantly collecting and evaluating lessons learned. The Social Innovation Council was set up by the Mayor to make concrete proposals to the municipality on what social policy changes are needed. The project also has a geographically more distant impact. With a very similar social and economic present and recent past to Miskolc, the twin city of Košice also plans to use our experience to address its own challenges. We have also given signals to the government on what legislative changes we think are needed at national level.

One-stop shopping in Tuscany

Andrea de Conno (ANCI) and Andrea Raspanti (Assessore Coesione Sociale, Livorno)

A group from Miskolc (Hungary) and Košice (Slovakia) visited Tuscany (Italy) in November to look at the way social services are delivered in an integrated way to the worst off people in society – the homeless and vulnerable families. They visited two centres in Livorno and Capannori, near Lucca, which are partners in the Reticulate project,[1] funded under the same EaSI call as 4IM[2] in Miskolc.

Cutting through complexity

“Over the last ten years, since the financial crisis and the COVID epidemic, we’ve seen an explosion of need,” says Andrea Raspanti, Livorno’s deputy mayor for social cohesion. This gives us the opportunity to reflect on the errors of 30 years of social policy. NextGenerationEU has given us the means to put the individual at the centre of our work.”

The successive crises of finance, COVID and migration mean that poverty is now affecting many more people. The number of children living in poverty in Italy has more than doubled between 2008 and 2018. In the country as whole there are 10,000 homeless people, and in Livorno 900. The inflow of migrants has stepped up recently – six boatloads of migrants from Africa have landed at the port this year – and there are many Africans living in overcrowded public housing on the northern outskirts of town.

The problem has become not only more sizeable but more complex. This demands a multi-dimensional solution, in which a single point – a one-stop shop – gives access to a wide range of services. The issues addressed include income, employment, training, health (physical and mental), housing and other social problems.

An important feature that distinguishes the Italian experience from that in Hungary or Slovakia is the presence of a well-established – indeed venerable, since the Order of Malta has been around since 1133 – voluntary sector. These can bring significant personpower to bear, and field hundreds of volunteers. But voluntary doesn’t mean amateurish, as the workers are trained for the job. Thus, the public sector is happy to work in parentship with them. What they bring is not only capacity but also a change of culture, which spreads a concern for inclusion widely in society. This culture is not entirely absent in Hungary, but is much more limited.

The initiatives in Italy draw resources from a variety of places. One major source is the national GOL (Garanzia di occupabilità dei lavoratori – Workers’ Employability Guarantee) programme. To supplement this, some regions contribute. So there is a patchwork of funding that is not always consistent.

GOL – the Workers’ Employability Guarantee

The national Garanzia di Occupabilità dei Lavoratori programme[3] is an active labour market programme launched in the wake of the COVID epidemic, and funded from the EU’s Recovery and Resilience Facility to the tune of €4.4 billion until 2025. It offers an integrated and individually tailored service package delivered by both public and private organisations. Across Italy, it will benefit 3 million people, of whom 800,000 will be given training, including a large component of digital skills. It is targeted at fragile people (young people, disadvantaged women, disabled people and the over-55s), the working poor, and those on income support. It comprises five measures, implemented after an initial interview, including reinsertion, upskilling and reskilling. The most important measure is that for “work and inclusion”, which runs for 18 months until 2025 and can include a 6-month work placements with an employer. Livorno province has allocated a budget of €1.6 million to this measure.

A multi-dimensional solution

Andrea De Conno of ANCI in Livorno introduces the Reticulate project by saying “The basis of our work is to be welcoming”. The project’s pilot operations run slightly differently depending on the urban/rural context. In urban Livorno the project works from a single base, while Capannori, a semi-rural municipality just outside the beautiful Roman town of Lucca that comprises a score of different settlements, has established 10 local branch offices.

The teams have several different tools at their disposal. Livorno hosts a reception centre for homeless people, sited within walking distance of the station, which is a major gathering place for people on the move. This offers meals, washing and laundry facilities, and two dozen beds. But, over and above meeting subsistence needs, it supplies companionship, entertainment such as films and, crucially, access to a wide range of advice and services, including legal advice, health and psychological help. Conveniently, the town’s employment office is right next door, and can offer training and even six-month work placements with a wage subsidy. A particularly interesting initiative is that of providing housing guarantees, so that families with no savings can sign leases on accommodation.

Matteo Francesconi, Capannori’s Vice Mayor for Social Affairs, summed up his approach as follows:

“The municipality is the institution that is closest to the people. We aim to stop our population sinking down after the crises we have gone through. To benefit the peoples, teamwork is fundamental, because a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Social problems may arise because of unemployment, but they are complex and require an integrated response. That’s why our team meets each month to discuss each case, and includes a psychologist and a coach, which most municipalities do not have. And their services are often called upon.”

The relatively small size of the Capannori municipality, with 50,000 inhabitants, makes it easier to carry out experiments. The challenge is to unify the work of three departments – social services, health and employment. This will avoid citizens having to go round in circles to find the help they need, and provide access to multiple professions – not just social work but education, health and psychology.

The approach is participatory and interventions are not decided top-down: the beneficiary is part of the group that takes the decisions. From the point of view of the employment office, it is far more satisfactory to be able to bring in social and education services to help unemployed clients than to send them away with their problem still unsolved. As coach Valter Barontini says:

“The task is not given – it’s about solving problems. You have to be close to the person, help them understand what integrated services are, and enable them to make use of them. Enthusiasm has to be part of everything. Our partnership with associations works in both directions: they provide special services and we ask our clients to give back by volunteering with them.”

The municipal psychology service is delivered by six psychologists, who work chiefly with families and children. They don’t offer advice: what they do is take the temperature then develop a project together. This can involve many things, such as conflict resolution.

Staff of the Employment Office in Capannori

An important voluntary sector role

Among the voluntary associations involved in Reticulate are the Misericordie, the Order of Malta and Caritas. They offer free services including medical services such as ambulances and COVID testing, legal advice, and help with the ever-present paperwork that often baffles those in need. They also provide food aid, collecting unsold food from supermarkets four times a year, and provide clothing and blankets. For the last two winters the Misericordia has run a “social B&B” in Lucca for individuals and families in a transition phase, which has been used by 1,000 people. The issue of permanent housing is looked after by a working group with the municipality. This practical help is needed more than ever in a climate of government budget cuts. But over and above this they also offer friendship: the volunteers engage with people, respect their dignity, and follow up their welfare.

Teamwork, case management and communication

What are the main lessons that the participants took home with them? First, the recognition that although the activities may be the same, the cultural and administrative framework within which they are delivered is quite different. It is not a matter of legislation, since the necessary regulations are in place. However the operating method is all-important. The Tuscan approach is based on teamwork within the public authorities and between them and civil society, and on individual follow-up of clients. Secondly is the unspoken assumption that public institutions and voluntary organisation work in partnership as a matter of course to resolve social problems. Beyond that, the project showed up the importance of communication and transparency in changing cultures and mindsets.

Toby Johnson

[1] https://www.reticulate.it/

[2] https://en.miskolc.hu/4im

[3] https://www.anpal.gov.it/programma-gol

International discussion on the fight against poverty

Only nine projects have been awarded European funding in the field of social innovation, the only one in Central Europe being the 4IM project “Miskolc shall be a place for everyone”, a municipal initiative. A similar effort to that in Miskolc is underway in the industrialised parts of Tuscany, where the fight against poverty is a major challenge. At the end of November 2023, the leaders and experts of three northern Italian cities, Livorno, Capannori and Lucca, presented the social problems of the region to experts from Miskolc and Košice, sharing their experiences. Apart from the organisational and operational similarities, the main difference from the practice in Miskolc is the rich and long-standing tradition of volunteering in the Tuscan region and the link between the social services that build on it. The number of poor people in Italy has doubled in the last ten years, prompting Italian social workers and city leaders to constantly look for ways to improve social services.

Rising Italian poverty

As a result of the successive economic, COVID and migration crises, poverty now affects many more people and has emerged as a new phenomenon in the middle class of Italian society. According to experts, poverty in the country doubled between 2008 and 2018, with the number of families living in extreme poverty estimated at 2.1 million and the number of homeless people at 100,000.

“The last ten years have seen an explosion in social needs, which gives us an opportunity to reflect on the social policy mistakes of the last 30 years, as we were not prepared for the latest challenges,” said Andrea Raspanti, Vice Mayor of Livorno in charge of social affairs, adding, “The European Union has given us the opportunity to develop an integrated social response to these phenomena, which puts the individual in need at the centre of a more integrated professional approach than ever before.”

Livorno is the same size as Miskolc and faces similar social challenges. In addition to a legacy of a significant industrial past, the city has recently seen the arrival of refugees living in overcrowded public institutions and apartments on the northern edge of the city, giving professionals not only a greater but also a more complex social task than before. The response to this situation has been the integrated social solution, which provides a one-stop-shop for access to a wide range of available services. Integrated social case management includes municipal assistance with income, employment, training, physical and mental health, housing and other social problems.

The culture of volunteering

In addition to all these challenges, an important difference between the Hungarian and the Košice experience is the particularly rich tradition of volunteering in Tuscany. The largest such organisation in the city is the Misericordia (“Mercy”), founded in Florence in 1244, which has been helping the most needy for centuries, even helping them in patient transportation. The organisation has around 670,000 volunteers nationwide, of which 200 are active in Livorno. They are complemented by around 160 other volunteers from the Charity Service of the Order of Malta and dozens of other smaller organisations.

Although the reports from Košice and Miskolc suggest that volunteering is evident in both cities, the extent of volunteering in terms of the number of participants differs significantly from the one in Tuscany. 

One important direction for social development was summarised by the Vice Mayor of Livorno: “Health service is publicly available to all members of society, but social services have so far been available only to a little part of it. Now we want to change this, because the number of people in need has increased recently. That’s why we’ve set up four integrated service centres, also linked to employment services, which anyone can contact and which can provide them with complex support.”

Working poor and the minimum income

The needy include not only the 300 known homeless people in Livorno, but also those who have jobs and work but have insufficient income to support themselves (the working poor). In addition to integrated social assistance, they are also eligible for minimum income support, which is a temporary income support (typically for a few months) based on their individual situation, providing them with the additional amount needed to live a decent human life. The maximum amount is currently €400-700, decided on a case-by-case basis.

Social psychologists and community coaches at work

The operations of the integrated social project vary slightly from one city to another, depending on local conditions. While Livorno operates from a single base, Capannori, a rural town of 50,000 inhabitants, has 10 local branches.

Matteo Francesconi, Deputy Mayor of Capannori in charge of social affairs, summarised their work as follows: “Local government is the institution that is closest to the people. Our aim is to stop the impoverishment of the population caused by crises. The majority of social problems is rooted in unemployment, and tackling it requires an increasingly integrated response. We meet every month to discuss each person’s case, their individual and family situation, and to see where and how we can help. In addition to professionals from the municipality, a social psychologist and a community coach are also involved in this work.”

In integrated social work, the three departments of the Capannori municipality, Social Services, Health and Employment combine their competences to be effective in helping those in need.

Six social psychologists are also involved. They do not provide counselling or therapy, unlike the usual psychological services, but maintain a dialogue with families and children, helping them to identify and resolve conflicts, while providing valuable information to the municipal experts about the problems of the people concerned.

Lessons learned

The social problems and municipal responses in Tuscany are somewhat different from the challenges and social services in Hungary, but the functioning of the institutional framework is instructive for the professionals in Miskolc and Košice (who also draw detailed professional lessons from the study visit). Indeed, the Tuscan approach is based on teamwork within authorities and between volunteers and authorities, as well as on assistance at the level of the individual and a close link between services. The helpers of local public institutions and voluntary organisations naturally coordinate and act to achieve common goals and solve social problems that affect everyone. And the example of Italy’s efforts to fight poverty highlights the importance of communication and transparency, and the crucial role of a culture of cooperation.

Digital skills to enter the labour market

Miskolc’s poorest receive career guidance and job-search training

A series of training sessions focused on assisting participants in creating realistic life goals rooted in self-awareness, identifying standard job interview questions, and preparing a CV was delivered at the Tetemvár Community Centre in Miskolc in December, 2023.  The sessions were targeted to help the economically challenged local residents as part of a regional 4IM project financed by the European Social Fund. Under the motto of “Miskolc shall be a place for everyone”, the project aims to create institutional structures that combat poverty via the development of a new model for the social and economic development of the city. Part of this model is working with the ‘Community Coach’.

Tetemvár is one of the two Miskolc neighbourhoods (along with Bábonyibérc) that has been selected as a pilot for the afore-mentioned EU-financed social innovation project. Local professionals, city government officials and the residents all agree that in order to sustain the development of the city, the issue of poverty needs to be addressed. The project brings new methods and institutional capacities to this long-standing struggle. Indeed, Miskolc is a city where one encounters an alarmingly unique situation: a dearth of job opportunities coupled with a shortage of a skilled labour force. According to the city administration the labour force has potential, as there is still a sufficient number of people who can be reintegrated into the labour market with the right incentives, social support and training programmes. A higher number of people who work leads to a higher the number of self-sufficient families, and ultimately to a higher number of fulfilled lives. 

Community Coach

The Community Coach, a little-known profession in Hungary, encourages community members to identify and follow their interests in order to harness their potential as individuals and consequently as a community. In the project “Miskolc shall be a place for everyone” the Community Coach provides advice and support to people in extreme poverty helping them to break out of it and subsequently bring about improvements in the community. This „domino effect” means that  individuals not only improve their own lot, but also that of the community in which they live, as individual successes spark a chain of incentives, motivating others to join in. The Community Coach, therefore, is there to drive, encourage, monitor and sustain this process.

Career guidance for reaching realistic goals

With the support of the Community Coach via training sessions delivered at the Tetemvár Community Centre, participants have learned to develop their professional skills and express themselves clearly in an interview setting. „The Centre helps participants to acquire sufficient  motivational skills, to learn how to express themselves better, and to guide them in setting realistic goals for themselves. This can then become the basis for their short- and long-term life goal plans. This can be followed by searching for a job that matches their abilities and skills with what the labour market has to offer,” says Ádám Zakár, a Community Coach and one of the organisers and instructors of the trainings. 

The trainings sessions – organised around groups of 5-9 participants – focused on conducing a digital job search, finding a career path, and reintegrating themselves into the labour market.

The Hungarian Maltese Society also offered training sessions, notably for young adults who had dropped out of primary school and wanted to restart their education. These sessions focused on self-awareness, self-confidence and a shared community experience. More such trainings will be offered in the coming weeks.

Looking for new jobs via a digital job search

Social experts together with professionals from the University of Miskolc assessed households in the two neighbourhoods, Tetemvár and Bábonyibérc, participating in the 4IM project. They found that nearly all households had a smartphone with an internet connection allowing them with the aid of the Community Coach to carry out digital job search sessions.

„Based on individual suggestions and competences, we helped participants to develop up-to-date knowledge about what a successful job search entails. In this context, they were introduced to digital job search methods and to the most popular online job search platforms and portals, such as the Virtual Labour Market Portal (VMP), the sites of the Miskolc-based recruitment and temporary work agencies, and career services sites of companies where one can apply directly for advertised positions,” said Ádám Zakár.

During the session on the labour market, participants learned how to prepare a CV and simulated  a job interview by formulating questions and possible answers, including from the employer’s point of view.  Additional emphasis was placed on ensuring that the participants acquired a clear understanding of the importance of a personal email account and of password protection. As an outcome of the session, participants drafted their first CV based on the provided templates and in accordance to the personal objectives they had set for themselves. The effectiveness of the training and the relevance of the topics covered was proven by the fact that some of the participants succeeded in finding a job shortly thereafter thanks to the project’s programme.

Motivation on the rise

Importantly, group members showed a growing willingness to look for jobs and capitalise on the valuable skills that they learned during the training.  The results show that they have been motivated to design a professional path for themselves and have demonstrated the ability to make better career choices. These are all positive, measurable outcomes of the training that can only but improve the overall well-being of the participants and the communities in which they live in the medium to long term, according to the Community Coach.

„One of the outcomes of the project is to help people in difficult situations find their entry point back to the world of work”, said Andrea Varga, Deputy Mayor of Miskolc and the project’s policy manager. „Cooperation between institutions, NGOs and the local residents has had an important role to play in this process. The ultimate goal is to create responsive public and social services that take into consideration local realities and support residents in becoming self-sufficient and active participants in the labour market.”

Fighting poverty through employment

Experts of the social sector discuss new methods to fight poverty

Poverty and what to do about it was the topic of a meeting of social sector professionals in Miskolc on 6 November, 2023. Staff from social care and support systems, and volunteers from the associated organisations, looked at new ways to tackle poverty. The meeting was held within the framework of the European Social Fund-financed 4IM project aimed at developing a comprehensive new social model in Miskolc.

Social support to increase individuals’ employability is the aim of the EU-financed 4IM project under the motto: “Miskolc shall be a place for everyone”. Staff and supporters from the organisations involved in the project held a workshop to identify new tools to improve the effectiveness of their mission.

At the meeting, Miskolc Deputy Mayor Andrea Varga said that the primary objective of the project is to increase employment through the support of various social sector institutions.

– “If we want to have a liveable and prosperous city, we have to address poverty. The 4IM project is comprehensive: it addresses old problems using new methods and puts a strong focus on developing new institutional capabilities. In Miskolc, we are in the uniquely difficult situation in that we have a shortage of jobs and a shortage of labour. However, there are still opportunities for people of working age who seek to be integrated into the world of employment with the help of social professionals. If we can do this, we all win, individuals and their families, the companies operating here and of course the city itself, because the more people work, the more prosperous the city becomes,” she said.

Dr Varga further explained that the establishment of the Social Innovation Council in Miskolc has served to expand on and improve the quality of social care and services. The 4IM Project aims to introduce new tools in social work that enable integrated social development. The programme of the November meeting for social sector stakeholders was therefore designed to showcase innovative ways of working in the sector.

Skills development

At the meeting, the Director of the Miskolc Vocational Training Centre Péter Molnár laid out the medium-term strategy for the renewal of vocational training and adult education. He presented various programmes supporting employment objectives such as the “Dobbantó” (Kick-off) and “Műhelyiskola” (Workshop school) training courses.

The “Dobbantó” programme is designed to develop basic skills for those who have not completed primary school but are over 16.  The aim of the “Műhelyiskola” course is to assist drop-outs or those at risk of dropping out by helping them acquire skills for part-time employment in the immediate term with the goal of transitioning to a more stable job in the medium term. In groups of 5 to 8 people, they learn a specific skill over the course of 8 to 10 months in order to equip themselves with those needed to find a job.

It is a tradition that the Miskolc Unified Social and Child Welfare Institution organises a full-day professional programme to mark the occasion of Social Work Day. Péter Attila Gúr, director of the institution noted that the 4IM Project implements activities in two pilot neighbourhoods: Bábonyibérc and Tetemvár. The project’s experts are frequently present in these two areas, acutely aware of the problems the local residents face and working to better their situation.

Active participation in change

4IM Project Coordinator Gábor Osgyáni highlighted the problems and challenges faced by the project: the disappearance of heavy industry and its effect on society today, overall economic decline in the city and surrounding region of north-east Hungary, population transfer, segregation and “ghettoisation”, etc.

Gábor Osgyáni

In his presentation, Mr Osgyáni explained the Community Coaching method used in the framework of the project and shed light on what could be the key to effective action against urban poverty. He emphasised the necessity of creating a community of action to be able to engage with local residents through dialogue and open and active information exchange. He also underscored the importance of instilling a sense of ownership in the hands of the local population in order to open the door to self-sustainability.

Professionals have created a „well-being” indicator for urban development

With the right metrics, incentives and methodologies, residents of poor neighbourhoods can begin to build trust

In 2021, the leadership of Miskolc initiated a social innovation plan based on the challenges the city was facing under the motto: “Miskolc shall be a place for everyone”. Turned into a project entitled „4IM” and financed by the European Social Fund, the aim of the action has been to identify measures that tackle poverty and to develop a new model for the social and economic advancement of the city. As part of the project, researchers from the University of Miskolc carried out preliminary sociological field research and a survey with the participation of residents from two neighbourhoods, Tetemvár and Bábonyibérc, selected as pilots. We interviwed Zsuzsanna Török, one of the experts involved in the research.

What was the focus of your research among the population of Bábonyibérc and Tetemvár and why was it necessary?

The 4IM project started in November 2021 and is still ongoing. The project aims to develop innovative and integrated social services, to introduce a new, experimental social model, to develop a new institutional structure, and to create innovative partnerships between public, municipal, civil and private sector stakeholders. The University of Miskolc has undertaken the task of carrying out reserch and analysing the results in order to provide the baseline by which concrete measures may be introduced. Surveys were carried out on territorial, community, household and individual levels. The studies focused on three areas: the socio-demographic situation, resources, and incentives.

The consortium felt that it was important to carry out tailored pre-, mid- and post-project surveys to ensure the long-term effectiveness of the model. This provided the rationale for the study. For new types of social action, it is always a priority to develop ‘tailor-made’ solutions based on sound evidence taking into account the particular characteristics of the local community. In this project we managed to do it.

Why were these two neighbourhoods selected? 

Both areas have been identified as deprived neighbourhoods by the Working Group for the Integration of Deprived Neighbourhoods in 2021. The report at the time estimated the number of residents in the Tetemvár neighbourhood at 500, 40% of whom lived in extreme poverty. 67% of children aged 0-3, 25% of children aged 3-6, 50% of children of school-age were considered vulnerable, and only 20% of the population capable of work was employed. The population of the Bábonyiérc neighbourhood was estimated at 450, out of which 80% lived in extreme poverty. 70% of children under 6 years of age and 75% of school-age children were considered vulnerable, while the employment rate for the able-bodied population was 60%. The data made clear the rationale for chosing these neighbourhoods for the study. 

What were the main findings of the study?

The first part of the study, an assessment of the situation, showed that the two areas share many similarities. It was noted that the large majority of the population had moved to their respective neighbourhoods prior to the year 2000. For people identifying themselves as Roma the situation was similar: the percent of the inhabitants that had moved to their respective areas before 2000 stood at around 25%. There were differences in terms of age: the average age of residents in Tetemvár were higher than those in Bábonyibérc. The preliminary survey showed a more favourable labour market situation in Tetemvár than in Bábonyibérc. Overall, Bábonyibérc is a younger community and with households with more children, while Tetemvár is populated by ageing and smaller families.  

Midway through the project, a study was carried out with the help of colleagues from Forrásközpont (Resource Centre) which showed that changes in the neighbourhoods can occur within a short period of time; for example, there was a high turnover of people moving in and out. Of course, the community has not changed fundamentally in a few months, but it is clear that in order to maintain the success of the integrated service packages it is necessary to continuously monitor the communities.

The last phase of the research is ongoing. In this final phase of the project, we are using other methods. We are carrying out focus group interviews related to topics identified in two surveys conducted previously. The aim of the interviews is to identify and strengthen resources and incentives of the population. Of course, measuring the usefulness of the services introduced is also an important aspect of the current phase of the project, and the questions will therefore also cover this topic.

Were there any results that surprised the researches?

There were a number of results that surprised even us social scientists who have seen a lot. The most interesting ones were those that came from the the information that we collected from the set of data called the Confidence Index. The data from the first survey revealed low levels of trust towards those outside the neighbourhood: those surveyed indicated that they trusted mainly their immediate family members and friends only; findings, incidentally, which are similar to those of Hungarian society at large. However, the mid-term survey showed a shift in this trend, especially in Bábonyibérc. Here, we saw an increase in the level of trust of the local residents vis-à-vis social workers and coaches working in the field, which is definitely a positive development.

What is the overall picture, what has the survey revealed? Were there any new findings?

Overall, we can say that neither of the neighbourhoods can be considered as so-called “depression zones”. This is a noteworthy finding. Indeed, this means that with conscious action and continuous monitoring, the zones at risk of falling into “depression” can be put on the right path. This proved easier in Tetemvár, which benefits from a naturally favourable geographical location near the city centre. But good community integration in Bábonyibérc also presented a promising development for the neighbourhood. Indeed, both communities showed themselves to be gradually opening and adaptating to the ‘outside world’. 

Could the findings of the study be used elsewhere?

We have developed a “well-being indicator” that can be used in any city or neighbourhood as a basis for metrics that would help people in the area. Our well-being indicator measures a person’s objective and subjective well-being across six areas: health, economic situation, education, social relations, security and overall well-being. We look at data such as access to health care, employment status, satisfaction in relationships, personal security, motivations and goals. The indicators are weighted and individual well-being is then quantified. From the figures obtained we can then identify the needs of the neighbourhood, and therefore establish priorities as regards the services to provide. We believe that this indicator will be of great help to city administrations, municipalities and social institutions when planning targeted assistance, especially when a rapid reaction is needed.

What sort of challenges or unexpected difficulties did you encounter during your research?

There are difficulties with any project. In this one, for example, the pre-established register showed a total of 428 houses in the two areas. During the fieldwork, however, it became clear that many of the houses from the register, 105 to be precise, did not exist. Also, we found that the residents’ initial willingness to partake in the pilot was lower than expected. But as noted above, this reluctance to participate gradually subsided.

Have there been any similar such studies?

There have been several studies on the issue of deprived neighbourhoods and urban slums. This study and the project itself are unique in that they approach the two neighbhourhoods in a complex manner and seek immediate practical outputs.

How timely are your findings? Is there a risk that the data could become obsolete?

The two neighbourhoods are undergoing constant change. Based on our results no major changes are to expected in terms of trends, but some of the data are of course time-sensitive. Nonetheless, I believe that the theoretical and methodological frameworks that we have developed will remain valid over time.

Start and End Date

27 Nov 2021 - 26 May 2024

Contact person

Aaron Imperiale

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