1963-2018 - 55 years of Research for Social Change

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Transformative Social Policy

🔵 See the programme prospectus

At UNRISD, we define social policy as public interventions that guarantee adequate and secure living standards that enable all people to strive towards and develop their full potential. Social policy comprises basic social services such as education and health, cash transfers such as pensions, child benefits or social assistance, and labour market policies. In a development context, social policy plays key roles for production, reproduction, redistribution, and protection against life and market risks. In addition, it can foster social cohesion and the enjoyment of rights—this is what UNRISD calls Transformative Social Policy (TSP). TSP is human rights-based, entails democratic decision making, and works in tandem with economic policies to address root causes of poverty, inequality and practices which are unsustainable.

Work in the Transformative Social Policy Programme focuses on how social policy can address multiple and overlapping inequalities—of class, age, disability, location, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and sex characteristics (SOGIESC), religion, migration or refugee status. As part of this it explores how institutions and norms shape policy design, implementation and outcomes.

The programme’s work seeks to understand, analyse and engage with processes of policy change around the following types of questions.
  • What are the drivers and actors in social policy reforms, expansion or retrenchment in different contexts, including in the global South?
  • What role do social policies play in overcoming (or reinforcing) inequalities, poverty and social exclusion, and in promoting inclusive development paths?
  • What is the impact of migration on inequalities and social development, and of South-South migration in particular, and what role does social policy play in these contexts?
  • What are the pathways for building towards a new eco-social contract—one that delivers universal social rights and environmental justice, and is built upon sustainable national and global resource bargains?

Photo: Alex Paganelli (public domain via Unsplash)