The Project

Below you can find more information on the context, research objectives and research questions of the ImPRovE project. A concise description of the project and the consortium can also be found in our project flyer. A more detailed description of all work packages can be found here.


ImPRovE Flyer

Short presentation of the project and the realised output (March 2014):


Download here the Italian version of the project summary: ImPRovE in Italiano


  • Basic Information

    ImPRovE (Poverty Reduction in Europe: Social Policy and Innovation) is an international research project that aims to improve the basis for evidence-based policy making in the area of poverty, inequality, social policy and social innovation in Europe. It is carried out by the ImPRovE Consortium and co-financed by the European Commission (Project officer at the European Commission: Georgios Papanagnou). The project runs from March 2012 till February 2016 and is co-ordinated by the Herman Deleeck Centre for Social Policy (University of Antwerp, Belgium).

    The two central questions driving the ImPRovE project are:

      1. How can social cohesion be achieved in Europe?
      2. How can social innovation complement, reinforce and modify macro-level policies and vice versa?


    The output of ImPRovE will include over 55 research papers, about 16 policy briefs and at least 3 scientific books. The ImPRovE Consortium will organise two international conferences (March 2014 and February 2016). In addition, ImPRovE will develop a new database of local projects of social innovation in Europe, cross-national comparable reference budgets for 6 countries (Belgium, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Italy and Spain) and will strongly expand the available policy scenarios in the European microsimulation model EUROMOD.


  • Context

    From a European perspective, the central questions of ImPRovE have gained importance as a result of three contextual factors:

    • The Lisbon strategy (devised in 2000) and the newly agreed EU 2020 poverty reduction target adopted in 2010) are embedded in the notion of social investment or active welfare state, assuming complementarity between growth, jobs and social inclusion.
    • Before the crisis, despite higher employment rates and economic growth, the EU social indicators show, however, that nowhere has any substantial progress been made in combating relative financial poverty.
    • New (often small-scale) social projects and actions have emerged in the spatial and institutional margins of national welfare states. As part of its Flagship Initiative ‘European Platform Against Poverty’ in the EU 2020 strategy the Commission announced that it will work “to design and implement programmes to promote social innovation …”.

    As a result, ImPRovE takes as its starting points: (a) the long standstill in poverty reduction, especially for people of working age, (b) the complementarity between employment, economic growth and social inclusion that is focal in the EU 2020 strategy, and, (c) the emergence of socially innovative policies and actions in the margins of the European welfare states.


  • Main research objectives

    The main research objectives of ImPRovE are:

    • To evaluate the Lisbon decade in terms of policies and actions against poverty at European, national and sub-national level;
    • To improve the understanding of the interrelationships between employment, social protection and social inclusion and between institutionalised macro level social policies and innovative local actions;
    • To improve the EU measurement tools by strengthening the EU 2020 poverty reduction indicators;
    • To assess alternative scenarios to meet the 2020 poverty targets.
  • Research questions

    The project is organised in 16 different work packages. These are subdivided in 4 streams: Assessing the past; Improving policies; Improving indicators and Improving conditions. Taken together, the project aims to answer the following questions:


    • Assessing poverty trends
      • Were poverty trends really disappointing and, if so, why?  –  A descriptive evaluation of poverty trends and dynamics since the early 1990s (WP1), and a simulation of how poverty would have evolved if tax and benefit systems in Europe would have been unchanged since 2001 (WP2).
      • How has poverty evolved during the financial and economic crisis? What is the effect of the policy measures taken?  -  A simulation study of the impact of the financial and economic crisis and the ongoing policy responses (WP3).
      • How can existing poverty indicators be improved?  –  A critical evaluation of the Europe 2020 poverty reduction indicators (WP12) and the development of cross-national comparable reference budgets for 6 countries, based on a common methodology and theoretical framework (WP13)
    • Employment, social protection and social inclusion: complementary goals or a trilemma?
      • Employment growth is an important anti-poverty strategy, at the heart of the EU 2020 strategy. What is the likelihood of success? How and under which conditions can employment help?  -  An evaluation of past experiences of the link between employment, social policy, poverty and education, with particular attention to youth and non-standard workers (WP5).
      • What is the role of social services and adequate income support?  –  An assessment of the evolution of minimum income protection in Europe and its role in social cohesion outcomes (WP6), the strenghts and weaknesses of targeted and means-tested benefits vs. universal measures (WP7); and a simulation study to identify policy designs with the most beneficial effects of childcare provisions in terms of income inequality, female employment decisions and poverty(WP8).
      • How can complementarity between employment, social protection and social inclusion be achieved?  -  An evaluation of typical combinations of success/failure in poverty reduction in EU-27 countries (WP9).
    • How can local social innovation complement, reinforce and modify institutionalised policies?
      • How can the adequacy of local social innovation be assessed?  –  The development of a methodology, in close interaction with practitioners (WP14).
      • How can social innovation complement, reinforce and modify macro level policies, and vice versa?  -  An assessment of trends in place-based local forms socially innovative practices and an evaluation of the social needs these reveal (WP4); 30 case studies of local socially innovative policies and actions to identify the factors leading to successful actions (WP11) and an identification of successful institutional social policy measures and local practices of social innovation aimed at a better social inclusion of Roma (WP10).
    • Towards Europe 2020
      • How can the conditions be improved to move towards Europe 2020?  –  The development and projection of budget-neutral changes to redistributive systems that can contribute to meeting the EU 2020 poverty reduction target under different scenarios of employment growth (WP15).
      • How can the Europe 2020 strategy, the EU social agenda and cohesion policy be brought closer together at EU, national and sub-national levels?  -  An assessment of the use of European instruments and resources to underpin social innovation and networking, of the European financial instruments in attaining the social objectives of the Europe 2020 strategy and of how place-based socially innovative policies and actions can be upscaled in European cohesion policy (WP16).