Welfare & Justice

As Western welfare states are increasingly being dismantled, the position of marginalized societal groups is at stake. We address this exclusion and work on stable and inclusive structures, cultures and practices. But how do you innovate stability?




Western welfare systems are currently confronted by budgets cuts, privatization of public services and a neoliberal focus on the individual, which leads to several types of reforms. What does this dismantlement of welfare systems mean for people who struggle with accessing decent levels of education provision, healthcare resources, job opportunities, and safe neighborhoods? At DRIFT, we put this crucial ethical question at the forefront in applying the transition perspective in our research, education and consultancy activities. By doing this, we address the systemic exclusion of people in marginalized positions and strive for more inclusive societal structures, cultures, and practices.


The welfare system in Western societies has been constantly under construction in the past centuries. Where charities and religious networks were dominant in addressing this question during the late 1900s, this has become an increasing responsibility of nation states. Local and national networks of people and communities have tried to incorporate people in marginalized positions in societal structures via diverse strategies, e.g. repressing, disciplining, institutionalizing, indulging, and neglecting, which are often fueled by political and religious ideologies. In the last couple of centuries the web of social security is increasingly being dismantled due to severe budget-cuts, labor market flexibility, privatization of public services, and marketization and bureaucratization of welfare programs. These reformations pose major and fundamental challenges in regard to the welfare system as we know it.


In reaction to the current dismantlement, countless projects that are supposed to help and support less-privileged people and communities are initiated by institutions which, ironically, are depended on the sheer existence of the problems they are addressing. Moreover, most of these projects are short-term oriented and fragmented, due to an outsourced responsibility to bureaucratized sectors that focus on one part of the puzzle (e.g. homelessness, social housing, youth welfare, drug addiction, crime prevention, long-term health care) and not on integral and holistic structures.


At DRIFT, we use the transition perspective to focus on the structures and processes that create and reproduce (spatial) marginality. In our research, consultancy and education activities we address these processes against the backdrop of underlying political and ethical issues, such as socio-economic inequalities, solidarity issues and struggles for justice. Yet, in our activities we also break with the traditional angle of transition research, since we focus on stable and inclusive structures where people and communities can work on their resilience, instead of a discourse focused on experimenting and innovating.


DRIFT has gathered and analyzed a vast amount of empirical and theoretical insights concerning transitions in welfare systems. We have practiced transition management in welfare systems, from describing transitions dynamics in the fields of health care and youth welfare, to actively working on resilient communities in urban neighborhoods and the inclusion of homeless youth. In doing so, DRIFT engages with new ways of collaboration and co-creation and explores the transition towards a more fair and just society.