A three-year project funded in the Laura Bassi 4.0 program of the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG) to digitize a Social Route Plan for Salzburg, Tyrol and Vorarlberg
At least 300,000 people live in western Austria who are at least partially dependent on social assistance benefits. This affects a wide variety of people - from single mothers to people in need of care and their dependents to people who slip below the poverty line due to job loss. However, access to social services and material support is often characterized by many hurdles. There is also often a lack of knowledge about where and how to get support. Digitization can increase exclusion here, but it can also offer opportunities if implemented correctly. Both are underscored by recent experiences during the Covid 19 pandemic.
The Austrian Research Promotion Agency's (FFG)aims to counteract this problem with the €472,542-funded project "A digital guide to social problems. A Social Route Plan for Western Austria". The goal is to develop digital tools - such as an app, a website and/or an open interface - over the next three years. With the help of these tools, people in need of social support services should be able to access information about counseling centers, concrete offers and prerequisites, as well as legal framework conditions as low-threshold and flexibly as possible. This is to be achieved by converting a print version of a social route plan that already exists for Tyrol and Salzburg into a digital version, which will also be extended to Vorarlberg. Potential users will be involved in the development process from the beginning in order to adapt this digital solution as closely as possible to the needs and requirements of the potential users. This approach of participatory and inclusive research is intended to prevent the risk of developing the final product "bypassing" the target group and instead designing it directly together with them.
In the project, MCI | Die Unternehmerische Hochschule® in Innsbruck forms a central scientific partner in a three-country consortium in which a total of four scientific institutions, three IT companies and 14 social institutions are working together to develop a digital end solution. The consortium has set itself the goal that accessibility, usability and anti-discrimination should be the basic principles of this development and that a sensitive view of diversity dimensions - such as age, gender, inclusion, health, status, language and region and their intersectional reinforcement - should be maintained. The project manager, FH-Prof.in Dr.in Eva Fleischer, says: "Digitalization is a future topic also in social work. This project offers the opportunity to include the professional perspective of social work on social problems and the expertise in the field of participation in the development of tools from the very beginning."
Ultimately, the goal is to have a best practice at the end of the project that opens up and secures access to social support services for as many people as possible. During the participatory and inclusive research process, however, it is not just a new product that is to be created. At the same time, it is about networking different groups of people, institutions and decision-makers at different levels, as well as initiating a reflection process that also considers non-digital solutions. "The project has many different facets, from which many people will benefit. Most of all, however, the people affected, who are excluded from society due to injustice and who can improve their situation through this innovative product," concludes FH Prof. Dr. Belachew Gebrewold, Head of the Department of Social Work at MCI, on the project's approach.
Eva Fleischer summarizes the core of the project as follows: "All people facing social problems should have low-threshold, easy access to the support services they need. Jointly developed digital tools can make a major contribution to equal opportunities here. At the same time, however, the limits of digitization must also be reflected upon; here, too, the project offers valuable impulses."
Key data Call for proposals: Laura Bassi 4.0, 2nd call for proposals
Project duration: from April 1, 2021 to March 31, 2024
Website Social Route Plan FFG Project
Social Route Plan | FFG Project
Social Work | Bachelor
Social Work, Social Policy and Management | Master