Valencia, Generalitat Valenciana (ES), 13 December 2013
Social inclusion is not a new, revolutionary topic or a recent challenge that our society and political systems have do deal with. Yet, as the drivers for social exclusion are manifold and their consequences have been exacerbated by the crisis, the issue has become increasingly topical.
90 regional representatives and experts gathered for the ‘Building inclusive societies’ conference organised by the Generalitat Valenciana (ES) and the Assembly of European Regions (AER) to share good practices on how to improve citizens’ ability to realise their potential and participate fully in society. Transferability was obviously high on the agenda, and one of the main conclusions was that whatever the context, the human factor is extremely important. Commitment and cooperation are indeed the key to achieve positive results. Institutions, companies and the third sector need to work closely together in a long-term perspective.
“Building an inclusive society is much more than a political responsibility, said Asunción Sánchez Zaplana, Regional Minister for Social Welfare of Valencia (ES), it is much more than developing a series of actions or even defining a strategy. It involves the setting up of an inclusive culture that takes root in our society, determining the involvement and co-responsibility of each organisation and institution, each social stakeholder, each citizen with respect to groups of people who could find themselves in a situation of vulnerability.”
European regions are very diverse but they are faced with common challenges. Learning together is essential. “We simply cannot afford social exclusion, underlined AER President Dr Hande Özsan Bozatli. AER believes in a regional approach, that can deliver decentralised, creative, bottom-up solutions to common problems. Regions being close to citizens, they are best placed to design and implement user- and experience-based solutions to build inclusive societies.”
User-based solutions allow, for instance, for better and more efficient care for patients as was showcased by the ESTHER network (Jönköping, SE), which aims at improving the way patients flow through the system of care by strengthening coordination and communication among providers. The co-creating patient will also be the focus of the international Arctic Light e-Health Conference, ALEC, co-organised by the AER and which will take place in Kiruna (SE) on 4-5 February 2014.
Karsten Uno Petersen, President of the AER Committee on ‘Social policy and Public health’ (2), highlighted that “We have a history of actively supporting innovation in the public sector to build more inclusive societies. Regions can act as labs for tomorrow: they can test solutions and see what works and what doesn’t. And that’s what we do through initiatives like the AER e-he@lth network and projects like the ICT-PSP SmartCare project or the ENGAGED thematic network.”
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