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What difference does the context of activation make? Challenges and innovations in the Italian and Norwegian local welfare

Matteo Villa (Department of Political Science, University of Pisa, Pisa, Italy)
Venke Frederike Johansen (Department of Psychosocial Health, University of Agder, Grimstad, Norway)

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy

ISSN: 0144-333X

Article publication date: 14 May 2019

Issue publication date: 28 May 2019




The purpose of this paper is to analyze the role of trans-contextual processes of implementation and governance in the transformation of social and labor inclusion policies in Norway and Italy, including research and practical implications.


It combines qualitative case studies with a framework that makes them comparable, namely, the Logics of Welfare.


Differences and similarities are related to regimes’ path dependencies as well as interactions between bottom-up and top-down dynamics of implementation. Their shifting logics and patterns enhance or hinder the local actors’ agency and enactment, and the systems’ capability to reduce the risks of exclusion. Results and the ways in which they are achieved are different, although in both cases the inclusion in the labor market remains a contended issue.

Research limitations/implications

The comparison is based on two case studies. A further development of in-depth comparative analysis may improve our understanding of the role of contexts in the implementation of policy reforms.

Practical implications

Reforms have limited capacity to achieve the expected outcomes, including due to a limited understanding of context-based factors. Practitioners and policy makers should take greater account of the latter and their active role in modifying them.

Social implications

This paper provides a deeper comprehension on how policy practices affect citizens’ hard pathways toward inclusion.


Through a comparative context-based analysis, the paper shows important differences, similarities and shifting modes of operation in activation policy as well as the role of socio-organizational contexts and bottom-up mobilizations. It looks forward to the possible added value derived from a wider testing of such approaches.



Villa, M. and Johansen, V.F. (2019), "What difference does the context of activation make? Challenges and innovations in the Italian and Norwegian local welfare", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 39 No. 5/6, pp. 478-493.



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