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The project

The aim of the VIA participation trajectory in the municipality of Nijmegen is to help people who are on long-term social assistance benefit a step further on the Participation Ladder, where a form of activation in the direction of daytime activities, voluntary work or regular/paid work is the aim. Scientific research will determine to what extent the Nijmegen participation trajectory contributes to social activation and increasing the well-being of people with a non-Western migration background entitled to social assistance/income support. It also sheds light on the implementation of the participation trajectories and on the relevant and (in)effective mechanisms.

The approach is characterized by a higher intensity of personal guidance by the municipality’s participation coaches. Other characteristics are the cross-domain perspective on obstacles to activation (such as welfare, education, self-reliance, social network, health), the non-mandatory nature of the trajectory and the cooperation between the participation coach and relevant chain partners in the reintegration process. From the municipal perspective, the starting point and most important condition for the success of this approach is that participants are actually heard and seen. According to the policy officers and participation coaches involved, this creates a relationship of mutual understanding and respect between the coach and the participant. This confidential relationship enables the coach to help the participant to take meaningful steps on the Participation Ladder, which should lead to an increase in well-being and social activation.

The effect evaluation in the final report will further quantify these experiences and describes whether we may conclude that the approach has led to increased well-being and more voluntary work or not. This increased well-being can, for example, involve a broader social network, breaking certain habits or problems, or becoming more motivated in life. The interviewed participants indicate that participating in the participation trajectory has given them new energy and insights into steps they can take themselves to improve their lives. They are happy to be “seen and heard” by the municipality and they appreciate the efforts of the municipality to help them. The personal contact with the participation coach is experienced as pleasant and valuable.

The VIA participation trajectory differs from other reintegration trajectories due to a high intensity in the personal guidance of the participant by the participation coach. Whether the outflow from social assistance will rise as a result of this remains unclear; it seems that at least more steps are being taken towards volunteering, which means a noteworthy development on the Participation Ladder for people who often made little to no progress before.

Due to the non-mandatory nature of the trajectory, participation coaches succeed in building a personal relationship with participants. Participants formulate concrete and realistic goals themselves - but with the support of the participation coach and other cooperation partners - about how they want to take steps to increase their participation in society. The gratitude for this help from the municipality seems great among participants. A critical remark has to be made here, however; it remains difficult for participation coaches to reach the target group, because realizing a first contact moment between coach and participant is already quite an achievement for some potential participants. This could be due to different reasons of course, but the perceived distance between municipality and resident from a different cultural background is the most frequently mentioned reason.

You can also visit the website of the Rijksoverheid, the initiator of the VIA trajectory, through the following link for more information.