Tackling social exclusion: approaches, lessons and tools

Tackling social exclusion requires a multi-faceted approach to policy and action on a number of fronts. If only one aspect is addressed, success will be unlikely because other aspects of exclusion will prevent effective progress. The first priority is a good scoping exercise to identify the dimensions and causes of exclusion (see ‘Causes of Exclusion’).

In a 2005 paper cited earlier, Naila Kabeer argues that a ‘business as usual’ approach to development has so far proved inadequate in addressing the challenges posed by social exclusion for four reasons:

  • Prevalent forms of data collection tend to define the poor in terms of assets or income. The absence of disaggregated data has thus ‘invisibilised’ socially excluded groups.
  • Socially excluded groups are less likely to benefit from economic growth than other sections of the poor because: a) they have limited assets and b) the discrimination they face in markets for labour and commodities makes it harder for them to turn their resources into income.
  • Socially excluded groups are less likely to be able to access ‘normal’ forms of social provisioning. Discriminatory attitudes prevalent in society are often reproduced by state officials responsible for service provision. They are also unlikely to be able to purchase these services privately in the market place.
  • Socially excluded groups are generally less likely to participate in ‘normal’ models of democracy. Particularly where they constitute a minority, there is no incentive for political parties competing for power to take their interests into account since they neither represent enough votes nor are they able to exercise a great deal of influence. They are also unlikely to have the resources needed to compete for political office. (2005: 30-31)

Tackling social exclusion therefore requires a long-term strategic response, which addresses the multiple and overlapping disadvantages experienced by excluded groups. Resources on this page consider the various ways in which governments, civil society, donors and international bodies have worked to tackle social exclusion.