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A Pole can (write a successful project)

Socio-economic research – great success of the team from the University of Lodz

A Pole can (write a successful project)

PROFIT is the acronym of the research project "Policy Responses Overcoming Factors in the Intergenerational Transmission of Inequalities" funded by the European Commission under the Sixth Framework Programme, Priority 7 (Governance and Citizenship). The leading part in preparing the application - submitted to the first  call for proposals for STREPs - played the team from the Department of General Sociology of the Institute of Sociology, University of Lodz, which also decided to coordinate both the RTD and management activities of the consortium. The authors designed an ambitious large-scale research undertaking and from the very start believed in their chances of winning the grant.

Carefully designed to guarantee success and efficiency, the strategy of the project involved:
at the planning stage:
• accurate choice of research area and topic,
• meaningful, well-phrased title that could be relevantly acronymed,
at realisation stage (preparation of proposal):
• establishing clear criteria of partners' selection,
• encouraging partners to cooperation,
• working out a realistic plan of project's implementation taking into account possible risks,
• winning the support of university's administrative officials.

The subject of intergenerational inheritance of inequalities was an ideal research area for the sociologists from Lodz. Since 1993 they have conducted regular research on poverty, the most important result of which was disclosing the process of poverty reproduction in the next generation of the Polish population, particularly in the so-called poverty enclaves. The results of these investigations were published in numerous books and periodicals and presented at many national and international conferences. They were also disseminated through lectures and trainings among social service workers within TEMPUS projects, realized in cooperation with the foreign universities.

The choice of the subject did not however determine the project title which – as our colleagues from the international programmes bureau at the University of Helsinki had taught us - should be logically acronymed. The author of the acronym is prof. Ewa Rokicka who, after we had to give up hoping that acronyms like "CHANCE" or "OPPORTUNITY" could yield any reasonable titles, came out with "PROFIT", which was a very accurate meaning in the context of the research planned. The project has to be profitable, i.e. bring profit to those who are threatened with intergenerational transmission of inequalities. Once we had the acronym, formulating of the title went smoothly, though the title implied a more applicative character of the project than we had initially assumed. The emphasis was shifted from the mechanism of inequality reproduction onto the policy for counteracting this social phenomenon.

The employees of the Department of Sociology UL have participated in various EU projects since 1992, first in the frames of the TEMPUS programme and then in the FP5. In two TEMPUS projects, which partly was  research oriented the Department served the function of a coordinator. Thus, before preparation of PROFIT proposal, the team from Lodz had the necessary know-how and experience in collaborating within a network of foreign partners both from the Eastern and Western Europe.
Since the study is aimed at informing and supporting social policies, it was necessary to first select the right countries and later - specific institutions and people. An important criterion in selecting the countries was the social policy model. From among the Western countries Finland, Germany, Italy and Great Britain were chosen, representing four major welfare state regimes in the Western Europe. Four remaining countries (Bulgaria, Estonia, Lithuania and Poland) have a common institutional heritage resulting from the membership in the former "Eastern block", but they differ in the currently adopted solutions in the social sphere.

At the stage of proposal preparation we put a large emphasis on the differentiation of the partners' specialisation fields within social sciences. Thus, among our foreign colleagues are social psychologists, political scientists, political economists, etc. Although we are open to possible new partners, at the stage of proposal preparation we addressed an offer of cooperation to persons from the above-mentioned countries well-known to us personally, with whom we already had worked with good result on EU projects. Such a strategy gave us a high note for the composition of the consortium because all the colleagues enthusiastically accepted the proposition of collaboration and actively contributed to the work on the project preparation.
Unlike other international investigations, focusing on cross-country comparisons, in PROFIT mainly local programmes and solutions for counteracting intergenerational inheritance of inequalities will be compared. This requires cooperation with local authorities and social services providers as well as including the scholars into the group of stakeholders. We have experience in this field too and are going to share it with the foreign colleagues. The idea that local programmes and activities should be the object of comparison turned out successful and was highly estimated by evaluators. So were the provisions for assurance of the comparability of research tools and procedures applied in the project. Each partner was assigned clear tasks and responsibilities.

The European Commission granted 925 thousand Euro to the three-year project (1.05.04 - 30.04.07), of which almost 360 thousand Euro to the coordinating institution, that is the University of Lodz. The research team from Lodz, serving as the Coordinating Team, includes the lead coordinator prof. Wielis?awa Warzywoda-Kruszynska, prof. Ewa Rokicka (vice-coordinator), dr Piotr Szukalski, dr Jolanta Grotowska-Leder, dr Jerzy Krzyszkowski, prof. Anna Matuchniak–Krasuska and prof. Pawel Starosta. Two full-time research and technical positions, funded from the project resources, will be offered to young assistants. The authorities of the University of Lodz granted additional positions in the PhD programme to project team participants and agreed to expand the students' exchange with the PROFIT partner universities under the Socrates / Erasmus programme. This will allow young personnel to gain new knowledge and experience in foreign cooperation and will be very helpful in applying for research grants in future.

Prof. Wielis?awa Warzywoda-Kruszynska, the coordinator of the PROFIT project
(captions by editor)