CeRSP is staffed by academics and researchers who conduct empirical investigations on funded projects. These projects derive from one of two sources.
One, potential projects are developed by in-house experts – with input from affiliated academics – as responses to salient and timely issues. The aim of these projects is to evaluate the effects of transformative political, economic, and social events. The primary motivation is the individual-level impact of changes in national context and the institutional responses to these changes. Projects such as these require CeRSP to seek external funding. The ultimate goal is to assess and ultimately support genuinely original ideas on how to transform – and improve – the function of the modern nation-state and the ability of the economy to serve society.
A second source of empirical investigations comes from requests from outside institutions. Businesses, consortia, industries, and other groups request investigations that they are willing to support but lack the capacity to carry out. CeRSP has the ability to conduct scientific studies which integrate individual-level data with both regional- and national-level data (this includes studies of both various demographic groups and nationally-representative samples). Project are evaluated and selected on the basis of their assessed contribution to the improved function of democracy and the economy in either Italy or Europe.
The European Union (EU) has tried to create widespread and relatively equitable economic growth in Europe for the sake of continental stability and tranquility. For the most part, this has been achieved as personal and aggregate economic growth has increased over the past several decades. However, following the 2008 financial and eventual economic crisis, there is a greater percentage of people who are not only objectively ‘poorer’ but also feel a heightened risk of economic adversity due to economic struggles in both their own countries and the EU.
“A combined review of indicators from the European Quality of Life Survey and those obtained from the Eurobarometer (for 2009 and 2010) highlights the fact that, on the whole, the economic and financial crisis has led to a decline in quality of life [in Europe]. This is more apparent for those living in countries most affected by the crisis. Vulnerable groups such as the unemployed, the elderly and the retired, as well as people suffering financial difficulties, have experienced a considerable drop in their well-being following the crisis.” (Abstract of the Eurofund Report 2012)
Democratic governments have struggled to address these issues and Europe faces a period of crisis that forces us to consider both the quality and direction that European politics and economics have taken. Specific to Italy, although national-level income inequality has remained relatively steady over the past 20 years, it has consistently been among Europe’s highest. As worrisome and potentially devastating to the future of Italy, unemployment in 2014 was 12.5% – for 25-34 year olds it was 19% (6 percentage points higher than the EU average). Even for those with a university degree, graduates aged between 25 and 34, the unemployment rate was 16%. Since 2011, this rate has increased by 46%, real wages have decreased by 20%, as well as use of temporary contracts, long-term unemployment and over-education all increased.
This trend in unemployment – as but one example – is a harbinger for continuing and deeper troubles for the generations coming into the workforce and finding little. Inequality and unemployment hinder social mobility, educational opportunities, and higher life satisfaction, thus creating a vicious cycle for the future generations of Italians. Unsurprisingly, satisfaction with the performance of democracy in Italy remains among Europe’s lowest.
Based on current research, we know how corrosive these vicious cycles are to the politics, economics, and societies in which they emerge. Yet, what choices can be made to alleviate these? If the economy cannot function in service of society and politics is seen to provide little relief, we are faced with important and timely questions about the future of Italy – and Europe more generally. While both the disciplines of Economics and Political Science have identified and studied these convergent phenomena, there has been limited confrontation with entrenched thinking about the roles of the modern nation-state and the economy.
The Center for Research and Social Progress was established to promote and support new research to provide potential answers to these dilemmas. Our hope is to stimulate leading-edge thinking and analysis that strengthen the relationship between academics, policymakers, and citizens by producing, supporting, and promoting new research that is not only salient to the challenges of our time but also accessible to all.
One of the most significant contributions to the modern study of Political Science was Robert Putnam’s Making Democracy Work (1993). This book developed the idea that the governments of nation-states perform better in societies in which citizens are able to coordinate for mutual benefit. He termed this contribution to strengthening civil society ‘social capital’. Within 10 years, his terminology – and the thinking that underpinned it – was on the lips of every civil servant in the West and part of the lexicon of both Political Science and Economics. The country he used to make this world-changing insight was Italy.
The Center for Research and Social Progress represents the potential synergy of academia and the market to conduct forward-looking, policy-relevant, and rigorous research. It originated from the search for genuine opportunities to develop exciting but highly provocative studies in Europe. CeRSP seeks to bring together opportunities for academics to pursue original, innovative, and empirical analyses of the highest academic standards with private funders who are concerned with the current state of modern politics and economics both in Italy – and in Europe.
Deliverables and Outreach
The Center for Research and Social Progress aims at several substantive deliverables.
The primary goal of CeRSP is to produce scientific research that offers useful results for the implementation and improvement of public policies. In order to achieve this goal, CeRSP analyses the effectiveness of public policies through scientific, rigorous, and independent assessments of their short and long run impact.
CeRSP aims to ‘engage the debate’ within the disciplines of the Social Sciences (i.e. Political Science, Economics, Sociology, and Psychology). Outputs of CeRSP will thus include academic publications in in high profile, peer-reviewed academic journals. This includes disseminating work via participation in international academic conferences. We will also offer to host works-in-progress by affiliated researchers on CeRSP’s website as “CeRSP Working Papers”. Data that is generated in the context of funded research will be used as the basis for assessing existing theories and the literature surrounding salient issues.
CeRSP also aims to serve the needs of the community which supports it. CeRSP aims to make the output of all its funded projects available not only to other academics but also policymakers and the public. Thus, in addition to both ‘engaging the debate’ and ‘policy evaluation’, CeRSP strives to draw awareness to the independent, original, and analytical thinking necessary for tackling the challenges of a new century. The outcome of research at CeRSP hopes to be a potentially provocateur of public debate and the outputs are meant to encourage public engagement with the topics. In addition, the Center will actively advertise and promote relevant results from funded projects to policy-makers in Italy and the EU in the form of press releases and policy reports in both Italian and English-language outlets. This includes reaching out directly to members of parliament and policy makers at both local and national level.