Approach

European solidarity is a multifaceted and multidimensional phenomenon. Its analysis requires a research design that mirrors this complexity at the theoretical and empirical levels.

First, TransSOL puts its focus on attitudes and behaviours, following previous findings stating that the disposition to help does not necessarily translate into actions. Going beyond the study of attitudes, we also target more palpable forms of solidarity, such as individual practices and acts of help and support.

Second, TransSOL places attention on both the charitable and the political dimensions of solidarity. On the one hand, the project sheds light on solidarity in terms of dispositions or acts of (financial) help to the needy. On the other hand, we are interested in the political practices of solidarity and the collective actions through which people strive to improve the situations of others in need by mobilising public support, committing stakeholders and/or changing public policies on their behalf (e.g., public claims-making, political protests, communication campaigns).

Third, our project analyses transnational solidarity at different levels of observation. We capture the level of individual citizens and interpersonal relationships and study the effects of socio-demographic factors (such as gender, age, social class etc.) on individual solidarity. Moreover, we target the level of civil society and social movement organisations, aiming to understand how civil society actors mobilise and organise European solidarity in specific fields of action. And finally, we analyse the level of general public spheres and discourses in order to elucidate how solidarity is communicatively generated, reproduced or destroyed as an idea, norm and practice.

Our research aims at measuring and analysing the interrelations between these various dimensions of analysis by means of a research methodology that combines various data sets:

  • a compound data set of indicators of the legal, political and socio-economic traits of each country under study;
  • a mapping of transnational solidarity initiatives in each of the eight countries;
  • an individual survey amongst European citizens in the member states under analysis;
  • an organisational study amongst associations in the field of transnational solidarity;
  • interviews with experts, activists and organisational representatives; and
  • content analyses of national mainstream mass-media and online media.

Moreover, our research approach accounts for the fact that European solidarity is a complex phenomenon conditioned by specific circumstances. TransSOL takes a comparative perspective, examining the situation in different countries and with regard to distinct issue fields and target groups.

On the one hand, TransSOL differentiates between eight different European countries and measures cross-country solidarity in Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland, Switzerland and the UK. This implies that each task of the project is conducted in parallel across all eight countries, allowing for systematic cross-country comparison.

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On the other hand, TransSOL aims to explore whether and how solidarity attitudes and practices vary between different target groups and areas. We will devote ourselves in particular to the unemployed, immigrants and refugees, and people with disabilities. The comparative approach allows us to understand better how and why solidarity varies across target groups at times of crisis.