- a common basis of fundamental values, for society’s progress towards improved capacity to ensure the well-being of all, through the development of co-responsibility,
- a methodology to secure such progress jointly developed with citizens and other social stakeholders at local level, tying in with the regional, national, European and indeed global levels. Involved in developing this methodology was a community of experimenters (governments and other local and regional players, companies, hospitals, schools, associations, NGOs, researchers, etc.), which expanded little by little in order to produce the methodology and make it available to as many people as possible. The Wikispiral website is the main instrument in this process.
A direct result of the Council of Europe’s social cohesion strategy, the SPIRAL methodology is different from other participatory methodologies in that it is entirely open and systematised. In particular, it is distinct from a needs-based approach, placing the emphasis instead on an approach based on the idea of living together, whether in the same area or at the workplace; it ensures an equal right to speak for everyone, regardless of social situation; it takes full account of the diversity of opinions and cultures and makes it possible to reach common ground at all levels, from citizen groups to the global level, without any loss to the rich diversity of views expressed. It therefore provides a solid basis for strengthening democracy through the systematised acknowledgement of what citizens have to say.
What is behind the SPIRAL methodology
- a guiding principle: a) the well-being of all; b) optimum use of resources and non-use of non-renewable resources; c) progress towards sharing and equity, the corollary of the previous point
- an approach which involves all the various component parts of society by means of inclusive co-responsibility
- an integrated, as opposed to a compartmentalised approach, giving consideration to a) the localities in which people live (villages, neighbourhoods, towns, etc.) as community areas accommodating all kinds of difference (people in different phases of life, different genders, different cultures, different opportunities for access) using the same local resources; b) the different life paths of individuals, linking several phases in life between which the issues of well-being are experienced (childhood, youth, adult life, retirement, illness, exclusion, etc.).
- an approach which is both bottom-up and top-down between the local, regional, national and European level (see the Council of Europe Action Plan for Social Cohesion).
How the SPIRAL methodology is organised
a) In the bottom-up approach
- a methodological reference framework with three cycles of eight phases, serving as benchmarks for conducting the processes. A “fast” cycle (e.g. for a plan to combat poverty), an intermediate cycle (action plan for social cohesion) and a comprehensive cycle (territories of co-responsibility project).
- topics relating to co-responsibility for the well-being of all 1) in the co-ordination of processes, 2) in the management of resources, 3) in the sustainable production of goods and services, 4) in life paths, and 5) in relations between different sections of society. Topics are chosen so as to promote exchanges between practitioners faced with the same questions and to capitalise on and transmit skills and knowledge (see “discussion topics”).
- databases of experiences in the field (processes, pilot co-responsibility activities) and their results: well-being criteria, indicators, survey results, etc.
- dissemination/extension methods (communication on SPIRAL, training, formation of a pool of volunteers, etc.)
b) In the top-down approach
- systematised information on existing public policies enabling local players to find ways to ensure ownership/enhancement of these policies.
- areas for debate and putting forward proposals to adapt policies to the needs emerging from local issues and key topics.
How the co-construction of the SPIRAL methodology works
a) For the bottom-up approach
- The reference framework is regularly updated with the players involved, in the light of the results of the various experiments carried out in each of the 8 phases and for the three cycles.
- Each topic is independent and is given its own specific section on the Wikispiral website where the players concerned can exchange their practices, ideas and results so as to build together a methodological reference framework and tools (toolkit) for the topic, in accordance with the general SPIRAL approach.
- There is an interface on Wikispiral with the databases to enable all users (practitioners, researchers, etc.) to upload their own data, benefit from automatic processing and perform searches, recording the results of these various uses.
b) For the top-down approach
- the systematised information on policies is regularly updated, taking into account the expectations of citizens and key players. - The format of the areas for debate and putting forward proposals is still to be decided.