About DieGem


An interdisciplinary research project on solidarity in diversity

Research project

The DieGem research project is driven by the hypothesis that citizenship practices in everyday life settings of forced propinquity are important moments of social learning in which new and innovative ways of nurturing cross-boundary solidarity in diverse societies are developed. This hypothesis draws upon state of the art theories within the disciplines of sociology, social geography, spatial planning, political science and social and cultural pedagogy. Since little thorough empirical exploration and testing of such an hypothesis has been done to date, the scientific objectives of our project are threefold: 
To enrich theorizing within the various disciplines through systematic interdisciplinary confrontation of theoretical perspectives on solidarity, diversity, community, learning, citizenship and place. 
To verify and to explore the validity of our hypothesis on the basis of exploratory case study research in different settings of everyday life. 
To refine and to adjust theories on the basis of the empirical results of the case studies. 
These objectives will be pursued through a research strategy consisting of three major work packages. In a theoretical work package , we will develop and operationalize a rethinking of solidarity in diversity by using the most recent insights on solidarity, diversity, community, learning, citizenship and place in different disciplines. By the end of 2013, this operationalization should be achieved by interdisciplinary theorizing, by identifying how related policy concepts in Flanders converge and diverge from this scientific understanding and by testing its applicability in four pilot case studies. 
In a second work package, we will develop a methodology for exploratory case study research . By the end of 2013, this work package will prepare researchers for action research. In close collaboration with the advisory committee, this will include the fine-tuning of operational criteria for the selection of cases, the elaboration of the research method and the drafting of a template for the case study reports. 
A third work package will focus on empirical case study research. Throughout 2014, 2015 and 2016, we will refine our understanding of solidarity in diversity through a confrontation with 32 formal and informal practices and interventions to generate solidarity in cultural diversity. These case studies will be situated in four broad settings of everyday life: housing, labour, education and leisure. 

Research transfer

The 63 members of our advisory committee share the challenge of stimulating solidarity in a context of increasing cultural diversity. While they assume different roles and work in different settings of everyday life, they are confronted with the limits of existing concepts and practices and call for innovative perspectives on how to nurture solidarity in diversity. The DieGem project answers this call through the delivery of five specific products.

These five products areprimarily aimed at the members of our advisory committee. Through several public events, they will also reach a broader audience of organizations concerned with solidarity in diversity, however:

  • conceptual framework on solidarity in diversity will allow policy, intermediary and frontline organizations to reformulate their objectives and mission statements in light of alternative forms of solidarity in diversity.
  • An action research training and manual will improve the reflexive capacities of fieldworkers and help them to evaluate their own interventions in a critical manner.
  • database with concrete practices and interventions will offer inspiring examples of interventions to stimulate solidarity in diversity.
  •  A report with guidelines for intervention strategies will help frontline organizations to translate good practices and concepts into new and effective projects to nurture solidarity in diversity. A further specification of guidelines in the four settings of housing, labour, education and leisure will be developed in collaboration with advisory committee members.

  •  An assessment strategies toolbox will address the weaknesses of existing evaluation strategies which are overly quantitative and excessively output oriented.

Research team

University of Antwerp; Centre on Inequality, Poverty, Social Exclusion and the City (OASeS)       
Prof. dr. Stijn Oosterlynck, promotor-coordinator 
Dr. Nick Schuermans, scientific coordinator 
Bart Van Bouchaute, researcher 
Anika Depraetere, researcher 

University of Leuven; Laboratory for Education and Society
Prof. dr. Joke Vandenabeele, promotor 
Anika Depraetere, researcher 
Marc Jans, research transfer coordinator 

University of Leuven; Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences; Division of Geography 
Prof. dr. Maarten Loopmans, promotor 
Dr. Nick Schuermans, researcher 
Floor Spijkers, researcher 
Marjan Moris, researcher

University of Ghent, Departement of Conflict and Development Studies
Prof. dr. Sami Zemni, promotor
Dr. Pascal Debruyne, researcher

University College Ghent; Education Health & Social Work
Dr. Griet Verschelden, promotor
Jolijn Dehaene, researcher 
Riet Steel, researcher

University of Leuven, Departement of Architecture, Urbanism and Planning; Architecture and Society
Prof. dr. Frank Moulaert, promotor
Ruth Segers, researcher

LUCA School of Arts, Sint-Lucas Architecture
Prof. dr. Pascal De Decker, promotor
Jana Verstraete, researcher