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EXIT – Exploring Sustainable Strategies to Counteract Territorial Inequalities from an Intersectional Approach

The project will provide an in-depth analysis of ‘left-behindness’ and identify strategies to address it.

Grant Agreement Number: 101061122

Funded by: HORIZON      Duration: 01/11/2022 – 31/11/2025


In recent years there has been a growing redrawing of social inequalities across Europe. Within the European Union we find regions that, despite overall country level economic growth, are experiencing long-term socioeconomic stagnation or decline. Territorial inequalities cause harm to individuals and households, as lagging regions are characterized by systematically low levels of wellbeing across numerous dimensions.

In trying to identify these structures, certain areas facing territorial inequalities have been characterised as “left-behind places” understood as those that have been bypassed by the economic prosperity from which others have benefited. These refer, mostly, to rural and old industrial areas where life-chances are limited and future growth stagnated, especially in contrast to continuously growing prosperous metropolises.

Little is known, however, about the factors that drive inequality in these areas or, more significantly, about what drives the perceptions of these areas as being ‘left-behind’. Addressing how different axes of inequalities intersect in perceptions and experiences of ‘left-behindness’ is crucial to understand the gap between the development of policies to redress territorial inequalities and their impact on the ground.


The project EXIT aims at providing an in-depth analysis of ‘left-behindness’ as a concept used for characterising territorial inequalities faced by certain areas and, grounded on this, identify strategies to address it. This means not only building knowledge on drivers of inequalities in areas that are characterised as ‘left-behind’, but also on what drives perceptions of these areas as ‘left-behind’.


The concept of ‘left-behind’ has attracted growing political, media and academic attention in recent times. Yet, understandings of what it means for a certain area to be ‘left-behind’ vary widely and are subject to different interpretations, sometimes understood only through economic indicators of deprivation and / or stagnation, in other occasions regarded as particular sites with differentiated socioeconomic characteristics of the area and the population, defined by diverging sets of variables or even as an experience of inhabiting a deprived area. The project will analyse its uses in academic and policy settings and focus on the discursive construction of the concept to help situate it within different economies of policymaking and for measuring its resonance in the lived reality of peoples who inhabit places designated as ‘left-behind’.

EXIT will conduct in-depth empirical research of areas ‘left-behind’. Data analysis of economic indicators at the local level will produce an overview of the development of inequalities in recent years in these areas and will allow us to evaluate to what extent some these features in these, and neighbour areas are responsible for territorial inequalities in areas ‘left-behind’. The analysis of policies aimed at addressing growing territorial inequalities, including focus groups with policymakers and key actors on the ground (unions, activist groups, NGOs, etc.) and an online survey examining views over key policies and perceptions of inequality, will contribute to understanding the policy-impact gap, setting the grounds for the action phase.

Project partners will identify strategies of resistance and resilience to face territorial inequalities among the constellations of actors, practices and resources that are not recognised in policy responses and in the context of increasing territorial inequality. This will contribute to promoting an understanding of the needs on the ground, as well as of the effects of policy on local communities and their responses (or lack thereof) against trends of growing territorial inequality. Building on this, this third phase of the project aims to promote community participation in policymaking. Starting with an ‘empowerment’ workshop in each of the fieldwork sites, the project will bring back the results of the analysis of policies, perceptions, and experiences to the participants for assessment. These workshops will provide tools to citizens for participation in two rounds of consultation with policymakers, experts, and other key actors (social partners, NGOs, civil society organisations, etc.). These rounds of consultation will lead to the production of diverse outputs addressed to policymakers to enhance cooperation with actors on the ground, effectively answer to the needs of areas ‘left-behind’, tackle the gap between policy and its implementation and address the perceptions of political abandonment among citizens.

European Commission’s support for the production of this content does not constitute an endorsement of the contents, which reflect the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

Project Partners

KMOP – Social Action and Innovation Centre (Greece)
Universitat de Barcelona (Spain)
Università Ca’Foscari (Italy)
Tecnische Universität Wien (Austria)
Warwick University (UK)
Universidad de Oviedo (Spain)
Université Libre de Bruxelles (Belgium)
Centre for Social Policy (Serbia)
European Anti-Poverty Network (Spain)
Aalborg Universitet (Denmark)
Associazione Ricreativa e Culturale Italiana (Italy)

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