Dimensions of Social Inclusion and Exclusion

The focus of this section is predominantly on social inclusion, which inherently includes the factors of social exclusion.

In order to promote social inclusion, it is important to understand the processes through which individuals or groups are excluded, as promotion of inclusion can only be possible by tackling exclusion.

Social inclusion needs to occur on various dimensions and multiple levels.

It is a process through which the dignity of each individual is recognized, needs and concerns of all people are reflected, rights of all people are not only guaranteed in legislation, but also respected, and people are able to participate actively in life activities.

The process of social inclusion needs to take place simultaneously at multiple levels, from the individual, community and local levels, to the regional and national levels, as social inclusion is a subject which concerns all stakeholders in society.

While social inclusion involves formal (societal) level engagements, ensuring that institutions in society reflect, uphold, respect, and activate the inclusive processes within society, it at the same time, addresses the informal (individual) level of engagements, and as such, perceptions and experiences of individuals, how they think and feel, also need to be taken into account.

Social inclusion reflects, on the one hand, an individual’s experience of and possibilities for self-actualization, and on the other hand, societal capacities to eliminate causes of exclusion and ensure equal opportunities for all.

Steps to promoting social inclusion

In order to understand the actual process of social inclusion, The following five categories of inclusion could be considered as incremental steps to promote social inclusion.

These steps are hierarchical with visibility as the first step.

Without the possibility to fulfill the lower steps the person is deterred and limited from climbing to the next step. Each of the five steps can be approached and understood in terms of both “process” and “contents”.

The five steps are as follows:

1) Visibility:

First and foremost, people need to be noticed, recognized, and have their own voices.

There is no possibility of having a voice if an individual or group is not accounted for and represented in the processes that make up formal society.

One of the greatest difficulties even at a local level is the actual census of population.

People remain uncounted and therefore invisible. 

2) Consideration:

The concerns and needs of individuals and groups are taken into account by policy-makers.

Often policy-makers do not consider the poor and other marginalized groups as important stakeholders, and therefore, do not incorporate their needs and concerns. 

3) Access to Social Interactions

People must be able to engage in society’s activities and social networks in their daily life, including economic, social, cultural, religious, and political activities. 

4) Rights:

People must have rights to act and claim, rights to be different, legal rights, rights to access social services, such as housing, education, transportation, and health care. They must have claimed will regress if one is discriminated. 

5) Resources to fully participate in society

Those who do not have access to rights are not able to participate fully in society. However, even if people have rights to access, they cannot participate fully without adequate resources.

Therefore, resources to fully participate in all aspects of societal activities are the ultimate step for successful social inclusion. It is not only because of lack of financial resources that people are unable to participate, or stop participating, but also because of conditions, such as insufficient time or energy, spatial distance, lack of recognition, lack of respect, physical conditions or constraints. These elements all need to be taken into consideration

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