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German Research Institute for Public Administration

Governance and incentive structures for the enhancement of municipal prevention policies for children and young people in a European comparison

The notion of "social investment" in the area of children and youth policies, especially promoted by several "soft", non-binding initiatives of the European Union recently became more and more prominent in the debate on sustainable social policy. Differing from more "classic", primarily compensating policies - taking action after a problem has arisen - the social investment approach focuses on early and rather preventive measures so that problems cannot occur in the first place. Additionally, it comprises the idea of an investment: For example, the promotion of education or health at an early stage can provide children and young people with better perspectives and facilitate better social participation. In other words: it helps children and youths to grow up more "successfully". This in turn avoids subsequent, higher follow-up costs related to further social problems.

The design and success of such preventive concepts for children and young people to grow up in a "better" way, however, differs throughout the European member states. The difference lies not only in the division of responsibilities throughout the different state and administrative levels, the fragmentation of the offering structures or the financing and governance arrangements, but also in the respective content alignment and the understanding of the term "prevention". This is what makes a European comparison challenging but also promising.

On the one hand this project aims to identify functional equivalents for certain links of the so-called "prevention chain" and to link them back to their specific context. On the other hand, the project strives to find successful concepts and to mirror them in the German context. However, the project does not simply try to import blueprints but to carefully fit them into the German system.

This European comparative study therefore proceeds in several steps:

  1. Drafting of a matrix-like overview of preventive structures in ten EU member states by means of differentiated scenarios ("core inventory")
  2. Conducting deepening case studies in three countries based on the "core inventory"
  3. Analysing the possible potential of transferring successful prevention concepts into the German context

With financial support by the state of North Rhine-Westphalia and the European Social Fund.


Senior Fellow

Prof. Dr. Stephan Grohs


Research Associate

Niclas Beinborn, M.A.


Research Associate

Nicolas Ullrich, M.A.



1.10.2017 - 31.12.2018


Bertelsmann Stiftung