INFORM | Closing the Gap between Formal and Informal Institutions in the Balkans

HORIZON 2020 Funding of 2.4 million euros for the project, entitled “Closing the Gap between Formal and Informal Institutions in the Balkans” will run for three years and is led by Eric Gordy, on behalf of UCL SSEES.

UCL SSEES is the lead partner and coordinator of a consortium of eight other universities across the region, that will be looking at the key formal and informal ‘rules of the game’ and identifying the ‘unwritten rules’ underpinning the tactical manoeuvring between formal and informal institutions, at various levels of social life.

The EC commented that the project was welcome because it paid attention to the lived experience of people across the region, including a “highly relevant” empirical study via interviews with around 6,200 people in the countries of the Western Balkans.

INFORM is a project that brings together teams from nine European countries to conduct multidisciplinary social science research on formal and informal institutions in the Balkan region. The project, launched in March 2016, will be carried out over the course of three years in the framework of the Horizon 2020 programme.

Objective

"Southeast Europe has seen a century of continuous transformation and “transition” – the disappearance and emergence of states, political and legal systems, ideologies, institutions, and social classes. This has been accompanied by a stability of social practices resistant to change. Shaken by radically changing ideological and legal structures, citizens rely on customary and informal social networks of kin, symbolic kin, and friends for meeting economic needs, and on clan- or kin-related structures rather than the rule of law for security and protection. We trace the persistence of informal practices to: 1) the external origin of major transformations, including the “transitions” to and from socialism; 2) the incomplete character of change, which has tended to be replaced by equally radical but diametrically opposed projects; 3) the development of a buffer culture based on informal practices, directed to enabling people to survive under unstable conditions; and 4) the widening gap between formal institutions and informal social practices.
The distance between proclaimed goals and existing practices represents the key challenge to the European integration of Balkan societies. The integration process could end with superficial change, behind which the ""real"" social life of corruption, clientelism, tension, inequality, and exclusion will continue to unfold. We propose to explicate the key formal and informal “rules of the game”, and to identify and decipher the ""unwritten rules"" which underpin tactical maneuvering between formal and informal institutions, in various spheres and at various levels of social life. These would then be compared to the demands and recommendations laid out in the key EU documents outlining expectations from Southeast European states. The goal is to contribute to the formulation of policy recommendations which would aim not to eradicate informal practices, but to close the gap between formal and informal institutions in Balkan societies."

 

PROJECT OVERVIEW

INFORM aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of the interaction between the formal institutions brought about by EU integration processes and the informal institutions prevalent in the Western Balkan countries.

Formal institutions and rules, such as legal and political regulations, as well as organizations and mechanisms of their implementation, determine formal constraints. Informal institutions, on the other hand, comprise the unwritten rules within a society and highlight the importance of such aspects of social life as conventions, cultural norms, and networks of affinity.

The project is based on the premise that, shaken by radically changing ideological and legal structures over the past century, citizens of the Western Balkan countries continue to rely on informal social networks to ensure their socio-economic and political security. These parallel processes have resulted in the widening of the gap between formal institutions and informal social practices. Consequently, the distance between proclaimed goals and existing practices represents a key challenge to the European integration of Balkan societies.

INFORM aims to address this paradox by explicating the key formal and informal “rules of the game” that underpin tactical maneuvering between formal and informal institutions in various spheres and at various levels of social life in the Western Balkan countries. The identification and deciphering of the unwritten rules allows for a comparison to the demands and recommendations laid out in the key EU integration.

The meticulous, bottom-up research, based in ethnographic approach, will result in policy recommendations aimed at acknowledging informality as part of social life and closing the gap between formal and informal institutions in Balkan societies.

IMPLEMENATION PHASES

METHODS

The multidisciplinarity of the INFORM project requires complex methodological approach that relies on a large variety of quantitative and qualitative methods and techniques. The multifaceted approach, in turn, generates a uniquely comprehensive picture of formal and informal institutions in the Balkan region.

The quantitative side of the project is to yield a face-to-face survey of total 6,200 respondents in Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, FYR of Macedonia, Albania, Kosovo, and Montenegro. The qualitative research includes 36 months of ethnographic work, semi-structured interviews with survey respondents, and interviews with policy makers. A set of case studies on select topics will probe into particularly salient examples of informal institutions.

The research also includes long-term consultation processes. Along with continuous collaboration among team members representing various scholarly disciplines, the project participants are to engage in consultative workshops with national and EU level offices for European integration of the Western Balkan countries.

 

Coordinator

UNIVERSITY COLLEGE LONDON
United Kingdom

Participants

INSTITUT ZA ETNOLOGIJU I FOLKLORISTIKU
Croatia
UNIVERZA V MARIBORU
Slovenia
CENTAR ZA INTRADISCIPLINARNA PRIMIJENJENA DRUSTVENA ISTRAZIVANJA
Bosnia and Herzegovina
CENTER FOR EMPIRICAL CULTURAL STUDIES OF SOUTH EAST EUROPE
Serbia
INSTITUTE FOR DEMOCRACY SOCIETAS CIVILIS SKOPJE
Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
QENDRA E KERKIMEVE HISTORIKE DHE ANTROPOLOGJIKE
Albania
SOCIAL RESEARCH KOSOVA LLC
Kosovo
RIGAS STRADINA UNIVERSITATE
Latvia
Project type
  • H2020
Country of the coordinating institution
United Kingdom
Acronym
INFORM
Geographical focus
  • H2020
  • WBC
Scientifc field / Thematic focus
  • Cross-thematic/Interdisciplinary
Runtime
December 2015 - December 2018

Entry created by Ines Marinkovic on January 28, 2016
Modified on November 17, 2016