By Anders Bäckström
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Conversely, it was much more difficult to foresee exactly what would happen in the course of the research: what welfare needs would we find, and in what ways were the churches involved? For this reason, it was important to allow space for an initial mapping of the organizations in question, and then to construct a way of working that was sufficiently flexible to accommodate the unexpected. The first step was to decide on the specific localities. The process was thoroughly discussed by the research team as a whole, before the choices were made by the senior advisor in each country.
Indeed, in some cases, these people turned out to be even more significant than we had anticipated – particular individuals could make a huge difference to the research process, not to mention to the welfare system as such. It was equally important, however, to discover the opinion of the general population – this time by means of focus groups as well as interviews, involving as wide a range of people as possible. Wherever possible, this stage of the research took place within existing communities – for example, among students, women’s groups, retired people or unemployed individuals; in some cases, however, the researcher had to start from scratch.
A careful perusal of the accounts that follow, however, will reveal that large sections of the welfare system in Europe would simply collapse without the contributions of the churches, which remain – despite everything – key players in the field. The second point concerns timing: most of the case studies in WREP took place between 2004 and 2005. They capture, therefore a particular moment in the evolution of each of the societies of which they were part. Some updating has taken place – mostly in terms of more recent publications.
Configuring the connections by Anders Bäckström