PERFORM is a project of Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), implemented by HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation and University of Fribourg.
The overall goal of the project is to focus on strengthening the relevance of social sciences for social and political reforms.
The first phase of the project started with a nine-months inception period in January 2015; it will end in December 2018. Two more phases are being planned. In the current phase, PERFORM is closely collaborating with national research systems in Albania and Serbia, with the perspective to include three more Western Balkan countries, starting in 2019.
The Regional Management Unit of PERFORM is placed in Belgrade, Serbia, National Coordination Units operate in Belgrade and Tirana, Albania.
Social sciences focus on understanding societies and the changes that take place in them. They can contribute to a public discourse and to policy making, pointing out how changes can be managed for the benefit of the society and its citizens.
After the collapse of the communist system in Albania and the breakup of Yugoslavia, Western Balkan countries embarked on a process of transition to democracy. This process has proved to be slow and complex, characterised by low levels of political participation, weak governance, and a conflictual political culture.
Social sciences are able to point to alternative policy options, reinforce the necessity of political reforms, nurture public debates and contribute to evolving democratic values. They can play a paramount role in the critical exploration and analysis of problems related to reforms. That way they can contribute to building a more open and democratic society.
The link between social science research and policy making, including a meaningful public debate, is weak in Western Balkan countries. The potentials of social science and research remain under-used in their contributions to quality, evidence-informed policy making and public debate.
Social sciences need to change to meet the challenge of the future. Social sciences need to develop strategies for teaching, research and civic engagement to deal with the complex problems facing societies in the future. Social science research cannot be solely the preserve of professionals, but has to become participative through close collaboration with different groups of society. Social scientists need to work alongside those who they considered strangers in the past, including governments, business, policy-makers, natural scientists and medical scholars. Social scientists will have to go beyond the comfort of quiet reflection in their offices, and the reassurance of their books.
The overarching goal of PERFORM is a strong, confident and publicly positioned social science research community that meaningfully contributes to socio-economic and political reform processes.
The overall goal can be achieved through the following three components (outcomes)
Outcome 1: Strengthened social science community
This component aims to improve horizontal structures and cooperation within the social science community as well as to enhance capacities of research.
Outcome 2: Systemic linkages to political reform processes, civil society organizations, private sector and media
Component 2 focuses on facilitating the development of mechanisms and systems for the collaboration between social science and other domains of society.
Outcome 3: Favourable framework conditions and financial mechanisms
PERFORM will work with the respective government institutions to facilitate and contribute to improved conditions in the overall framework for social science and research.