About The Project


The world is in the midst of multiple political, economic, and social crises. Mounting inequalities across Europe further fuel these crises. Some territories and their citizens are neglected, while economic dynamism is increasingly concentrated in a few places. This is particularly prominent from a geographical perspective as spatial inequality grows within regions. Despite overall country level economic growth, certain regions are experiencing long-term socioeconomic stagnation or decline. These areas have been often characterised as ‘left-behind’. Yet, little is known of what drives ‘left-behindness’.


EXIT will provide an in-depth analysis of ‘left-behind’ as a concept used for characterising territorial inequalities faced by certain areas, and identify strategies to address it. This means not only building knowledge on the drivers of inequality in these areas, but also on what drives political, media, and academic characterisations of these areas as ‘left-behind’ and experiences and perceptions of abandonment among inhabitants of these areas.
To do so, EXIT proposes a bottom-up, interdisciplinary and mixed-methods research with a community-based and intersectional approach from the analysis to the transferability of practices.

OUR objectives

  • Gain an in-depth understanding on how the concept of “left-behind” has been used in research, policy and political discourse to define certain areas facing territorial inequality. Understand and unfold the rationale, added value and bias, of the concept in relation to linked concepts such as geographic inequality, disparities and stigmatisation, territorial cohesion, and spatial justice. 


  •  Analyse and assess how policies at different levels (local, regional, EU) contribute to the perception of inequality among “left-behind” areas.


  •  Gain knowledge on the experiences and perceptions of territorial inequality and how these vary among and within areas considered as “left-behind”. Understand how perceptions and experiences of inequality contribute to defining an area as “left-behind”. Identify gaps between socioeconomic factors of inequality and the perception of being “left-behind”. 


    •  socioeconomic factors of inequality and the perception of being “left-behind”.


    •  Examine existing practices and strategies that promote levelling up and social inclusion in areas considered as “left-behind”. Identify and enhance the capacity of grassroots, local and regional initiatives that promote the development of areas considered as “left-behind” and analyse to what extent the initiatives work to counteract inequalities and polarization within these areas.


    •  Enhance cooperation between local and regional stakeholders from areas in decline and policymakers at all levels, promoting the transferability and upscaling of successful initiatives.


    •  Propose sustainable strategies of governance to address growing territorial inequalities through a participatory and intersectional approach.

    Who will benefit from the project?

    • People living in areas in economic stagnation and decline
    • Local civil society actors, including grassroots initiatives, support organisations and unions
    • Policymakers at local and regional level
    • Policymakers at national and EU level
    • Researchers working in the field of territorial inequalities