EXIT is structured in three phases:



Building knowledge on ‘left-behindness’

The concept of ‘left-behind’ has attracted growing political, media and academic attention in recent times. Yet, understandings of what it means for a certain area to be ‘left-behind’ vary widely and are subject to different interpretations, sometimes understood only through economic indicators of deprivation and/or stagnation, in other occasions regarded as particular sites with differentiated socioeconomic characteristics of the area and the population, defined by diverging sets of variables or even as a particular experience of inhabiting. The EXIT project will analyse its uses in academic and policy settings and focus on the discursive construction of the concept to help situate it within different economies of policymaking and for measuring its resonance in the lived reality of peoples who inhabit places designated as ‘left-behind’.

👉 Guidelines on uses and misconceptions of the concept “left-behind”


Mapping inequality and its drivers from an intersectional perspective: socioeconomic data, experiences and perceptions of inequality in areas ‘left-behind’

The second phase of the project combines policy and secondary data analysis with ethnographic research to build a comprehensive understanding of territorial inequality (why territorial inequality is growing) and the experience of this inequality from an intersectional approach (how territorial inequality is lived and perceived).
EXIT will conduct and in-depth empirical research of areas experiencing territorial inequality. Data analysis of economic indicators at the local level will produce an overview of the development of inequalities in recent years in these areas and will allow us to evaluate to what extent some these features in these, and neighbour areas are responsible for territorial inequalities in areas ‘left-behind’. The analysis of policies aimed at addressing growing territorial inequalities, including focus groups with policymakers and key actors on the ground (unions, activist groups, NGOs, etc.) and an online survey examining views over key policies and perceptions of inequality, will contribute to understanding the policy-impact gap, setting the grounds for the action phase, and determine key questions for the following stages of research.
Extensive field research will combine in-depth interviews and participant observation of key sites within the designated ‘left-behind’ areas. This will allow gaining a comprehensive understanding of the experience of territorial inequalities from an intersectional perspective that considers how this is crossed by other axes of inequality, including environmental, gender and representational factors. These methodologies will also allow uncovering the constellations of actors, practices and resources that are not recognised in policy responses, but which offer the potentiality of helping to alleviate the effects of inequalities.
The combined results of these methods will allow identifying gaps between socioeconomic and policy factors of inequality and their lived experience. This will provide a unique insight into how to tackle the policy-impact gap.


The third phase will identify strategies of resistance and resilience to face territorial inequalities among the constellations of actors, practices, and resources that are not recognised in policy responses and in the context of increasing territorial inequality. This will contribute to promoting an understanding of the needs on the ground, as well as of the effects of policy on local communities and their responses (or lack thereof) against trends of growing territorial inequality. Building on this, this third phase of the project aims to promote community participation in policymaking. Starting with an ‘empowerment’ workshop in each of the fieldwork sites, the project will bring back the results of the analysis of policies, perceptions, and experiences to the participants for assessment. These workshops will provide tools to participating citizens for participation in two rounds of consultation with policymakers, experts, and other key actors (social partners, NGOs, civil society organisations, etc.). These rounds of consultation will lead to the production of diverse outputs addressed to policymakers at different levels to enhance cooperation with actors on the ground, effectively answer to the needs of areas ‘left-behind’, tackle the gap between policy and its implementation and address the perceptions of political abandonment among citizens.