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 INFORM project is entrusted by the European Commission Horizon 2020 programme to carry out meticulous, bottom-up study that will result both in original research output and policy recommendations, aimed at acknowledging informality as part of social life and closing the gap between formal and informal institutions in Balkan societies.
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 5900 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.