COST (The European Cooperation in Science and Technology) is a funding organisation for the creation of research networks, called COST Actions. These networks offer an open space for collaboration among scientists across Europe (and beyond) and thereby give impetus to research advancements and innovation.

Who Cares in Europe? is a four year COST Action (20/03/2019 – 19/03/2023) that defines and develops an emerging research field that explores the relationships among voluntary associations, families and states in the creation of social welfare in Europe. It focuses on the question of how state welfare emerged from the social welfare provided by non-profit, non-state institutions and individuals; how it has developed and changed over time; and how, in recent years, it has entered into crisis in many countries.


The Action, which is at once local and transnational, brings together researchers and policy makers throughout Europe in a collaborative exchange. The Action emphasizes the welfare state’s deep historical roots, and uses local case studies to recover the “voices” and contributions of individuals, families and voluntary associations. This will give us a much deeper and richer story about social protection in Europe than is currently available. By analyzing the long-term development of welfare within a triadic optic that examines the interactions among families, voluntary welfare associations and states in the creation of social welfare, the Action has the potential to radically shift dominant paradigms in the field of welfare studies. The Action will contribute to welfare policy development and debate by offering a historical perspective on current problems and debates and the principles and premises that underpin them.

The specific objectives:

Research Coordination

  • Define the research field, including the development of common terminology and categories that enable comparisons between different national case studies.
  • Identify and collate existing research in the field.
  • Build links and identify synergies between current national and transnational research in the emerging field.
  • Test and apply the proposed triadic approach, and its foregrounding of an active role for families, for its transnational, national and local relevance.
  • Coordinate a series of publications on the history of modern European welfare from a perspective that foregrounds interactions among actors from families and voluntary associations as well as state actors.
  • Coordinate publication of a series of European readers for students in history, and in the social and political sciences.
  • Coordinate a series of round-tables, workshops and conferences involving policy makers and think tanks.
  • Disseminate research results to a broad audience, including policy makers, think tanks and voluntary associations, by contributing to relevant websites, journals and online publications.

Capacity Building

  • Coordinate knowledge-sharing forums and the development of a collaborative research agenda.
  • Coordinate a series of meetings, workshops and conferences to define and develop our emerging field of research.
  • Coordinate a series of cross-disciplinary dialogues with welfare state specialists from the political and social sciences.
  • Expand the network to include more scholars working in, and on, Eastern and South Eastern Europe, and on questions of international order.
  • Act as a platform for knowledge exchange and dialogue between historians, policy makers and think tanks.
  • Encourage the participation of early career researchers in all network activities including action management committee, research missions and working groups.