Since the years of its launch, social pedagogy has linked its refl exivity to the welfare state system. For this reason, the crisis of the traditional social protection models regards social pedagogy as a specifi c fi eld of research. Is it possible to say that the horizon of the crisis from the economic environment has effected the epistemological level of the educational welfare approach? Is it possible to fi nd in the actions of the educational professionals new paths useful to redefi ne the overall picture getting out from the crisis in a bottom-up direction? Starting from these research questions and through a qualitative approach keeping together analytical as well as transformative perspectives, this paper has focused on Bologna local context. The city of Bologna has been for a long time the national reference for the welfare policies, with particular regard to the educational innovations and experimentations that held together formal and not-formal education system and university research. In the fi rst part, the paper reviews briefl y the historical evolution of this scenario highlighting the possible reasons for a slope that led Bologna from the past of welfare state capital, to a situation in which the legacy of the past still allows good standards, but whose future appears at least foggy. The case-study of the European project ATOMS (research and action project focuses on educational trajectories to face the phenomenon of school drop-out) allows emblematically to enlighten the contradictions which characterize the educational local welfare in general. The project has been basing on the consciousness that the historical phase of Bologna’s educational welfare growth is over. Today, all the professionals involved have to rethink their approaches and actions as well as the local network that links them. From this path of Participatory Research Action (and from the semi-structured interviews made with the educators involved in the project) it has been possible to underline actors’ motivations and viewpoints, and new proposals emerging from the bottom as possible future project horizons in a pedagogical sense.