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Exploring cooperative bodies between municipalities and the local civil society

Research project Practically all Swedish municipalities have cooperative bodies where representatives from the municipality regularly meet members of local civil society organizations. Such joint units are advisory councils for pensioners and for national minorities. This project aims at mapping the existence of such bodies and to explore their political role by surveying their members. Our project is the Swedish part of an international comparative study of municipal-civil society bodies in 20 countries.

This project addresses a gap in our knowledge about institutionalized relationships between municipalities and the civil society. The Swedish study is part of an international research project, carried out in 20 European countries. The project aims at mapping the occurrence of municipal-civil society cooperation bodies and to analyse their role in the local polity. An inventory of the existence of cooperative bodies has been completed and is being followed by a survey of their members. The project will generate new knowledge on the interaction between local government and the civil society.

Head of project

Anders Lidström
Professor emeritus

Project overview

Project period:

2017-11-01 2022-12-31

Participating departments and units at Umeå University

Department of Political Science

Research area

Political science

Project description

An international research project on municipal-civil society relationships
Bodies with representatives from a municipality and the local civil society have existed for a long time in most European countries but so far, these have not been subject to systematic and comparative research. The lack of knowledge is striking as the inclusion of the civil society in local decision-making is an important component in a well-functioning local democracy. Citizens who are active in civil society organizations contribute to the democratic vitality of the local community.

This project is the Swedish part of an international comparative study entitled “Local State-Society Relationships”. The aim is to map the existence of municipal-civil society bodies in 20 European countries and to analyse their role in local political decision-making. National inventories of these bodies have been completed and are being followed by a survey of their members.

The Swedish study
The results of the analysis of the Swedish inventory has been published in Lidström and Feltenius 2021 (see below for links to more reading). One finding is that joint bodies are particularly common in the welfare sector and where the purpose is to establish links with immigrants and national minorities.

The project in Sweden is now engaged in surveying members of five types of joint bodies, during the period December 2020 to April 2021. Four of these types are advisory councils  for pensioners, for the disabled, for national minorities and for immigrants. The fifth type is Local Actions Groups (LAG), which provide funding for rural development projects as a part of the EU Leader-programme. The LAG:s are partnerships with representative of municipalities, local businesses and the local civil society. The findings from the survey will be published in a report in Swedish in early 2022 and later that year also in an international research anthology.

The results from the first phase of the project has been published in:
Teles, F., Gendzwill, A., Stanus, C. and Heinelt, H. (eds.) Close Ties in European Local Governance: Linking State and Society (vol 1). Palgrave Macmillan, 2021.

The book includes the following chapter on conditions in Sweden:
Lidström, Anders & Feltenius, David, 2021. Local State-Society Relations in Sweden.

Latest update: 2021-02-15