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Handbook on Third Sector Policy in Europe

Multi-level Processes and Organized Civil Society

Edited by Jeremy Kendall

While scholarship on the social, economic and political contributions of organisations existing between the market and the state has proliferated in recent years, no sustained attention has previously been paid to how such organisations are collectively treated by, and respond to, public policy. The expert contributors examine the policy environment for, and evolving policy treatment of, the third sector in the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom from a comparative perspective. They also look at how the third sector relates to multi-level European policy processes, including the Open Method of Co-ordination, the Community Method, nationally-led ‘partnership’ approaches within an overall EU framework and the United Nations International Year of Volunteering; an initiative implemented in the EU but originating externally.
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Chapter 8: Sweden: When Strong Third Sector Historical Roots Meet EU Policy Processes

Lars-Erik Olsson, Marie Nordfeldt and Ola Larsson


Lars-Erik Olsson, Marie Nordfeldt, Ola Larsson and Jeremy Kendall* 8.1 Introduction Sweden has a long third sector1 tradition with strong historical roots reflecting its ‘popular mass movement’ and cooperative heritage. But this is a legacy that is currently slowly but surely evolving in the context of internal reform as well as external events. In this chapter we will examine the contours of the domestic scene, but also attend to how this interacts with policy processes originating at the European Union (EU) level. Sweden’s membership of the EU is well over a decade old, and this has set in train developments across its policy systems in general, and with some implications in relation to the third sector as a policy actor in particular. We will suggest in this chapter that the ‘popular mass movement model’, which can be said to capture the overall essence of Sweden’s traditional third sector policy environment, is characterized by robust, historically rooted institutional arrangements for membership-based ownership, democratic structure but also voluntary work. The remarkable strength of this threefold combination of features distinguish the sector in Sweden (and other Nordic countries) from its counterparts elsewhere in Europe. We examine the historical and contextual path dependence of the model, and explore how recent reforms and developments are connected to it. And building on this portrait of the domestic scene, we investigate the extent to which the EU policy process provides new ‘opportunity structures’, examining the extent to which EU membership has had an impact on the nature...

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