Changing Balance: The Participation and Role of Voluntary Organisations in the Swedish Policy Process



This article focuses on the changing level of participation of voluntary organisations in the policy process between 1964 and 2009 and its implication for the role played by voluntary organisations to the state. Drawing on data from the remiss procedure – one of the most understudied parts of the Swedish policy-making process – the results implicate a reduced role for voluntary organisations in formal arenas for policy making. While the number of participating voluntary organisations has remained stable, the relative share of participating organisations has declined and an increasing proportion of organisations have abstained from participating. In addition, the shares of conflict-oriented and member-benefit-oriented organisations have decreased while consensus-oriented and public-benefit-oriented organisations appear to have increased slightly. These findings are discussed in the context of changes in the coordination and implementation of public policies, implying that over time the role of voluntary organisations as arenas for deliberation and mediators of individual interests tend to have gradually lost ground in relation to the state while the share of organisations taking direct welfare responsibility has slightly increased. Although it may be premature to speak about a shifting role of voluntary organisations from input to output in the political system, the result suggest an emerging trend in that direction. Further research is needed to clarify whether this changing pattern of participation is evident in other arenas for policy making in Sweden or is an isolated feature explained from the outset of the remiss procedure.