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Ongoing project

Civil society role of voluntary organisations in a period of change

Project period 2020 - 2022
Project leader Bernard Enjolras

Project Background

Civil society organisations play an important democratic role by connecting citizens and the political system. By forming a channel for influencing political decisions, organisations offer an arena for citizen participation and influence in democratic processes. In Norway, the political influence role of civil society organisations has traditionally been made possible through councils, committees, etc.

However, these forms of interaction between state and civil society have changed in recent decades. Lobbyism has increasingly characterised interaction. In addition, the internet and social media have changed the way voluntary organisations mobilise their members and try to influence political decision-making.

Whether the formal interaction institutions are weakened in Norway varies across policy fields.

Project Aim

The project will explore variations across different policy/institutional fields, to understand how the field's institutionalisation (of the relationship between policymakers and organised interests) affects the civil society role of the organisations (composition, organisational forms, economics, and impact strategies).

Research question

What factors influence the organisational forms of the voluntary organisations? What factors influence the voluntary organisations' choice of impact strategies within each policy field? For example, the size of the organisations, professionalisation, functional division of labour, the importance of public funding and the degree of political conflict.

To what extent do these factors vary across policy fields and to what extent have these factors changed over time?

What factors influence organisations' access to decision-making forums and political influence at the national level? To what extent do these factors vary across different policy fields? To what extent have the factors changed over time?

What interests (organisations) have the best access to political decision-making forums? To what extent are coalitions of interest groups an important tool for political access and influence and then also for less resourceful groups? Are there differences between policy fields regarding organisations' access to decision-making processes?

Project Approach

The project will carry out a systematic comparison of the role of voluntary organisations across three policy areas: welfare, the environment, and culture and leisure. These policy areas vary in size, professionalisation, functional division of labour (between volunteers, the public and market players), the importance of public funding and whether they are contested by contentious issues.

To examine the organisations' media strategies, the national organisation data from 2019 will be supplemented with data on the use of social media. Information about organisations' use of social media is available as data (digital tracks) on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.

The project will also use data from the representative panel to supplement the analyses. Here, elected representatives at various levels in Norway (municipality, county, the Storting (Norwegian parliament), the Sami Parliament) were asked in 2019 about their contact with different types of voluntary organisations.

In addition, a case-based survey of organisations in the various fields will be conducted.


Daniel Arnesen PhD Research Fellow +47 415 57 586 Send e-mail
Ivar Eimhjellen PhD Senior Research Fellow Send e-mail
Bernard Enjolras PhD Research Professor, Director Center for research on civil society and voluntary sector +47 976 89 237 Send e-mail
Rune Ervik PhD Research Professor Send e-mail
Vibeke Wøien Hansen PhD Senior Research Fellow +47 920 27 149 Send e-mail
Karl Henrik Sivesind Dr. polit. Research Professor +47 997 06 127 Send e-mail
Tord Skogedal Lindén PhD Research Director Send e-mail
Kristin Strømsnes Dr. polit Professor Send e-mail
Tags: Civil Society
Published June 22, 2020 1:23 PM - Last modified June 30, 2020 12:14 PM