Conference: The voluntary sector in the Nordic countries - Change agents and contract partners?

The Centre for Research on Civil Society and Voluntary Sector invites researchers to the conferenceThe voluntary sector in the Nordic countries - Change agents and contract partners?on 18-20 May 2011 in Bergen.

The voluntary sectors in the Nordic countries are characterized by a high level of membership and volunteering, in particular in sports, culture and recreation. However, the provision of welfare services is limited in comparative perspective.

Although the traditional popular movements with labour, fishermen, farmers, lay Christian, temperance and social and humanitarian associations have lost momentum, voluntary organizations are still important dialogue partners in policymaking in the welfare field and contribute to significant changes in policy areas like environment, gender, immigration, disabled people etc.

However, reasons for volunteering tend to become more instrumental and new organizations are more oriented towards local community and recreational services and less towards social change. At the same time the voluntary organizations’ role as welfare providers is under pressure from a more market oriented governance approach.

The conference will have a Nordic perspective on the relationship between the public and the voluntary sector. Keynote speakers add a comparative dimension with experiences from the US and Europe:

  • Steven Rathgeb Smith, Georgetown University: The changing relationship between the public sector and nonprofit welfare providers,

  • Adalbert Evers, Universität Gießen: The changing role of voluntary organizations as part of civil society and as welfare providers

Click here for programme and the call for papers.

Early bird fee applies until Friday 18 March. After 18 March the fee for delegates and students is augmented by NOK 500.

Open part
A part of the research conference will be open to participants working with voluntary organisations. Presentations will be in Scandinavian languages. Lubna Jaffery, State Secretary of the Ministry of Culture, has been invited to open the conference. In addition to presentations by Norwegian, Swedish and Danish researchers, ministers from the respective countries will participate in a panel discussion.

Bergen City
Bergen is the second largest city in Norway located on the west coast. Surrounded by seven mountains and bordered by the ocean, Bergen is renowned for its amazing scenery. Founded in 1070, it became one of the prominent trading ports in Europe and Norway´s first capital. Bergen remains to this day a vibrant city with much to offer and almost 1000 years history to explore.

17 May
Each year on 17 May Norwegians fill the streets with cheers and flags to celebrate the signing of the constitution in 1814. The day is a national holiday and will be celebrated in Bergen with a children’s parade and other activities.

What has this to do with a civil society conference? Well, the Norwegian constitution was one of the most radically democratic constitutions in the world at the time. However, since Norway was forced into a union with Sweden, celebration of the national day was forbidden by royal decree. On 17 May 1829 people gathered to cheer and sing national songs as a steamboat called “Constitutionen” arrived in Christiania (Oslo).

When people did not follow orders to go home and local police started to take part in the celebration, the cavalry was brought in against the peaceful crowd marching towards the Main Square. This led to street fighting, but no shots were fired in the infamous "battle of the Square", which made the radical poet Henrik Wergeland a public hero for standing up against the local governors. Later, he became the first to give a public address on behalf of the day and thus he was given credit as the one who "initiated the day".

17 May therefore is a celebration, not of a victorious military campaign, but of a civil struggle for democracy, freedom of speech and autonomy.

Av Luisa Klaveness (
Publisert 3. mars 2011 14:41