In the project, the researchers use various methods and materials — both quantitative and qualitative — to examine both formal and informal civil society initiatives that have often been overlooked in previous research. The results presented in the Policy Brief are based on material from five residential areas with socioeconomic challenges in Sweden, and comparisons with two additional residential areas in England. The total selection includes case studies and interviews with over 200 individuals who are involved in civil society in Sweden and England in various ways, of which over 100 represent different civil society initiatives in Sweden.

Some overall conclusions and recommendations

  • The notion of an absent civil society in suburbs often does not match reality, as civil society plays important roles where state and private efforts are insufficient.
  • Civil society plays an active role in promoting schooling and employment opportunities through a variety of activities and initiatives. These include tutoring for children and adults, language cafés that promote language learning and exchange, and various efforts to promote higher education and work, such as assistance in CV writing, and help in mediating internship and trainee positions.
  • Civil society plays a significant role in social-psychological integration by contributing support, humanity, expectations, hope, and resistance. The local civil society, for example, often aims to counter what is perceived as a one-sided debate about "vulnerable areas" by changing the narrative and contributing to positive expectations or support in various forms.
  • Civil society faces major challenges, not least in ensuring access to necessary resources. To address this, it would therefore be advisable to simplify the process for small civil society organizations to seek funding and to ensure that the funds and resources offered are adequate and geared towards initiatives with local relevance.

About the author

Gabriella Elgenius Professor in Sociology at the Department of Sociology and Work Science at the University of Gothenburg.

Publication date: December 15, 2023

Photo: Andrew Moca from Unsplash