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The work of the Swedish ULG on citizen dialogue

07 March 2017

By: Jörgen Dehlin - Project curator
County Administrative Board of Skåne

An ongoing challenge for the public sector in Sweden is the important dialogue with citizens. For the public sector to provide the right service to their citizens and for there to be trust between politicians and citizens, dialogue is a core value.

The County Administrative Board of Skåne is one of nine European partners in the CHANGE! project funded by EU through the URBACT programme. The project’s lead partner is the City of Eindhoven and the main goal of CHANGE! is to identify parameters and model pathways for culturally diverse cities enabling them to move forward towards a more collaborative public service model.

In every country the URBACT partners form an URBACT Local Group (ULG) working on a core issue connected to the main theme of the project. In Skåne we will work with the different cultural and socio-economic parameters towards a more collaborative public service provision when it comes to the question: how can the public sector in Skåne improve the dialogue with its citizens? We will try to find the best examples in Skåne, Sweden and Europe. Society in Skåne are facing a variety of challenges such as demographic developments, environmental and climate problems, increased segregation and social inequality. Social innovation provides new solutions to social needs here in Sweden and in the rest of Europe. In order to improve conditions for those the public sector can take a more active role to increase investment.

Network: 
CHANGE!
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Let us begin by noting that unfortunately it took longer than planned to get the Swedish ULG in place and operational. Time is always in short supply, and to get people to take their time to participate in ULG meetings took some time of persuasion and planning. But now we've got a good ULG in place and work has slowly started up.

In our ULG we find representatives from a number of the Skåne municipalities involved in an active dialogue with citizens (Malmö, Helsingborg, Lund, Bjuv and Landskrona municipalities), we have an official who works with the public dialogue at the Region Skåne, a former member of the Swedish Parliament and representatives from civil society.

In terms of methodology, we work with the methods of the reverse Alexandria pyramid and Hegartys chaos theory. The reverse pyramid Alexandria is a method of group discussion that is based on a general issue that then gradually becomes more concretely the further the process and the discussion goes. To work according to Hegartys chaos theory means working without a predetermined agenda. The discussion itself puts the contents of the agenda. In our case this has meant that we started with the general question of how we can develop the civil dialogue in Skåne to provide citizens with the services they demand with the resources available to them.

Meeting after meeting in the ULG we gradually come down to a number of core values that can and should be developed in Skåne. One of the basic conditions of our ULG is a free and open dialogue and discussion of the issues.

Every ULG shall at the end of the URBACT project present an Integrated Action Plan (IAP). We cannot now anticipate how our IAP will look like and what it will have on the structure and content.

In our ULG, so far we, discussed which areas may be of particular interest to develop regarding civil dialogue. Here is spatial planning an important area; to participate in the planning of the future society is a central question of democracy. Other areas discussed on the basis of a more effective public dialogue is integration (in 2015 165 000 persons came as refugees to Sweden) and the confidence between politicians and citizens.

We have also discussed the methods that can be used to further develop civil dialogue in Skåne and Sweden. Among these models we find focus groups, digital media and photo-voice and various forms of citizen representation.

The work to develop civil dialogue goes on!