Article from Ministry of Culture

When the public sector out-competes civil society

Published

On Tuesday 28 April, the joint forum for consultation between the Government and civil society met again. This time the theme was ‘When the public sector out-competes civil society’. In the joint forum, representatives of the Government and civil society discuss how the conditions for civil society organisations could be improved.

Based on the theme ‘When the public sector out-competes civil society – on roles and boundaries between the state and civil society’ the forum discussed the role of the state in relation to civil society and when the state, in various ways, becomes the performer of tasks that civil society is already carrying out. One example of this could be that an organisation has been offering summer camps for children with special needs for many years. Once the municipality starts organising its own activities for the same target group, there is a lack of participants for the organisation’s summer camps. However, this is more than just an economic issue as it is about the organisation’s own mission and identity being at risk if its core activity is taken away for some reason.

Values-based organisations believe that this is ultimately about the confidence of the state in non-profit organisations’ skills and contribution and faith in their independent organisation. Both values-based organisations and the Government want to change and develop society in various ways. Sometimes civil society takes the initiative for this, and sometimes the state gives itself individual or parallel assignments to resolve the same situation. At municipal level, it is becoming increasingly common for municipalities themselves to organise voluntary activities instead of channelling measures through organisations that already exist in the municipality. 

Discussion on priorities and consequences for organisations

The joint forum also discussed various examples of when government agencies and municipalities in particular could have done with more knowledge about the consequences of their priorities for the organisations concerned. The Government Offices officials spoke of their own responsibility for giving additional information to the agencies about the principles of the policy for civil society. The Government Offices also urged the organisations to make it clear to municipalities and agencies what their own original mission is, so that the organisations’ identities are not undermined through projects. The Government Offices officials stressed, however, that many agencies already undertake strategic work in terms of consulting civil society organisations.

On 1 June the joint forum will meet again to discuss the theme ‘Different conditions for different types of organisations concerning different occasions, and different ministries, agencies and assignments’.

Joint forum for consultation between the Government and civil society

In the joint forum, representatives of the Government and civil society discuss how the conditions for civil society organisations could be improved. The forum meets about five times a year to discuss civil society’s:
- conditions, opportunities and development in society;
- role to promote democracy and citizens’ participation; and
- development in relation to the objectives of the policy for civil society.