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Sweden

Developing a New Format for Dialogue with CSOs (SE0016)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Sweden Third National Action Plan 2016-2018

Action Plan Cycle: 2016

Status: Inactive

Institutions

Lead Institution: Ministry of Culture

Support Institution(s): The Government Offices, municipalities, SALAR, relevant government agencies, National civil society organisations.

Policy Areas

Public Participation

IRM Review

IRM Report: Sweden End-of-Term Report 2016-2018, Sweden Mid-Term Report 2016-2018

Starred: No

Early Results: Marginal

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Civic Participation

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

Commitment 4. Developing a new format for dialogue with CSOs; Lead ministry/agency: Ministry of Culture; Other actors involved: Government agencies: The Government Offices, municipalities, SALAR, relevant government agencies.; CSO, private sector: National civil society organisations.; Status quo or problem/issue to be addressed: The challenge is to capture valuable knowledge from CSOs in both an effective and inclusive way.; Main objectives: To deepen knowledge in the Government before and during a decision-making process. Main activities: - Meet with CSOs and other relevant actors such as agencies, SALAR and municipalities. - Document meetings. - Carefully evaluate and follow up.; OGP challenge addressed by the commitment: - The need to include civic participation commitments. One important step is to enhance public participation by allowing early and deeper involvement of citizens and civil society. Is it relevant to the advancement of: Transparency: Openness and a free exchange of views promote transparency.; Accountability: Accessibility contributes to increased monitoring, which in turn creates better conditions for improved accountability.; Public participation: A fruitful dialogue is a prerequisite for engagement and public participation.

IRM Midterm Status Summary

4. Developing a new format for dialogue with CSOs

Commitment Text:

According to the six principles of the Government’s Policy for Civil Society [Note230: 'En politik för det civila samhället' ID-nummer: Prop. 2009/10:55 (Government Offices, 26 Nov. 2009), http://www.regeringen.se/49b70c/contentassets/626c071c353f4f1d8d0d46927f73fe9c/en-politik-for-det-civila-samhallet-prop.-20091055.] and the Code of Good Practice for Civil Participation in the Decision-Making Process, [Note231: 'Code of Good Practice for Civil Participation in the Decision-Making Process' (Council of Europe, 2018), https://www.coe.int/en/web/ingo/civil-participation.] a new format for dialogue and exchange of information has been developed by the Government in close cooperation with more than one hundred CSOs at national level. The CSOs are not only crucial for democracy in itself; they are often also experts in their own field. The Government wants to be able to deepen its own knowledge by meeting experts from civil society in a structured way, with clear prior information concerning the expected outcome for each counterpart.

Responsible institution: Ministry of Culture

Supporting institutions: The Government Offices, municipalities, the Association of Local Authorities and Regions (SALAR), civil society and relevant government agencies.

Start date: 2016 End date: N/A

Context and Objectives

This commitment is aimed at developing and testing a new format for dialogue and exchange of information between the government and civil society called 'sakråd' in Swedish, which could be translated as 'issue-specific consultations.' Sakråd has become a working method in government offices, and is used to acquire knowledge and perspectives from stakeholders on specific matters. The overall aim of sakråd is to increase the quality of decisions made by the government by (i) strengthening dialogue as a tool, (ii) taking better advantage of expertise, (iii) collecting a broader range of perspectives, and (iv) increasing the number of involved stakeholders. [Note232: http://www.regeringen.se/regeringens-politik/civila-samhallet/fragor-och-svar-om-sakråd/] The method is flexible and can be used to varying degrees and in all areas of work within government offices, e.g. during early preparation of a decision, when evaluating a policy, or as a means of ad-hoc and rapid knowledge acquisition. It is a top-down approach given that it is always a government institution that sets the agenda, chooses which organisations to invite, and shapes the consultation process. [Note233: Government webpage describing the sakråd method: http://www.regeringen.se/artiklar/2017/02/sakrad-ny-metod-for-att-inhamta-kunskaper-fran-civilsamhallet/.]

Sakråd does not replace but complements existing forms of consultation with CSOs. The government procedures for consultation with civil society are already rather developed in Sweden. However, the government has identified some gaps in the present consultation methods that sakråd could cover. First, it is appropriate for collecting opinions well in advance of the actual decision-making, e.g. recently a sakråd-process was started about EU-level policy on which decisions will be made in Brussels in two years. Second, sakråd is a format that allows gathering advice on specific and sometimes highly technical or operational issues, such as how to improve logistics (e.g. for transport and food distribution when there are large inflows of migrants). [Note234: Maria Nilsson (Ministry of Culture), interview with IRM researcher, 26 Jun. 2017.] Considering that the commitment is targeted at getting constructive expert advice from the civil society and that this method will complement current consultation practices, the IRM researcher assesses that it could have at least a moderate impact in the long term.

The commitment pertains to the OGP value of civic participation. According to what is written in the OGP action plan, the government wants to access knowledge of experts from civil society in a structured, effective, and inclusive way. The government also stresses the importance of providing clear information concerning the expected outcome for each expert participant.

The commitment consists of two milestones. The first, 4.1, would evaluate 5–10 pilot projects implemented by government offices in September 2016 and hold a hearing on the findings with CSOs in October 2016. [Note235: It is worth noting that the timeframe for this milestone is set before the actual start date of Sweden’s OGP action plan (20 December 2016). This is due to Sweden’s delayed submission of their OGP action plan, which should have been submitted before 1 July 2016 according to the regular OGP action plan calendar.] The second milestone, 4.2, would follow up on the new format of dialogue and exchange with CSOs, but it has no end date. The first milestone is highly specific, while the second has low specificity due to its generic description.

Completion

The first milestone (4.1) was completed on schedule. Five pilots were implemented in 2016. The pilots covered different formats of sakråd on diverse topics, including: (1) the refugee situation, (2) the forthcoming human rights strategy, (3) the UN General Assembly Special Meeting on Drugs (UNGASS), (4) the Popular Education Forum, and (5) the cultural heritage bill. [Note236: This is according to a powerpoint presentation by the State Secretary about the evaluation findings during the hearing with civil society on 28 September 2016 in Stockholm. The presentation was shared by Maria Nilsson, Ministry of Culture. To clarify, the Popular Education Forum is 'Folkbildningsforum' in Swedish, and the Cultural heritage bill is 'Kulturarvspropositionen' in Swedish.] The Ministry of Culture carried out an in-house evaluation of the pilots and documented the findings in an internal document. The State Secretary [Note237: The State Secretary of Culture and Democracy Minister Alice Bah Kuhnke is Per Olsson Fridh.] presented the findings during a hearing with civil society on 28 September 2016 in Stockholm. The State Secretary discussed lessons learned from the sakråd pilots, and also reflected on challenges to overcome (see details below in 'Next Steps'). The hearing had a high attendance of 73 persons from organisations working in different fields (e.g. The Swedish Disability Federation, the Christian Council of Sweden, and the Swedish Association for Sexuality Education), which indicates that a broad range of stakeholders see the new format as an important endeavour. Most participants were from CSOs but a few also represented government bodies and academia. [Note238: A list of participants was shared by Maria Nilsson, Ministry of Culture.]

Milestone 4.2, a follow-up on the new format for dialogue and exchange with CSOs, was expected to start in 2016 and does not have any end date. According to the Ministry of Culture, an evaluation might start in the beginning of 2018 but there is as yet no formal timeline. The Ministry gave no reason for this delay. [Note239: Maria Nilsson (Ministry of Culture), email to the IRM researcher, 7 Aug. 2017.]

Early Results

The five pilot projects for sakråd implemented by government offices in 2016 were shaped in very different ways. In the framework of the five pilots, 1–10 meetings between the government and civil society occurred, some of which were large conferences. Attendance ranged from 17–46 participants representing civil society, the private sector, government institutions, and municipalities. The government's decision to formally adopt the new method has been well received [Note240: 'The Government has decided to institute criminal proceedings' (Ideell kulturallians (a national umbrella organisation for CSOs working in the field of culture), 11 Mar. 2017), http://ideellkultur.se/nyhet/regeringen-har-beslutat-att-infora-sakrad.] and several of the CSOs that participated in the development and implementation of sakråd are positive about the method. [Note241: Nilla Helgesson (Skyddsvärnet NGO), interview with the IRM researcher, 10 Jul. 2017; Göran Pettersson (Socialforum NGO), interview with the IRM researcher, 13 Sept. 2017.] One CSO interviewed by the IRM researcher emphasised that the sakråd method improves the government-civil society relationship, thereby reinforcing the government’s decision-making basis. [Note242: Pettersson, interview.]

During the sakråd hearing in September 2016, the State Secretary presented lessons learned from the sakråd pilots and stressed that the main challenges are the lack of clarity and transparency in the process, as well as the way that participants are selected. [Note243: State Secretary, 28 Sept. 2016 presentation. See note 7.] Presently, the government is limiting the number of participants in order to maintain the efficiency of the process. One of the interviewed CSOs concurred that there is a risk of excluding minor and lesser-known organisations from sakråd. [Note244: Helgesson, interview.]

The government shows a commitment to transparency in the sakråd process by publishing information about ongoing and completed consultations on government offices’ websites. The information includes invitation letters issued by the government and lists of organisations that were invited, as well as summaries of the meetings. [Note245: The Government webpage on sakråd is available at: http://www.regeringen.se/sakrad/. ] These summaries are also sent to all the participants and circulated within government offices.

During the sakråd hearing, the State Secretary also asserted it is important that sakråd invitations clearly state their purpose and how participants’ feedback will be processed and considered in the final decision. [Note246: State Secretary, 28 Sept. 2016 presentation. See note 7.] A civil society representative confirmed to the IRM researcher this concern about the efficacy of participants’ feedback. [Note247: Helgesson, interview.] Another CSO interviewee stated that the link between the input by CSOs and the decisions taken by the government varies across different sakråd; some sakråd show a clear link while others remain ambiguous. [Note248: Pettersson, interview.]

The key achievement on this commitment is the government decision to institutionalise the sakråd method on 16 February 2017. [Note249: Martin Kling, 'Council of Ministers will strengthen dialogue between government and civil society' (Government Offices, 16 Feb. 2017), http://www.regeringen.se/pressmeddelanden/2017/02/sakrad-ska-starka-dialogen-mellan-regeringen-och-civila-samhallet/.] This means that the method has gone from being a pilot to becoming part of the core set of government consultation methods. Institutionalisation of the sakråd method raises the probability that the method might become a systemic practice across government institutions. Sakråd is already starting to be used widely across the government. After the five pilots, five additional sakråd have been carried out by different government bodies (as of June 2017), e.g. by the office coordinating EU issues at the Prime Minister's Office; jointly by the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Social Affairs; and by the Ministry of Employment. [Note250: 'Sakråd' (Government Offices, accessed 25 Jul. 2018), http://www.regeringen.se/sakrad.]

Next Steps

This is an innovative and potentially high-impact public participation commitment that should be taken forward during this and the next OGP action plan. Below are recommendations about how the commitment can be improved during this action plan cycle based on feedback from civil society.

Enhance the diversity of participation: In order to improve the diversity of participants, the government should:

o Conduct information campaigns about sakråd and educate more umbrella organisations about this method; [Note251: Helgesson, interview.]

o Give CSOs the opportunity to comment on the invitation lists and to propose other organisations that should be invited; [Note252: Id.] and

o Advertise upcoming sakråd on a dedicated webpage well in advance, and allow all CSOs to submit an expression of interest.

Improve the feedback loop: The government should provide systematic and more concrete feedback to participating CSOs about how CSO comments are used, e.g. by explaining if/how their suggestions have led to the development of training modules, reports, or new guidelines. [Note253: Id.]

· Carry out an external evaluation: In order to monitor the development of sakråd in the framework of the next OGP action plan, the government should commission an external evaluation, which also considers views of organisations that did not have the possibility to participate in any sakråd. [Note254: Id.]

IRM End of Term Status Summary

4. Developing a new format for dialogue with CSOs

Commitment Text:

According to the six principles of the Government’s Policy for Civil Society [Note104: 'En politik för det civila samhället' ID-nummer: Prop. 2009/10:55 (Government Offices, 26 Nov. 2009), http://www.regeringen.se/49b70c/contentassets/626c071c353f4f1d8d0d46927f... and the Code of Good Practice for Civil Participation in the Decision-Making Process, a new format for dialogue and exchange of information has been developed by the Government in close cooperation with more than one hundred CSOs at national level. The CSOs are not only crucial for democracy in itself; they are often also experts in their own field. The Government wants to be able to deepen its own knowledge by meeting experts from civil society in a structured way, with clear prior information concerning the expected outcome for each counterpart.

Responsible institution: Ministry of Culture

Supporting institutions: The Government Offices, municipalities, the Association of Local Authorities and Regions (SALAR), civil society and relevant government agencies.

Start date: 2016 End date: N/A

Commitment Aim

This commitment planned to develop and test a new format for dialogue and exchange of information between the government and civil society called “sakråd” in Swedish (which can be translated as “issue-specific consultations”). Sakråd aims to increase the quality of government decisions by (i) strengthening dialogue as a tool, (ii) taking advantage of specified expertise, (iii) collecting a broader range of perspectives, and (iv) increasing the number of stakeholders involved. [Note105: The aims of sakrad, http://www.regeringen.se/regeringens-politik/civila-samhallet/fragor-och...åd/ ] The government has identified gaps in existing consultation methods that sakråd could fill. First, it could better collect opinions well in advance of actual decision making. Second, sakråd helps gather advice on specific and sometimes highly technical or operational issues, e.g. the logistics of the reception and establishment of asylum seekers. [Note106: Maria Nilsson (Ministry of Culture), interview with IRM researcher, 26 June 2017.]

Status

Midterm: Substantial

During the first year of the action plan, the Ministry of Culture completed the first milestone (4.1), which called for an evaluation of 5–10 pilot projects implemented by government offices and a hearing on the findings with CSOs. [Note107: It is worth noting that the timeframe for this milestone is set before the actual start date of Sweden’s OGP action plan (20 December 2016). This is due to Sweden’s delayed submission of the OGP action plan, which should have been submitted before 1 July 2016 according to the regular OGP action plan calendar. ] Five pilot projects were implemented by September 2016. The pilots covered different formats of sakråd on several topics, including: (1) the refugee situation, (2) the forthcoming human rights strategy, (3) the UN General Assembly Special Meeting on Drugs (UNGASS), (4) the Popular Education Forum, and (5) the cultural heritage bill. [Note108: This is according to a PowerPoint presentation by the State Secretary on the evaluation findings during the hearing with civil society on 28 September 2016 in Stockholm. The presentation was shared by Maria Nilsson, Ministry of Culture. To clarify, the Popular Education Forum is “Folkbildningsforum” in Swedish, and the Cultural heritage bill is “Kulturarvspropositionen” in Swedish.] The Ministry of Culture carried out an in-house evaluation of the pilots and documented the findings in an internal document. The State Secretary presented the findings during a hearing with civil society on 28 September 2016 in Stockholm. [Note109: The State Secretary of Culture and Democracy Minister Alice Bah Kuhnke is Per Olsson Fridh.] The hearing brought together 73 people from different types of organizations, indicating that a broad range of stakeholders see the new format as an important endeavor. [Note110: A list of participants was shared by Maria Nilsson, Ministry of Culture.]

Milestone 4.2, aiming to follow-up on the new format for dialogue and exchange with CSOs, was expected to start in 2016, but does not have a specific end date. The Ministry of Culture was discussing an evaluation for 2018, but, at the time of writing, no formal timeline had been set. The Ministry did not provide the IRM researcher with a reason for this delay. [Note111: Maria Nilsson (Ministry of Culture), email to IRM researcher, 7 August 2017.] For more information, see the 2016–2018 IRM midterm report. [Note112: OGP, Developing a New Format for Dialogue with CSOs, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/commitment/04-developing-new-format-d.... ]

End of term: Substantial

At the end of the second year of the action plan, this commitment remains incomplete, since the follow-up on the new format for dialogue with CSOs has not taken place and is not planned at the moment. The Ministry of Culture has not indicated a reason for this delay, despite inquiries from the IRM researcher. [Note113: Carl-Johan Friman (Ministry of Culture), email to IRM researcher, 10 September 2018.]

Did It Open Government?

Civic Participation: Marginal

The government procedures for consultation with civil society are already highly developed in Sweden. However, sakråd serves as a useful complement by focusing particularly on gathering opinions in advance of decision making, and on specific or technical issues. [Note114: Maria Nilsson (Ministry of Culture), interview with IRM researcher, 26 June 2017.] The ultimate aim is to harness civil society’s unique knowledge to improve government’s decision-making processes. [Note115: “En politik för engagemang – långsiktighet och oberoende för civilsamhället”, Regeringens skrivelse 2017/18:246, Skr. 2017/18:246, Government Offices, 3 May 2018.]

The pilot projects have shown good results, thereby confirming that sakråd works in practice. [Note116: “En politik för engagemang – långsiktighet och oberoende för civilsamhället”, Regeringens skrivelse 2017/18:246, Skr. 2017/18:246, Government Offices, 3 May 2018.] [Note117: Göran Pettersson (Socialforum NGO), interview with IRM researcher, 13 September 2017.] [Note118: “The Government has decided to institute sakråd', Ideell kulturallians (a national umbrella organization for CSOs working in the field of culture, http://ideellkultur.se/nyhet/regeringen-har-beslutat-att-infora-sakrad. ] [Note119: Nilla Helgesson (Skyddsvärnet NGO), interview with IRM researcher, 10 July 2017; Göran Pettersson (Socialforum NGO), interview with IRM researcher, 13 September 2017.] After the pilots, the government carried out about 30 sakråd consultations on topics ranging from EU-related matters, establishment of migrants, to a national action plan against racism. [Note120: “En politik för engagemang – långsiktighet och oberoende för civilsamhället”, Regeringens skrivelse 2017/18:246, Skr. 2017/18:246, Government Offices, 3 May 2018.] The government also developed sakråd guidelines, including methodological support, templates and checklists to maintain good quality during the process. [Note121: “En politik för engagemang – långsiktighet och oberoende för civilsamhället”, Regeringens skrivelse 2017/18:246, Skr. 2017/18:246, Government Offices, 3 May 2018.] Furthermore, on 16 February 2017, the government formally institutionalized sakråd [Note122: Martin Kling, 'Council of Ministers will strengthen dialogue between government and civil society', Government Offices,

http://www.regeringen.se/pressmeddelanden/2017/02/sakrad-ska-starka-dial... ] as part of the core set of government consultation methods, which means that it could become a systemic practice across government institutions.

Although sakråd is a valuable addition to consultation procedures, opportunities for the public to influence government decisions have improved only marginally as a result of this commitment. Several CSOs that participated in sakråd expressed positive feedback, and emphasized that it improves the government-civil society relationship. [Note123: Pettersson, interview. ] [Note124: “The Government has decided to institute sakråd', Ideell kulturallians (a national umbrella organization for CSOs working in the field of culture, http://ideellkultur.se/nyhet/regeringen-har-beslutat-att-infora-sakrad. ] [Note125: Nilla Helgesson (Skyddsvärnet NGO), interview with IRM researcher, 10 July 2017; Göran Pettersson (Socialforum NGO), interview with IRM researcher, 13 September 2017.] However, the government still faces challenges in its implementation, including the lack of clarity about how participants are selected, [Note126: State Secretary, 28 September 2016 presentation. See note 7.] the risk of excluding minor and lesser-known organizations, [Note127: Helgesson, interview. ] and how participant feedback will be considered in decision-making processes. [Note128: Helgesson, interview. ] [Note129: Pettersson, interview. ] Moreover, according to an NGO representative, in some areas such as migrant integration, the sakråd process has slowed down, apparently due to the political situation (i.e. elections were held in September 2018 and there is still no government in place). [Note130: Nilla Helgesson (Skyddsvärnet NGO), email to IRM researcher, 11 October 2018.]

Carried Forward?

At the time of writing this report (September 2018), Sweden has not finalized the next action plan. Considering that the commitment was not fully completed, the IRM researcher recommends carrying it forward to the next action plan. If carried forward, the Ministry of Culture could commission an external evaluation of sakråd which considers the views of organizations that have not had the opportunity to participate in it. [Note131: For more information, please see the 2016–2018 IRM midterm report.]

Methodological Note

The end-of-term report is based on desk research and interviews with governmental and nongovernmental stakeholders. The IRM report builds on the findings of the government’s self-assessment report; other assessments of progress put out by civil society, the private sector, or international organizations; and the previous IRM progress report.

The IRM researcher based the end-of-term report on desk research and interviews with relevant stakeholders, both from the government and from NGOs.


Commitments

  1. Open Data Plan

    SE0017, 2019, E-Government

  2. Make open data accessible

    SE0018, 2019, E-Government

  3. Capacity-building in digitaI sector

    SE0019, 2019, E-Government

  4. Dialogue with civil society

    SE0020, 2019, Civic Space

  5. Starred commitment Citizen-Centered e-Government

    SE0013, 2016, Environment and Climate

  6. Re-Use of Public Administration Documents and Open Data

    SE0014, 2016, Land & Spatial Planning

  7. Transparency in Aid Management

    SE0015, 2016, Aid

  8. Developing a New Format for Dialogue with CSOs

    SE0016, 2016, Public Participation

  9. Putting Citizens at the Centre (Egovernment) of Government Administration Reforms

    SE0008, 2014, Legislation & Regulation

  10. A Step Further on the Re-Use of Public Administration Documents

    SE0009, 2014, Capacity Building

  11. Increased Access to Swedish Aid Information

    SE0010, 2014, Aid

  12. Improved Opportunities for Dialogue and Transparency in Aid Management and Implementation

    SE0011, 2014, Aid

  13. Increased Aid Transparency at Global Level

    SE0012, 2014, Aid

  14. Continuing the Development of the Openaid.Se Platform

    SE0001, 2012, Aid

  15. Ensuring Full Implementation of the IATI Standard by 2015

    SE0002, 2012, Aid

  16. Implementing the Commitments in the Busan Partnership Document

    SE0003, 2012, Aid

  17. Playing a Leading Role in the Building Block on Transparency

    SE0004, 2012, Capacity Building

  18. Contributing to Further Define the Work Towards an EU Transparency Guarantee

    SE0005, 2012, Capacity Building

  19. Engaging in the Open Aid Partnership and Promoting ICT4D

    SE0006, 2012, Aid

  20. Broadening Open Government Commitments

    SE0007, 2012, OGP