Institutional framing of citizen initiatives: a challenge for advancing public participation in Sweden
Journal article, 2016
The Swedish image as a welfare society is challenged due to increasing spatial concentration of poverties. While Sherry Arnstein's Ladder of citizen participation lives on in new models for participatory governance under development in local municipalities, her focus on social inclusion, empowerment and community self-mobilization seems abandoned. This paper uses a case study in a marginalized suburb of Gothenburg to discuss how the local authority met a community-led initiative aiming at creating a new meeting place. The process is analysed in terms of institutional framing, which comprises both formal and informal practices, both policies and underlying beliefs. The study indicates that a strong control orientation and focus on formal procedures may be grounded in a tradition of representative democracy, but also that it may constitute an obstacle for a flexible and supportive approach towards community-led initiatives. Possible implications are discussed.