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Civil society, social capital and economic development

Organized by the Royal Institute of Technology and Jönköping International Business School
3-4 September 2009, Stockholm, Sweden




The Bank of Sweden Tercentenary Foundation’s sector committee for research on the civil society, KTH (Royal Institute of Technology) and Jönköping International Business School are organizing an international workshop on the theme Civil society, social capital and economic development to further the understanding of this particular theme. The workshop will be held in Stockholm 3-4 September 2009. An anthology with selected revised workshop papers is planned.

Call for papers

Civil society is in several ways connected to the national economies. Modern research has paid attention to these connections in a number of fields:

• The extent and importance of the production (also the production that is not included in GDP) being performed by the social economy and other actors of civil society.
• Civil society’s role as producer and reproducer of various forms of social capital, which in different ways are influencing national economies on various levels.
• The importance of philanthropy, both as financier of research that can be expected to have an impact on economic growth and as a provider of means to different needs.

Civil society’s activities in the non-profit sector comprise in general between 4 and 7 per cent of the national economies of the developed countries. However, the international Johns Hopkins project has shown that the structure of the non-profit sector varies considerably between countries. The concepts of civil society, voluntary sector and social economy are partly overlapping and partly differing, which create uncertainties not least when the concepts are related to economic issues as e.g. growth. Definitions of voluntary activities, cooperative activities and social/societal enterprise become essential but problematic. There is a substantial lack of updated statistics over civil society’s economic side and thus a lack of knowledge of current development tendencies. There is also a lack of knowledge on how these activities are influencing the for-profit sector of the economy – from individual firms to international trends.
Civil society’s social capital – the social networks and the norms and values being distributed in them – can affect economic growth and change in many ways. Solid relations and conformist norms is normally an advantage during stable growth periods, but might provide serious obstacles during periods of transformation with need for innovation. Inversely, lack of solid relations and norms might imply increasing risks and create uncertainty and passivity.
Thus, entrepreneurship, innovativeness and risktaking are factors that with great probability are influenced by the social capital of the environment. The measures of social capital being available in official statistics are few and seldom even the “second best” measures exist. At the same time, there is a relatively extensive research waiting to be synthesized.

Private endowments play an important role both for financing research and civil society organizations. Unlike in the USA this has not attracted much attention in Sweden and several other European countries, in spite of the fact that they account for a large share of both the universities’ external research grants as well as civil societies funds. Can philanthropy expressed in research financing be assumed to be of importance for economic development? Are endowments facilitating a more “free” and more risktaking research that results in more innovations? Also for individuals’ social wellbeing and various types of local development, philanthropy is playing an important role. However, the connections between these activities and economic variables are almost unexplored.
Apart from the issues of civil society’s economic extent, its role in the creation and reproduction of social capital and the importance of philanthropy, a number of other issues on civil society’s relations to social and economic development can be raised: Which is the role of civil society and social economy for an innovative and entrepreneurial sustainable development? Which is the importance of civil society as influencer on companies’ products
and production methods? Does civil society constitute a “forth invisible axis” in the systems being built among the business sector, government and universities? What is the importance of civil society and social economy in empowerment of people concerning participation and employment, and what does this mean for economic growth? To benefit from the current rather fragmented knowledge about these issues, and to facilitate a dialogue aiming to further our understanding of civil society, social capital and economic development, we invite papers dealing with each of the abovementioned research fields.
Concerning civil society’s relations to economic development, among others, the following general questions of issue might be raised:

• Conceptual and theoretical issues
• Which tendencies of development can be observed within the Swedish and
international social economy?
• In what extension does the social economy live up to current policy expectations of“creating jobs” and being “an engine in local development”?
• What are the experiences of measurements of social capital hitherto?
• In what extension is the social capital of civil society influencing the economy? Is this influence varying between different types of places and regions?
• What is the role of philanthropy for economic growth?


Abstracts should be submitted to the [email protected] and to [email protected].
Deadline for submission of abstracts (maximum one page) is 15 March, 2009. Information on acceptance of abstracts will be sent out 3 April. Final papers must be distributed no later than 15 August.
The conference is free for paper presenters. Travel costs and part of accommodation costs are covered by the participants. Some bursaries will be available for PhD Students.


KTH Royal Institute of Technology

KTH in Stockholm is the largest, oldest and most international technical university in Sweden. No less than one-third of Sweden’s technical research and engineering education capacity at university level is provided by KTH. Education and research spans from natural sciences to all the...

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