Researcher in charge: Professor Anneli Anttonen
Researcher: Liisa Häikiö
Title of the project: Transition and continuity. Urban governance and citizen participation in the Nordic welfare model.
Site of the research: University of Tampere, Department of Social Research
The aim of the research is to complete the reassessing of the Nordic Model by emphasising a local perspective. It is part of research network called the Nordic Centre of Excellence: Reassessing the Nordic Welfare Model. The network is investigating the transition and continuity of social policy and welfare state in the Nordic countries. In Nordic countries, the welfare state is in many respects a welfare municipality as most of the social policy tasks are implemented by and within municipalities. Welfare state changes again take actually place mainly at urban settings.
This research project examines local activities in terms of urban governance and citizen participation. The assumption is that political and societal systems are in a process of transformation from hierarchically organised, unitary systems toward more fragmented systems of governance. New governance structures are emerging locally through management reforms and participative or interactive policy making. These include such initiatives as new public management reforms, community development projects and planning sustainable development. These forms of urban governance are not totally replacing the traditional ways of governing but are implemented alongside them. In practice it is likely that governance based networks and markets are implemented side by side with practices that promote bureaucracy and hierarchy. The outcomes, nevertheless, change the ways people are engaged in society. Citizens face the new demands and opportunities to become active citizens.
The reforms in the field of urban governance raise open questions about legitimacy, diversity and agency: What kind of citizen participation is legitimate in urban governance? How old governing and legitimating strategies are connected with new governance and legitimating strategies? What affects the emerging diversity of agents and practices have on the urban governance, local democracy and the citizenship? These kinds of questions have been very much sidelined in research concerning shifts in urban governance and welfare state change. The study of citizenship and citizen participation offers an excellent research area to scrutinize these questions.
The project will produce practical and theoretical knowledge about the transition and continuity of Nordic welfare model in the context of urban governance and citizenship. The results have practical value in showing what kind of consequences urban governance has to citizen participation and to local society. The formation of legitimate political and social identities is a question, which needs to be investigated in depth, if the governing of welfare society is to be maintained democratic by its governance structures. The theoretical advantage of the project is the knowledge to be produced on the features of local citizenship and the dynamics of urban governance in terms of legitimacy, agency and diversity. The theoretical and methodological work will create conceptual and methodological tools for studying urban governance to better understand and explain welfare state changes. The project uses the qualitative methodology with emphasis on discursive and interpretative policy analysis.