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34. Rural Community Development





In the inland of northern Sweden (maybe best known as Lapland, but also includs Värmland,Dalarna,Härjedalen och Jämtland), in the vast fir-tree belt, we can travel mile upon mile through the spruce forest before coming to a village or a small town. The farming settlements often crown the ridges, where the conditions for crop cultivation are best. From here you can see the mountains to the west, sometimes not too far away and sometimes on the distant horizon. The roads follow the rivers in the valleys. It was not such a long time ago that the first settlers established their homesteads around the old waterholes and crossings. Some of the villages and communities which grew up have continued to expand, others have receded. Now quite often one sees meadows here and there which are being allowed to go to weed. Abandoned houses and farms bear witness to the depopulation of the countryside. The enormous forest clearings give evidence of the sparsely-populated area's changing industrial structure. In the woods the rumbling saw machines create huge bald patches, or the quiet is broken by the roaring of the timber trucks on their way to the coast.


Declaining for long


The countryside and small villages are slowly bleeding to death. The moving vans head for the central towns of the region and then on from there to the larger, more metropolitan cities. First to leave are the youth. Young people have sought adventure over many generations but today few come back. The more adult travel to where they can get better wages, some commuting until the too strenuous double living forces even them to join the migrators. Those who own property - farms, land and houses - stay on and watch as their hometown slowly declines. It is depressing. When father and mother no longer have a son or daughter living in the area, old age becomes a burden. Who can help them when the thinning out has gone so far that the home-help service lacks personnel? Soon they will be in the old people's home - if such a thing still exists!


While life in the central town may become ever more thriving and bustling, the countryside is becoming ever more thinly populated. As small islands in the North European fir-tree-forest belt, these small communities resemble an inland archipelago! Separated and isolated, these deprived local communities cannot survive.


The craftsman is more mobile than the farmer and the wage earner can move more easily than the business owner. The larger household is less inclined to move than the smaller; those with family responsibilities less than the young and the single. The general trend has shifted towards mobile units. When the creation of households in the countryside comes to a halt and when the central towns cannot sustain and satisfy the young people and the wage earners any longer then these move farther on to find work and other opportunities for existence in the cities.


Women are moving away


The young women have the weakest bonds to the village. Perhaps this has always been true, but now that they also are wage earners, they have the greatest difficulty in finding

suitable employment close to home. As times have changed so have attitudes; women are no longer satisfied with limiting their lives to home and family. Transition of village life is however slower; it continues to offer a traditional lifestyle with male ideals and the women at home. When the young women flee from such a traditional male structure, family building is an option for the least privileged. More often the men remain single. Their property, hunting and fishing, and anxiety in the face of change, keep them from leaving. But it is a melancholy, lonely and quiet life without women and family. When both parents have passed away, it is as though a door has shut on life. Silence and solitude reign.


All the same, the periphery has another, brighter side. You can find family cohesiveness, a spirit of community and vitality. There is usually a long tradition of cooperation in its true sense: an exchange of the products and services which constitute the informal economy. People are often engaged in many and diverse activities both in work and in leisure. Their whole existence is in fact based on a combination of activities and the magnitude of knowledge developed from these.


Village uprise


Now these inhabitants of the inland are taking new steps to develop their natural and human resources. They are forming work groups and village societies or councils which initiate new projects. Sometimes it is a question of enhancing what nature has to offer for an increase in tourism and recreation activities. They build holiday cottage areas, develop ski slopes with lifts, start a cafeteria or restaurant, prepare ski trails and facilities for other sports, they blaze canoe trails, offer fishing rights, arrange boat rentals or even running the rapids and other adventure activities. Others cater to the city people's need for a relaxing environment, healthy food, quiet and fresh air. Some combine the search for their own historical roots and the local culture with entertainment for the tourists in the setting up of a village drama or through actively researching historical monuments and renovating them.


Those who are not blessed with such good tourist potential invest instead in new combinations of feasible activities which can give income. They establish craft centres, furnish computer facilities and resource centres and build up an organization for business competence, product development and marketing. In some places they build, in collaboration with the business and village associations, a new service centre where the facilities can also be used for day care and the school, for the church and different clubs. The Community Center becomes a meeting place and an all-activity centre for the whole village and thereby a spearhead in efforts to recognize and mobilize the local community's dormant resources.


A new cooperation


Other initiatives are similarly intended to improve the infrastructure in a variety of ways, such as collaboration between different public administrative bodies (post office,library, job centre, insurance office, social service and health care) in order to maintain an acceptable level of service even in this area. Local and community initiatives are taken to build homes in the villages and towns where it would otherwise be difficult to get building companies to invest. New forms of cooperative activities evolve to meet both living and production purposes. Families join together to share responsibility for better service, for example within childcare and elderly-care activities. Where favourable conditions exist for farming and livestock, new methods are tested for alternative cultivation and for new products which can fill a niche in the market sector. Villagers start fish nurseries, they gather berries in the woods and marshes and make jams for selling. Some have started goat farms and make goat cheese. They even cultivate mushrooms commercially. Also within farming new cooperative strategies open doors for projects which were earlier considered economically unrealistic.


Existence in the countryside is then not necessarily the same as a problem, recession and hopelessness. It also represents potential in the form of fellowship, inventiveness entrepreneurship and resoluteness! In fact, in the rural villages we can fined some good examples of a living and strong civil society. On top of all this the countryside can offer captivating nature, quiet, relaxation and adventure.


The way of life


In order to understand what community work and rural community development mean in the inlands of Norrland it would be a good point to give a brief description of the rural communities in the lands of the forests. What do the ways of life  and the culture look like in the rural areas? The following presentation builds mainly on a study of the rural communities in Jämtland which I made in 1990 (Ronnby 1991). However, let us begin by taking a quick look at some of the terms that are used here.


Culture stands for a larger group´s or many people´s shared way of seeing things, their interpretation of the world, norms, morals and values, as well as how their activities are expressed in certain ways. Culture manifests itself in the lifestyle, the ways of getting along and the rules for social interplay, in the structure of organizations, and in the production and formation of different products and utilities, both materially and as services. When I talk about the rural culture, I refer to the patterns of living, the ideas of reality and the behaviours which can be found in people who live and work within the specific conditions applicable to rural communities.


Subculture refers to a more defined group of people who, through their position in society, are placed in similar situations and through reciprocal action gain shared experiences and interests. In the background of these conditions the group members develop similar perspectives on existence. They gain common frames of reference, interests, norms and values.


Way of life, or habitus, refers to the whole way in which life presents itself for a group of people: their material conditions, social relations, view of the world and thinking, all which affect how they live. Usually three main types of ways of living can be described: the entrepreneurial way of life, the  wage labour way of life and the career way of life (Höjrup 1989). One particular way of life can be dominant in a local community  and thereby develop a cultural dominance which even influences the other ways of life. Since the entrepreneurial way of life has been dominant in rural society it has influenced others. When people have talked about the rural way of life they have mainly referred to the entrepreneurial way of life. Today, this view may not hold completely since earning a wage has become common even in the rural communities.


Work and economy


The rural areas in Jämtland are principally marked by forestry and agriculture and these branches have been of great importance for earning a living.  Today, they are not as important for work and living as before. Forestry has become more mechanized and farms have either joined together or have stopped. The change is witnessed by overgrown fields and meadows, run-down barns or even farms completely abandonned. During the 1960´s with its period of closures and people moving away the number of farms in Jämtland was halved, the number of cattle was reduced by 40% and the cultivated ground reduced by 20% (Rentzhog 1984, p229). In 1965 nearly 10 000 people were employed in agriculture, but in five years the number was reduced to 5 000. That is to say, a reduction by half in five years (Westlund 1985 p82 and 88).


The land of the forests


Agriculture in Jämtland mainly consists of small family owned farms run by the older farmers, and they have poor returns. Agriculture and forestry are often combined, and within agriculture the concentration is on grazing, meat and milk production. The forest is therefore an important resource. There have been enormous changes,however, within the field and these have affected life in the rual communities. Forestry companies bought up the farmers´ forests, there was rationalization and changes within forest felling, all of this has drastically changed the prerequisites for the local population, and especially for the farmers and their opportunities for forestry work. When the forestry companies changed from winter felling and seasonal workers to all-year-round felling it was difficult for those who did not own forest of their own to combine agriculture work in the summer and forestry work in the winter.


Through mergers, combining forest land and concentrated felling the forestry companies have not been interested in keeping the forestry workers in the small villages. Mechanization and rationalisation have also greatly reduced the number of employees in forestry. In 1960, 7 300 people worked in this area compared to today´s couple of thousand. During the 60´s employment within forestry was reduced from 13% to 7% (Westlund 1985 p82). However, despite the drastic changes forestry is the area which gives most jobs in rural Jämtland after the public sector and tourism.


A strong public sector


The public sector is one of the workplaces where women can get work, especially within health care and care for the elderly. According to statistics from the Census, the public sector is the area which has most employees in the county (41% are employed in it, 22% of which are employed within health care and social services). Commerce and the restaurant branch account for nearly as much of the employment of the population as the production branch does ( 12% respective 13%). In certain places in Jämtland the tourism branch accounts for many jobs, as in Funäsdalen and Gäddede, for example. Tourism has become one of Jämtland´s most important areas and there are in total around 10 000 beds in hotels and campsites and around 20 000 summer cottages. Every year Jämtland is visited by more than half a million tourists and the effect on employment is 3 - 4 000  all-year-round jobs(Rentzhog 1984 p242).


The work within the tourist branch is highly seasonal. However, it seems that this fits in rather well with people´s interest in not having a year-round job. People want to be free some time in order to devote themselves to hunting or fishing and other activities that belong to the informal economy: berry-picking, mushroom-picking, work in the home, repairs to the house, chopping firewook etc, as well as changing jobs. Tourism has, however, negative consequences, such as low wages, for example, and the exploitation of young, cheap labour, as well as having its effect on the young people´s lifestyle, such as the drinking of alcohol, etc.




Ways of life


If we try to get an understanding of how the three ways of life can said to be represented from a socioeconomic division, we find that around seventy percent of the people working are wage labour workers ( labourers, low and middle level civil servants). Ten percent are entrepreneurs (including farmers) and it is reasonable to assume that the overwhelming majority of these are small business owners or entrepreneurs. Only four percent can be said to belong to the career way of life. That is to say, the higher level civil servants and professional people (the latter are a very small group). Lawyers, doctors and architects with their own companies can be counted in this group (SCB Socioekonomisk indelning 1985). The concern is then focussed on what  the workforce looks like and gives only an approximate picture of the ways of life. We must bear in mind that the informal economy plays an important role in rural communites and in order to gain a better idea about its ways of life we need to carry out an in-depth analysis of the activities carried out by households.


Tradition-bound  communities


Within the locally- born population in a rural community there is a tight social network and it creates a strong social pressure towards conformity. These are some of the characterstics of a rural farming commmunity (see Hansen 1987). This picture of the way of life is in most ways the same I got in my 1990 study from several other places. The people interviewed describe a community where the locally-born people have close social contacts within certain groups. Above all, we learn that the people keep within their families. They are together with each other and there is a strong feeling of solidarity within and  a facade directed outwards.


The strong feeling of solidarity and  privacy within families of the local people make it difficult for newcomers to come into the group. Outside the family and other groups there is little contact and there is a feeling of scepticism towards newcomers. Tolerance towards  differing behaviour is also very slight towards newcomers. They are often viewed with suspicion and there is often a conservative attitude. New ideas and  new-fangledness are met with strong resistance. However, there is something positive with the feeling of solidarity in the village. There is a feeling of safety for the people. As an outsider one can get the wrong picture of the group and the large amount of contact between the people. It is not always that  large.




We clearly meet the much discussed jantelagen  in the rural communities. Nobody should draw attention to themselves or stick out in any way, which can threaten the social balance in the village. The old relationships of dependency still remain. Mutual relations between people are important for life to work well in a small place. People are dependent upon the good relationships with neighbours and family to manage various tasks. Since people may often meet, it is important that the social contacts should be peaceful and friendly. Therefore, people avoid all too differing ideas or values. Instead they make the effort to have good contact. People invest, so to speak, in their social contacts in a way different from what is necessary in a larger community or in a town. There people buy themselves the services needed - having money is sometimes more important than being on friendly terms with their neighbours. Being on bad terms with one´s neighbours and conflicts between neighbours in the countryside are,on the other hand, very difficult to put right.  Therefore, people often take care not to upset the delicate balance. This leads to  caution with new ideas and changes which, in some way or another, are not accepted by others or which can be interpreted as a threat to the interests of the village. The local population marks its feeling of belonging by using dialect with each other. When talking to someone not considered to belong to the local community, they will use rikssvenska, or standard Swedish.


Local patriotism


The winds of change have also blown across the rural community. Centralisation, the concentration of living and working,  and the mergers of municipalities in the administrative infrastructure have all been obvious. However, people are still trying to keep a hold onto their roots. The last merger of small municipalities into the now larger municipalities took place in 1974. Going back to the 40´s and the 50´s, we can see that these districts were divided up into even smaller municipalities. Before 1952, the county had around 60 municipalities. At the beginning of the 1960´s there were twenty six. Now there are only eight.


Local patriotism seems to cover, on the first hand, the really small district or even a village. However, several small communities can also gather against the local town or what they consider to be centralisation and central governing.


Land of the Sami People


There are 1300 Sami people in Jämtland. Even if the Sami people are a group on their own with their own culture and language, they are not very much different from the rest of the population.The Sami people are not our Indians . The Sami are almost fully integrated into Swedish society, even if the group who own reindeer (between 300 - 400 in Jämtland) still live in their own settlements (”sita” in the Sami language) or in the outskirts of communities. The difference can lie, for example, in the fact that some Sami people have very poor housing compared to today´s standard in Sweden. The housing  even in the countryside is of normally high standard today. However, some of the Sami have an unnormally low standard of housing.


The Sami settlements are to be found in west Jämtland, but the Samis´right to winter grazing ground extends over nearly the whole county. Only the areas to the deep south-east are exceptions. About 300 of the 1 300 Sami work with reindeer herding. The Sami people in Jämtland belong to the South Sami group and they do not speak the same language as the larger group of North Sami. They have their own language and do not understand North Sami, and vice-versa (the South Sami language in Norway).


The industry of the Sami people, reindeer herding, and also their culture, are being threatened by modern forestry industry, which mainly threatens their winter grazing grounds. The expansion of hydroelectric power and lake regulations, and tourism, to a certain degree, are also a threat to the Sami people, their industry and their way of life.


The accessibility to grazing land determines how many reindeer the Sami people can have and fewer and fewer Sami can get an income through reindeer herding. Rationalisation within the reindeer industry has been important for this development. Modern reindeer herding is mechanized and on a large scale. For example, they use motorcycles, snowmobiles and helicopters for reindeer herding and supervision. The changes have lead to fewer and fewer Sami people being able to work in  reindeer herding and many of them have been forced to leave the industry and take other jobs. This often means that they also leave the settlements and move to other places, where they lose the Sami feeling of solidarity. In this way a split between reindeer herding Sami and those who do not herd reindeer is growing.


The thinning out Moving away and leaving fewer behind


The Sami settlements also have the same problem as the rest of rural communities. That is to say, people move away, above all the young women move away. This makes it more difficult to start families within the Sami group. In many places single men are now mostly the reindeer herders (Ersson 1977, p65). The restrictions which the reindeer herding legislation places  on the Sami´s work and business, also mean that the opportunities for development in the Sami settlements are very much limited. The reindeer herding unit only has the right to run reindeer herding. The Sami people´s  right to hunt game on their areas, once an exclusive right, has also been taken from them through new legislation, which allows others to get permits to hunt on the Sami areas. Edvin Rensberg, Mittådalens Sami settlement, describes the Sami people´s situation in the following way:


”Today we can devote a large part of our efforts to defending the lands we have left. But actually, we would like to plan ahead, develop our industries. And we would like to start from the bottom and change the reindeer herding legislation. Today the reindeer herding unit does not have the possibility to run anything else other than reindeer herding according to reindeer herding legislation, and this limits us very much. The paragraph is a remnant of the old guardianship we have been put under, and it should be taken away as quickly as possible.” ” Another thing would be that we Sami could take care of a greater part of the breeding and selling areas from that which reindeer herding produces. Today we have all the costs and all the work with the reindeer, and then buyers come and take care of slaughtering and breeding. A large part of the earnings ends up in other hands. If we could start building slaughter-houses, work on handicraft, tourism and other industries under our own ownership, then many young Sami women would get work there instead of having to move away and disappear from us.” (ibid p65)


The Sami projects


The projects which the Sami settlements have been able to be involved with must have a connection with reindeer herding. Some of the development projects in Jämtland  deal with methods for feeding reindeer instead of letting them manage on their own. Instead of using motorcycles, which causes problems for the environment, attempts have been made to use Icelandic ponies. Horses! a completely new idea for the Sami. Slaughterhouses run by the Sami people themselves have been started. But above all, they have  tried to develop tourism in connection with the reindeer and the Sami culture. Before the new hunting legislation came into force, they could invest in selling hunting rights. They were able to offer ”hunting package deals”, containing the renting of a cottage, guided tours and hunting. And they also sold Sami handicraft. Individual Sami families, just like any other Swede, can start their own business. There are such businesses, and they mainly are in the tourism sector. Njarka Sami camp and Mittådalen are two such businesses which build upon Sami culture. But there is certain resistance among many Sami people to invest in tourism. They do not consider it good. It means having to sell oneself. Reindeer herding is what matters, at least among the older people. New ideas are beginning to develop in the younger Sami.


Countryside and culture


For the Sami people, the countryside, the hills and the mountains make up a part of the culture. The forms of countryside are a part of the culture picture. The sense of belonging to a certain area is important in Sami culture. The mountains, fells, streams and forests where the Sami live are filled with cultural history, so to speak.


The natural hillsides and countryside are connected to their means ofliving, their social and cultural life, their mythology, religion and tradition of story-telling.  Through their way of living, their mythology and tradition of story-telling they have created a connection between nature and culture, one of the characteristics of a primitive people. The countryside itself with its mountains and fells, the ”untouched” nature are an essential part in the Sami way of life and it is, viewed from their perspective, just as violent an encroachment upon their life and culture to build power stations, to cut down forests and to make changes to the land as it would be to pull down the Old Town in Stockholm for forest plantation. The natural landscape is the Sami people´s cultural landscape (Gaukstad 1986, p158 - 165).


The Sami  poet Paulus Utsi captures a part of this reality in


Smärtande kärlek (Painful love)


Såsom en krokig björk               Like a gnarled birch tree

vid fjällets kant                            at the side of the fell

så är mitt liv                                such is my life

tuktat av vinden                          punished by the wind.

Såsom björkens stam               Just as the trunk of the birch

lyser mot barmarken                  gleams towards the bare ground,

så längtar jag till fjällen,              so do I long to the fells,

slätterna, boplatserna                the flat lands, the places where we live.

Det är mitt liv                              It is my life

som jag älskar                            which I love


av Paul Utsi



Hunting and fishing


Conflicts between the Sami and the remainder of the population have also been about the competition for hunting grounds and fishing rights. This is perhaps not so strange, since the Sami have certain privileges and  that hunting and fishing clearly belong to one of the most central points in men´s way of life in Jämtland. This is what every social worker, without exeption, points out as the answer to the question of what characterizes the style of life in the area. They say that it is hunting and fishing which keep the people (the men, at least) in the villages. This is what makes people move back again, even if there is not much work and even if incomes are lower than elsewhere.


Fishing is a very common leisure activity for Jämtlanders and people from Härjedalen. More than half of the inhabitants go fishing once a year. The many rivers and streams are rich in char,  whitefish, pike, perch and other fish, and fishing takes place all year round. In the winter people meet on the lakes to fish through holes in the ice (Rentzhog 1984, p115).


Hunting and fishing have a long tradition in Jämtland communities and they are activities which men from all social classes do. The activities are also important for the informal economy and around 10 000 elks are shot in Jämtland each year ( In 1972 16 700 elk were shot). Hunting is therefore very popular among men in Jämtland and one third of all  men take part in hunting.  Elkhunting is, of course, the annual addiction, so to speak, and during the first week of the hunting season many men take their holidays then, so that they can take part. Many workplaces have to manage with a greatly reduced workforce (Rentzhog 1984 p111).  Hunting means a great deal for the economy of a household in the rural areas.  It is, however, something of great social importance. A hunting team  usually consists of 15 to 20 men and in the smaller villages the greater  part of the male population can be in the hunting team. The hunting team thereby becomes an expression for the feeling of solidarity and of being togther in the village (Hansen 1987 p38).


Hunting has both a practical (economic) side and a symbolic ritual attached to it. The hunting team acts as a kind of brotherhood. To be allowed to take part means the acknowledgement of belonging to the local group. To be accepted in thelocal hunting team  it is important to share the fundemental values which prevail there. Equality and  mutual understanding are brought out in the men. Differences, arguments and conflicts are repressed or kept away (Ekman 1983, p75 - 100). Sometimes one hears men justifying their interest in hunting by getting out into the forest and nature. It can also be a part of the ritual which has its roots long back in the villages of the forests.


Cultural characterstics of the rural areas.


We can summarize the picture of the values of life (that is to say what is appreciated and valued at most) in the people of rural areas in the following way: contact with nature, with the forests, the lakes and the mountains, being together with their animals and the feeling of being together with their neighbours. Working hard, getting on with the job, being strong and bold are also things which are of esteem in the rural areas ( or at least by the men). You should not be afraid of hard work.


The ethnologist Thomas Höjrup gives a similar picture of the rural culture. He has found that  the owner farmer praises hard work and perseverance, the feeling of responsibility and the spirit of getting on with things, independence and freedom, the ability to cooperate and the spirit of self-reliance as well as physical strength (Höjrup 1983 p67). The rural way of life is borne to a large extent by entrepreneurship within farming ,transport industries and service industries. The whole family, or a large part of it, are often engaged in the business or work. One central value for these people is that they themselves control their work and decide themselves how and when it shall be carried out. This way of life is also characterized by they way they do not separate free time from work. Höjrup says that people with a rural way of life live in order to work, whilst people in the wage labour way of life work in order to live (ibid p475).


The family


Family and relations are also of great importance as a force which keeps them together and which organizes them: for the farmer, the shop owner, the craftsman and the hotel owner etc.  It (the family) is the centre in a wide web of activities which are essential for life in the countryside. And  the meaning of having good relations and neighbours cannot be underestimated in the rural way of life.  The passing down of the work or business through the generations  is of vital importance for the continuation of the rural way of life. Traditionally one or more of the children takes over the business, be it a farm, a workshop or a shop. If the children move away, however,  and leave the rural way of life, the business may not continue to be run when the parents cannot do it any longer. This is why an essential part of the strategy for survival is that the young remain in the countryside and are part of the work (ibid p73 - 115, 196 - 202)




Some other values of life can be given in this context. Versatility and handiness are a kind of value in the rural area. The same value is attached to the ability or possibility to be able to organize one´s work oneself, or in any case to have a job which is less dependant upon the clock. Flexibility and certain possibilties to decide one´s working time for oneself are appreciated. Farmers like to stress as a positive thing that they are free to decide for themselves, that they are their own master (Arnstberg 1983 p87).


The appreciation of being free to decide for oneself is also applicable to other groups and it is not an uncommon idea in rural areas that it is an advantage not to be tied by a year-round job. For example, people working in the tourist industry often think it is a good thing with the low season in the autumn. They have some time over for hunting and fishing, berry-picking or perhaps even chopping the firewood for the coming winter or digging up the potatoes. They can even get umemployment benefit whilst they are working in the informal economy side. This idea is so common in the rural areas that employers who want a full-time employee often complain about not being able to get people to take a job with this condition.


Self determination


Versatility, diversity and self determination belong to the values of the rural people and they can be on a collision course with the values of the strictly speaking wage earner. 

Home products, extra jobs, and combinations of work belong to life in the country. The appreciation of being one´s own master, is reflected in a negative way towards authorities which want to take control or which want to become involved with what one is doing. There is a generally hostile attitude towards the state and bureaucracy, and to every attempt at central governing.


The Republic of Jämtland


It is clear in many places in rural Jämtland that people are notoriously suspicious of authorities and central governing. Jämtar (the people from Jämtland) are known for their will to have autonomy. They do not want to take directives from Stockholm, central bureaucracy or the government, or even worse from Brussels.!


This Jämtland pride is probably a consequence of the history of Jämtland. There is in the mythology of Jämtland´s history the idea of Jämtland as the free farming republic (Rentzhog 1984 p157). It is not completely certain that it was ever like that, but it is not impossible, either. Jämtland has belonged to Norway and then Sweden. It was probably relatively free before the 12th century. They had their own laws and coins and their own customs (ibid). It was not until 1645 that Jämtland became Swedish for good.


Today there are still many signs of the Jämtar wanting to maintain the idea of the Republic of Jämtland. They have their own flag (green, white and blue: representing the forests, the mountains and the sky). One of the local newspapers calls itself the Republic´s newspaper. There is a president and a government ( mostly as fun!). There is a strong feeling of resistance against central governing, which  has been expressed in a widespread resistance against membership in the  European Union. Consequently these are some of the prerequisites for working  with rural community development in Jämtland.


What is a sparsely populated area?


Before we continue, it is necessary to say a few words about how I use the Swedish term glesbygd, which is translated as "sparsely-populated area" (village, town, region). As the reader has already become aware of, this term can be understood to mean the same as a geographical area where many problems exist. This is often also the picture one gets: a rapid decrease in population with especially the young moving away and in turn a failing service structure, recession for the rural trades and loss of job opportunities, commuting, even over-exploitation of nature, conservatism and begrudgement. Nevertheless, as has already been implied, one can also perceive the term in a positive way. It can evoke a beautiful landscape, refreshing nature experiences, quiet and enchantment in our miraculous world. It can mean relationships, sharing, helpfulness, collaboration and unaffected life styles.


Most frequently encountered is perhaps the use of the term to define a problem area which cannot survive on its own efforts, an area which is so to speak "in need of help". It is in this way the term is used when, for example, the State decides which areas are to receive special subsidies, i.e. the area which has weak industrial prerequisites, lacks employment opportunities within a reasonable distance, and where a decreasing population base results in difficulties in maintaining services. (Johannisson 1986 pg. 10).


Outskirts 30 km from a towncentre


The Swedish Statistical Bureau, SCB, tries to simplify the term for its own purposes. For example, when they carry out their population census they see glesbygd as everything outside of the main population centres. These centres are classified in turn as densely populated if there is not more than 200 meters between the houses and not less than 200 inhabitants. With such a definition approximately 1.4 million people (out of a total of approximately 8.5 million) live in the sparsely-populated areas. To my way of thinking this is an all too sweeping definition which better fits the countryside in its totality.


The Ministry of Industry offers the following definition of glesbygd: the areas which lie more than 50 km from primary cities (administrative centres); or the area which lies more than 30 km from a population centre with at least 10000 inhabitants (central town). This definition includes in the term glesbygd towns with less than 3000 inhabitants, if these lie farther than 20 km from other towns of similar size or a cluster of several somewhat smaller towns or villages (ibid pg. 11). The Ministry of Industry's definition is more in line with how I perceive glesbygd. The European Union defines sparsely populated areas in Sweden as areas with less than nine inhabitants on each square kilometre. Most of the Northern Inland has average less than two, exept 11 districts which have average less than seven inhabitants (map showes the Northern Inland i.e the priority areas according to EU).



The local arena   


The reader will remember from chapter two that one way to study and understand the forces which are often used in local development work is the so-called necessary triangle. This three-headed model is very common in successful projects in Scandinavia, where there is a strong public sector. The model is relevant in our study of local development work in Jämtland. This also goes for many other projects in Scandinavia. The continuation of this chapter is structured by this three-headed model. But the reader should bear in mind that the complete picture (that is the whole triangle) is crucial for how the development work will develop.



The necessary triangle attempts to catch three forces which are present in local development processes. Firstly, and most importantly, we have the local initiative and mobilization of local resources: people, knowledgedge, competence in the following: culture, social and political areas, economic and material fields as well as geographicac (see chapter two)


Local development groups have had a great impact, both in strengthening people's feeling of attachment for their home village and in creating a spirit of community among the population. A range of "cultural projects" can make a valuable contribution in this direction by increasing the inhabitants' awareness of their village's history and roots as well as their own, for example. Such an awareness has in turn led to a stronger feeling for the area at large and identification with the local community in particular (Wahlström 1986 pg 60-62). Different cultural projects or activities, such as study circles about the history of the village, the renovation of the community hall, the creation of a local museum, local historical dramas or musical revues. All fill several functions and can be purposefully incorporated as a generative force into the mobilization process. Here it is a case of being more than a cultural activity in the narrower traditional or conventional meaning, that is, most often solely for consumption. These projects should instead be a matter of commitment, self-activity, life space and an envisioned future.


The new village movement


The 80's became in some ways Sweden's inland-development decade. At least in the sense that the theme was present in a good deal of the political discussions and that the convoy of moving vans from these areas seemed for a time to have reversed direction. Resources were now pumped into special projects and campaigns for a living countryside. The peak was perhaps reached with the national campaign "All Sweden Must Live".


This was a part of the countryside campaign which the European Council announced in 1987. The purpose of the Swedish campaign was to arouse interest, create opinion, motivate and mobilize people, organizations and authorities to formulate ideas and programs for a living countryside - to carry out changes. The idea is to "let a thousand flowers bloom", that is, to create an atmosphere promoting this within the society. The Swedish committee of the Peoples Movement conveyed the idea through the following: ”The countryside and our villages are the base for our lives. They are threatened by the way we live and work. Each and every one of us is personally responsible for the development. However, we also have the opportunity to take up a new course. We have to begin with ourselves. Each and every one of us has to make the first step and form new ideas for a living countryside through imagination and creativity. Then we can start together the movement which will get all Sweden to live.” (Campaign brochure Hela Sverige ska leva! 1987)


By the close of the two-year campaign in 1989 the fiery cross had gone from village to village, from village club to village association. 6000 demands and suggestions for the development of the countryside had been drawn up for the Countryside Parliament (Landsbygdsriksdagen). This was held in Umeå in April 1989 and 650 delegates took part. The message from the parliament was clear: see the countryside as a resource, a source of inspiration and a bed for new development possibilties.[i]


Strengthened self-esteem


It has to be said that great success has been achieved by the campaign ”All Sweden Must Live” and the work continued by the Council of the Peoples Movement, as well as the continuing campaigns such as ”Countryside - the Future”. First and foremost there has been a change in attitude among the people from the countryside. The pessimistic attitude of decline which marked the 60´s and the 70´s with its feeling of dispair has clearly changed. Now, there is a marked feeling of optimism, belief in the future and the spirit of fighting on. In the 60´s and 70´s the countryside people often devalued themselves and they were often seen by the townspeople as being a little behind the times. Nothing of interest, it seemed, happened in the countryside.


However, the people from the countryside began to see themselves in a new light, especially with the new village movement and in light of the results they succeeded in achieving. It was now alright to live in the countryside and in the smaller communities. It was even exciting. Lots of things happened  there, there was life and movement going on and the spirit of development spread. People are proud of what they achieve and of their village. These new feelings of self-worth and  confidence are important factors in continued development work. The people I meet in the countryside here in Jämtland tell me that ”it´s now being seen as nice to live in the countryside”.


Not just talk 


This re-won confidence is not just talk. You can see the evidence in the concrete resluts of the practical work by the new village movements. By the end of the first countryside campaign in 1989 the Council of  the Peoples Movement (or its predecesor) had registered 871 local development groups.  A couple of years later the number had risen to 1 600 and in 1993 the number of development groups was 2 300. Today there are probably 3000. This is an increase of 164 percent in four years!


In 1992 - 93 the Council of the Peoples Movement carried out a survey in the form of a questionnaire to find out what  the development groups were doing. 500 groups answered the questionnaire. They reported that they had started together 272 businesses, ranging from products to services. The work of the groups had created 1800 new jobs, they had built 1660 houses and they had saved or created a total of 100 village shops. 190 of the projects are concerned with communication in the countryside, 272 of them were concerned with services, such as the post-office, local shop, library, conference rooms, kitchens, sports-halls, children´s day care centres, local national insurance offices, clinics, district nurses, tourist information and offices for local services, some of which were ”under the same roof” (as the example of Tossengård in Sörbygden or the examples of  Svågadalen  and Trångsviken). Most of the answers came from Jämtland and Västerbotten. Jämtland is also the county with the largest number of registered local development groups. At the beginning of 1994 there are 458 here. In Jämtland there are double as many groups in a population nearly half of Västerbottens (136 000 compared to 258 000 people).


Other projects in which the village development  groups are involved in are: road improvement, street lighting in the villages, new signs, shrubbery planting, in the areas of leisure and recreation there are bathing areas, foot-paths, care of the local monuments, environmental care such as purification plants etc. Often the work is concerned with keeping the local school, the local shop or the post-office. 100 village schools and a total of 570 shops out of 1 100 are threatened with closure in the whole country.[ii]  The development groups which answered the questionnaire have invested about 5 million SEK in their work. 153 groups have received a total of 53 million SEK from municipalities and County Administrations. Many, however, have received no help at all.


Development groups in Jämtland


Jämtland is the county with the vast expansive ridges of forests which run for miles and miles with their green and grey colouring slowly vanishing into the distance. This is the county of large expansive fine-forests, lakes stretching out over many kilometres and the expansive boglands. This is the county where you can see the mountains and fells from nearly every vantage point except along the east part of the county. Or as the composer Wilhelm Peterson-Berger writes in Jämtlandssången: ”......Så skåda vi med gamman hän emot berg i blåa fjärran, Hän över sjöar, strömmar, skogar jämt kring bygder på vakt. Fagert är landet, som blev vår lott och arvdel........”


The mountains and the lakes


 In Jämtland (here Jämtland means the provinces of Härjedalen and Jämtland) more than half of the area is covered by forests, sixty percent of them spruce forests. More than one sixth of the land is marsh and bogland. There are 5 000 lakes, around 500 of which have an area of more than one square kilometre. To the west lie the mountains or the ”keel”  with Norway behind them. There are more than 20 mountains which have a height of more than 1 400 metres above sea-level. In some places the mountains reach far into the countryside, as in Oviksfjällen, or they rise up out of the landscape like grey giants, as in Sånfjället or Åreskutan. Agriculture is mostly found around The Great Lake in the middle of the county. Most of the population lives in the areas around the Great Lake to the south and to the west with the main road network. The only town in the county is Östersund, which lies on the edge of the Great Lake, and 43% of the county´s population livehere. In the countryside most of the villages are to be found on the ridges (mostly there to avoid the night frosts). The villages have often got their names from their position, as in Sikås, Kaxås, Häxås and Aspås (”ås”  means ridge).



The climate varies a great deal and the weather conditions can change very quickly. The winters are often very cold and the summers chilly, but light. During November, Jämtland starts to be steeped in the winter darkness, but when the snow comes it gets lighter, despite the fact that the sun is only up for around four hours a day during December and January. For the most part, Jämtland is  open to the Arctic winds from the north and east, and is cut off from the Atlantic and the Gulf stream. Yet, the more central parts of Jämtland have a milder climate than other parts of Norrland. This depends on the fact that  the Trondheim fjord has open water during the winter. The Atlantic winds and weather systems can reach into the low fells at Storlien and Sandviken and continue down into Åredalen and the area around The Great Lake.




Larger than Denmark


Jämtland is a wide county with an area which is larger than that of Denmark (49 000 sq.km. compared to 43 000 sq.km or 38% of the area of England with its population 370 times more, or to put it another way, more than double the size of New Jersey with its 8 million inhabitants!). The population of Jämtland is only 2.6% of that of Denmark´s ( or 1/38th). In Jämtland the population density is less than three per square kilometre, wheras in Denmark it is 117 per square kilometre. Even in Swedish terms Jämtland is an extremely sparsely populated county.  The population density in Sweden is 17 per square kilometre. The county is, in actual fact, more sparsely populated than the figures tell, since more than 50 percent of the population of the county live within a radius of 40 km from Östersund. Depopulation and the fact that people move away has always been a great problem for Jämtland. Up till the 1950´s the population increased, but during the 50´s and the 60´s Jämtland  was affected by a large emigration of the population. In 1950 the population of the county stood at 152 700 people. In 1960 the population stood at 149 000 people and by 1970 it had sunk to 131 400 ( a reduction of more than 20 000 people or 14% in twenty years). Above all young people moved away. During the 70´s the reduction suddenly stopped and there was a slight increase in the number of people instead. Today, Jämtland has a total of 136 000 people, 6000 more than in 1970. This is an increase of 2000 people since 1989, but a reduction of 11% since 1950. The prognosis for the year 2000 speaks for a continued slight increas of 2000 people (Proposition 1993/94: 140 p228).



The blue sky


In the north of Jämtland and in Härjedalen the climate is more severe and the cold can be really biting in wintertime. The climate of the inlands also makes the summertime represively hot. The air in Jämtland can be crystal clear and the light can be an intensive blue in a way which is hardly ever experienced in the south of Sweden. Nature and climate have put their mark on the communities and the industrial life. Forestry and tourism are very important. Industrial  work is relatively small in comparison to Southern Sweden and to the Norrland coast. Approximately 7 000 people or 11% are employed in forestry and agriculture (which stands for a smalller part), 4 500 people or 7% work in tourism and 8 600 people or 13% work in industry (compared to a national figure of 22%). The public sector has the most employees, similar to the national trend. 27 500 people work in  this sector, which makes up 41%. This is a larger figure compared to the national figure of 37%. Employment  within the combined sector of agriculture and forestry has continued to decrease, and every year some 50 to 100 farms are forced to give up or combine with other farms.


The new village movement in Jämtland


In Jämtland today there are 458 development groups which are registered at the Council  of the Peoples Movement. Approximately 300 of these can be regarded as local development groups or village clubs, parish councils, community or village associations and local cooperatives. The actual number of village groups in the more traditional sense of the meaning (village club, village associatio and village council) is around 130. A number of road and street lighting associations are also included (around 10 of them), which, apart from their work of getting streetlighting to the villages, also carry out work similar to that of a village club (for example, bingo, dances, midsummer festivities, surströmming  festival in August, lucia in December etc which are arranged in the village hall etc.


The following list of activities can give an idea of what the village associations do: fixing the boat-house, building a baking house for ”thinbread” baking, fixing the jetty and the church shed (as in Börön´s village club). The village club in Bringåsen built out the village school, built a sports changing room, ice-hockey pitch, ski tracks, road improvements, tidied up the village farm and solved the travel arrangements to the school.


Another development group( the development group in the village of Nyhem) is building new housing in the village to attract new families with children and to alleviate the problem of taking over family property, they have  organized a village care-taker, renovated the bathing area, arranged ”returnee” days, worked with the village Co-op shop, improved child care and care for the elderly, organized activity evenings etc.


Another village club, that of Bruksvallarna, looks after the village hall, organizes study circles in a number of areas, such as handicraft in which the old teach the young, is building an outside stage, a village cottage(bystuga?),   floodlit ski tracks, and organizes digging days and  the village play.


The village club in Olden has renovated the village saw mill and carpenter´s, organized a smokery, renovated the village farm, built a small café, and is investing in tourism and has plans for the building of a small power station.


Samägan in Mattmar has built an ”industry centre” for carpentry and furniture, a video studio, a village square, improved services, has created a housing company and has built a bus station.


Another villag club (that of Orrviken) has renovated the village hall and runs a café, they have built a bathing area and planted shubbery, and are planning housing for the elderly, so that the younger people can take over the farms and other property.


A varying degree of activities


Of course, the different kinds of activities and their content are varying, with everything from village associations which are very active and versatile to others which only organize a few  hobby evenings during the year, or organize a fishing competition during early spring. There are those which have the aims of keeping traditions and local culture, for example  the village blacksmith´s, the village dairy or the village saw mill. Other things such as the local steam-boat, the local mine, the chalets (shielings), or even perhaps ancient carvings can be worked with, as in the village club of Ljusnedal. Others concentrate on  business, such as fish farming, timber, sections for housing, tourist projects etc,as in Fåker. Some development groups invest in the areas which are of common interest in the village: the village loom, the village baking house, the village saw mill, the village farm or the village hall, the local sports ground, the village jetty, the dance hall, the church, the church hall, the boathouse, the slaughter house, the school, the shop the post office, the petrol station, the campsite etc.


Many concentrate on tourism and are developing the advantages in their local area for this purpose. The new form on the way is experience tourism, which works on the idea of experiencing both nature and culture. ”Nature” tourism, on the other hand, is concerned with people coming in contact with nature and the wilderness areas in a good way (sometimes it is more popularly known as eco-tourism). The following are an idea of what nature tourism is about: the village play,guided tours, berry and mushroom picking, drinking clean fresh water directly from the rivers, life in the shielings, nature, the drama of the mountains and the forests, renting cottages, boat and canoe hire, fishing permits, hunting rights, selling handicraft and arts and crafts. All this can be used to make money for the countryside and to create employment there.


Many activities


The activities in the new village movement spans over a wide area, everything from hobby evenings to production. A mixture of activities is often involved. It can alternate, from small to big, from easy to difficult, from little activity to a lot of activity, from little to wide participation, and from a great feeling of solidarity  to tensions and conflicts. And it would be strange if not so, considering the multitude of groups, associations, people and relationships. Nobody should think that rural development is a bed of roses, despite the fact that there is now a whole range of activity out seething in the villages. One thing is certain. The new village movement has begun to turn the Jantelagen  around and has started a  number of activities with wide participation in and around the villages. The countryside is on the march, as it is now called, and we have probably only seen the beginning of the movement, not least in Jämtland.


The new cooperative movement


There is a strong development of new small cooperatives which are parallel or rather a part of the new cooperative movement. Sweden has a tradition of organizing on a collective, cooperative form which is more than one hundred years old. As early as the 1850´s workers and peasants created cooperative trade associations. This tradition has continued through the last and this century. It is principally the consumer cooperative movement which has been particularly strong. It started it own manufacturing side later on, but this was not nearly as successful.


The idea of consumer cooperatives came from Great Britain, where textile workers in Rochdale started the first modern cooperative in 1844. The pioneers had got their ideas from the socialist Robert Owen, amongst others. It was he who had organized a ”model community” in Scotland. The idea was to create work through production of their own and provide the members with goods. The cooperative would be a reformist, socialistic alternative to Marxist socialism (Olsson 1994, p13 - 14).


A strong consumer cooperative


The first consumer cooperative in Sweden was formed in Örebro in 1860. The movement quickly grew and in 1899 the Cooperative organization, Kooperativ förbundet was formed. Today there are around 140 consumer associations (Konsum) with two million members. The Tenants Savings Bank, Hyresgästernas sparkasse, the housing associations HSB and Svenska riksbyggen, the oil company OK, and the insurance company Folksam are all counted in the consumer cooperative. The producers cooperative is principally found within agriculture and food production (dairies, slaughter houses etc). In total there are 23 cooperative organizations with 7000 local branches with a total of 9.4 million members (SOU 1987:33).


Cooperative is derived from the Latin con - operati and means working together. It mainly  refers to some kind of economic cooperation. In Sweden cooperative businesses are usually run as economic associations. This means that every member, who is also a shareholder, has one vote. Therefore, it is a kind of democratic business which the members own and run together on equal conditions. But it usually means much more. That is to say that it has been created to support the common needs of the members and interests (Lorendahl 1994, p 7 -8).


New definitions


The new cooperatives do not fit completely into the division of the established cooperatives of consumer and producers cooperatives. Sometimes the members are both consumers and producers for themselves. That is why new descriptions have started to be used for these cooperatives, such as  user cooperatives, workers cooperatives and community cooperatives (brukarkooperativ, personalkooperativ och

samhällskooperativ )


A users cooperative is a merger of ”users”, who try to satisfy common needs through their work. They also take part to a greater or lesser extent in the work as ”producers”, as in a cooperative day care centre run by the parents. A workers cooperative is a company or business which is owned and run by those who work there and put the principles of the cooperative into practice ( those of democratic management, cooperation etc). It is actually a kind of workers and users cooperative. But when the company is of a public nature, such as in the care sector, the term workers cooperative is preferred.



Village cooperatives


A community cooperative is a company with many functions which run a number of different types of work within a certain geographic area, as in a village for example. In the new village movement it is also called village cooperative, which seems to be an adequate description when the work involved covers the different needs for and in the village. This can be in the running of the local village school or the local shop, the association´s farm, the dance hall, the art and crafts centre, the jetty, the village saw mill, the children´s centre or housing for the old people.


In Sweden there are approximately 14 000 economic associations. Only a small part of these can be counted in the new cooperative movement. The greater part of these belongs to the older, more established cooperatives such as KF, HSB, LRF etc. It is easy to recognize the new cooperatives by the areas where they are new and which are normally counted in the public sector. A survey about new cooperatives reported that there were 1 116 new cooperatives within the public sector in 1992. Cooperatives run by parents within the childcare sector are the dominating group. There were 933 such cooperatives (SOU 1991:24 part 1, ref from Lorendahl 1994, p22).


It began in 1983


It can be said that the cooperative movement in Jämtland started in 1983 with the creation of the childcare cooperative in Hunge. This was the start for a very rapid development of childcare cooperatives in Jämtland. The new cooperative movement has spread to other areas. Today there are 129 new cooperative associations in the county. The largest group is in childcare cooperatives. Number two on the list are community or village cooperatives (there are 17 of them). Next come producers cooperatives (16 of them). This group has people who work with arts and crafts as the largest part (six of them). Four work with garden products and produce, 14 goat farmers have a collective sellers´ organization, Jämtspira. Other examples in this group are fish farmers, wool producers, potters, building work and service companies.


There are 10 consumer cooperatives. Most of them (6) are goods cooperatives or ”purchasing centres” for the members and some run village shops.In several cases the village shops are also run as community cooperatives. There are seven cooperatives for care for the elderly, two workers cooperatives within the care sector and a cooperative for the mentally handicapped. A large number of 27 cooperatives make up a large miscellaneous group. They include cooperatives for the young people, tourism, media, theatre, skilifts, steamer boats and computer. There are also cooperatives which run school cafés, activity centres and leisure centres, etc. The municipality of Östersund has the most cooperatives. Next comes Krokom and Åre.[iii]


Economic associations


Community cooperatives mainly deal with the same types of work as village cooperatives. Many of the village cooperatives are economic associations, like a cooperative, but are not called cooperatives. This may depend of the fact that they do not embrace the cooperative principles and they may associate these with some socialistic idea - if they only knew the background to cooperatives. However, the old cooperative principles are not quite relevant for the new cooperatives, as in the examples of the prinicples for  paid interest on investment, or for profit being shared in relation to the members purchases or deliveries.


Through some of the studies carried out at Mid Swede University (see note 5.5.1), we have seen that these cooperative principles are far from always being right at the time even in associations which call themselves cooperatives.This is probably not so important either. Almost every cooperative has in its regulations that the purpose of the association is to promote the economic interests of its members.  This is standard wording, but taken further in its meaning it is probably the most important. The association has been formed in order for the people to tackle common problems together. It is a project which demands cooperation and mutual involvement, and therefore assumes a democratic organization of the work.


A cooperative project often has economic elements. However, the main purpose is rarely ”big business” and profit. Money has to be earned for the work to go round economically, if  the people do not want to live on financial support. There are cooperatives which operate like that, but they are for the benefit for everyone and are public. However, cooperative businesses which are in the market cannot live permanently on grants. On the other hand, they do not  work according to the common principles of private capitalism, that of maximizing profit.


Social economy


Within the new cooperative and village movements the term social economy is beginning to be heard (Olsson 1994). Social economy is concerned with people´s conditions of living and how they make use of resources: human, cultural, social, material, economic( in its narrowest sense) and ecological resources. These are all used to keep and increase the quality of life for the members and for the local community. Social economy means having the central point based on human capability and human resources. These are the things which are probably the rural people´s greatest asset. It is about fostering and using people´s ability to develop - developing their knowledge and competence. It is also about the ability to cooperate in order to create a common wealth. Above all, it is these things which concern the countryside and the rural areas. People have to take things into their own hands, not becoming reliant upon the welfare state or big business. It is just this insight and change of perspective which I believe to be a part of the explanation for the new grassroots movement.


Both the new village movement and the new cooperative movement, which I see as parts of a new grassroots movement, have the important purpose of mobilizing and developing people´s capability to create a good life for themselves and their children. The basis of this is what they themselves have and are able to do and continue to develop. People also take part in the fight for the distribution of resources in society; resources which are also distributed via the state, municipalities and the county councils.


New principles are needed


It is about time for the new cooperative movement to reformulate or add some of the old cooperative principles from 1844. These need to have a little more importance in today´s modern society. Perhaps stress could be placed on work where a group of people gets together around a common interest. At the same time there is a context and an overall perspective of the work. This overall perspective should also concern both inwards and outwards. Such work should have a ”pedagogic dimension”, so that the activity, work or whatever, fosters growth, awareness, knowledge and self-esteem in people. Outwardly the work should be characterised by tolerance, cooperation and environmental awareness.


Development work and business in a cooperative should create improvements, not only for a small group of members, but rather for the whole local community. This should not only include material improvements, but also social and cultural improvements. The work and activity should be formed and organized in such a way that improvement, competence and progress will embrace not only the individual but also the group and the local community.



Ecology and humanism


 As new cooperatives and the village movement develop, social economy should stand for both humanism and awareness of the ecology (ecosofi, according to Naess 1981) to contribute to a sustainable social and ecological development. The following is an attempt to summarize these principles combined with some of the old ones for a cooperative activity.


New cooperative principles


1. Open and voluntary membership


2. Both politically and religiously unbiased


3. Democratic management


4. Based on the philosophies of cooperation, humanism and ecology.


5. Applies pedagody based on freedom and growth, and applies the idea of collectiveness  in work


6. Based on a combination of cultural, social and economic goals


7. Aims at a sustainable development, both socially and ecologically


The community associations´old ways


Cooperation in the countryside and in the villages goes back a long way in Sweden. A hundred years ago (perhaps even further back) it was usual to have a village club or village assembly. The village club stood for collective ownership of the meadows, fishing waters, forests, the common, the village mill, saw-mill and blacksmith´s (Hellspong 1979, p285 - 318). What characterised the villages in the countryside before the reform was their dependency on each other for  defence and safety in the village and the helping out of tasks. The work was associated with being togther and festivities. Weddings, harvesting and funerals brought the village together (ibid p54 -74).


In Jämtland there is a long and strong tradition of getting together around a common interest and organizing associations which encourage cooperation, as in road associations, water-pipe associations, laundry associations, street-lighting associations and village clubs. As far as the economic side of the work is concerned it has long been usual for people to set up economic associations or unions, which is the legal term for these associations or unions concerned with collective economic cooperation. People in the villages have chosen or have been forced to solve certain tasks which concern  many of them in the shape of an association instead of using private means or going through the local authorities. Cooperation has been necessary in rural areas and the village association has been the collective power where people meet around the common interests of the village. That is why it has also been important to be both politically and religiously unbiased, or having special interests in other ways. More often, other associations have been based on special interests.




Strong traditions in the village associations has certainly had an important role in the upturn of the village and new cooperative movements in the county. Our belief has been that the ideas for development which are linked to the ways of living in the village and the practical preconditions there have the greatest prerequisites for being carried out. It has concerned those things which have had to do with hunting, fishing, snow scooters, skiing, arts and crafts, weaving and thinbread baking. In many cases we can see that they are like that. But the way of life is not so defined or rural any longer. Even rural areas have undergone some kind of modernisation. People have different types of education and jobs change. Many new ideas for work and activities have come. The development groups are now coming from a wide front and village people are now committing themselves to a number of new activities, everything from care to the latest in communication and computer technology.


The importance of associations in the villages


It is a striking feature how active association life has been and still is in many villages in Jämtland. To illustrate this point we shall look at two examples, one from a village rather remote in the forests of Härjedalen and another from an agricultural village in the heart of Jämtland.


The village in the forest


Lillhärdal is a rural community right in the middle of the vast expansive forests of Norrland. The nearest town is Sveg, nearly 30 kilometres away and to get there you drive through the vast  forest areas. There is nothing else near Lillhärdal. It is a village at the end of the road, literally. 800 people live there. 345 of them work. Most commute to Sveg or to other places further away. Forestry has long been the dominating source of work here. Many still work in agriculture and forestry (23% against the national  average 2.8%). However, the public sector is still the largest employer with 34% (Lundström 1992 p7).


In this village of only 800 people there are 30 associations. The variety of activties is, of course, high. The biggest association is the athletic club with 350 members. In Lillhärdal´s action group there are about the same number of members and they are in the struggle against large company expansion plans for the watercourse (ibid p 12 - 29). One of the most active clubs is the scooter club, which also takes part in the local development work (ibid p60).



The farm village


Alsen is situated on the north west bank of Lake Alsen and has a beautiful view over the lake and the surrounding countryside. Alsen consists of the village with the church out on the point and the nearby eight smaller villages, several of which run into each other. There is a total of around 300 inhabitants. Due to its good conditions for agriculture the area has been a farming community since the Middle Ages. In the 1960´s half of the population worked in agriculture or forestry. Nowadays only a handful of farms are still in operation. Seventy five people in Aslen work, only 25% of them work in the village. As in many other places in rural areas most work in the public sector. Agriculture and forestry come in second place. There is  no industry to talk of (Lundström 1992, p40).


Alsen has had up to 50 clubs and associations. Today about 20 of them are still working. The largest are Alsen athletic club and the local village association (with 300 members each, some members come from outside). Since 1987 Alsen has had a very active village club which has taken the initiative and built a children´s centre which is now run by the cooperative run by the parents - Syttpigan. The villagers invested 700 volunteer man hours in the building work. The village club is an economic association. They have plans to build a house for the elderly and have set up a housing association for the creation of new housing in  the village.


In Alsen village complex there is a large meeting hall, a library, a swimming pool and a laundry. They have organized film shows, dances, other entertainments and traditional festivities (30 April, midsummer etc). Many of the young people are active in the village complex and in the recently set up youth club. (ibid p 41 - 52).


The village association looks after two clubs and a museum. They have renovated the baking house for thinbread baking. They arrange guided tours and excursions to the rock carvings, they have elk festivals, midsummer celebrations etc. There are around 100 active members in the village club. The clubs and associations have  shown themselves to be a good gathering and uniting  force for development work in the village. The village club comes out as being the club with the most initiatives. Alsen has become known for its active development groups and comes out as being an example for inspiration in the new village movement.


The social function of the community clubs and associations


It can be said that the community associations have gained  increased social importance as a meeting point. Village people now say that it is not like it used to be when they used to meet more spontaneously. Dropping in on people does not happen so much. You only visit someone if you have been invited. Lifestyle has changed with the help of the following: the increase in money through both men and women working, communication, commuting, the car, TV and video, and the greater economic independence.  The more urban lifestyle is pushing its way into the villages. People do not have either the time or the same needs to keep the neighbourhood relations as they were. Earlier, these relations had the function of strengthening mutual help. Now instead, people meet and get together around the bonfire on the 30th April, for example, or they meet at the midsummer celebrations, the elk-soup celebrations, at Christmas time and, not forgetting, birthdays, weddings and other important events (Lundström 1992, p61 - 62, Ronnby 1991).




The new village movement has also created nationwide cooperative organisations. There are now ten such national organisations, from Skåne in the south to Norrbotten in the north. In Jämtland the organisation is called Byforum and it is a merger of the 300 development groups in the county. The board of the forum consists of one representative from each municipality´s local development groups and a chairperson. 


The aims of the Byforum is to act as a link between the development groups in the county. Byforum is also a link between the development groups and the Council of the Peoples Movement and other authorities. The organisation came into being to help the exchange of experiences between the groups and to coordinate some of the activities, as well as to create opinion and to act as a pressure on authorities. The chairperson of Byforum today is called Signild Andersson and comes from Lillholmsjö in the municipality of Krokom. Byforum works as a support and an encouragement for the village groups to invest in short training courses for village development work.They are also active in the Road Rebellion in Jämtland (Vägupproret). This is a campaign against the government and the National Road Board to get better roads in the county.


The Council of the Peoples Movement


In connection with the countryside campaign ”All Sweden  Must Live”  the Council of the Peoples Movement was set up in1989. Its purpose was to stimulate and support local development work, to work for the exchange of ideas and experiences, to be a uniting force in  questions concerning countryside policy, to make work which created opinion, and to act as a speaker for the local groups when dealing with authorities and organisations. 2300 groups are affiliated to the Council. Its work include keeping contact with central authorities and looking after questions of importance for the countryside. It organises conferences, seminars and study circles and sends information to its members. Every three years  a countryside parliament  is arranged and around 500 - 600 delegates attend. In 1994 the parliament met in Växjo, and twelve points to carry through countryside development were formulated:


The Countryside Parliament demands for countryside development 1994


1. An overall view instead of the present sector division of thinking in community planning.

2. Increased users influence in community planning - the planning shall have local roots.

3.   Coordination of services in the countryside.

4.   Investment in developing local labour markets - loans, support for small businesses and  economic associations.

5.   The request for local countryside advisors or commissioners.

6.   Special investments for women who live in the countryside.

7.   Environmental awareness in all work that is done.

8.   Special attention given to the base industries: agriculture, forestry and fishing.

9.   The request for a fully developed communication system in the whole country - the AXE system and ”electronic motorways”, stop the continuing closing down of the rail network and invest in the building up and improvement of the small roads.

10. Stimulate house building in the countryside.

11. Invest in culture as a factor for development.

12. The countryside perspective must come out in education, not least in the primary school. Higher education must also be accessible for the people in the countryside. Research into small businesses and countryside development (The Council of the Peoples Movement 1994).



Public backing


Secondly we have Public backing, which means different kinds of support from the municipality: clearly shown interest, encouragement, praise, advice, compliance, smooth running of administration, contact networks, collaboration, practical help and economic support, follow-up and feed back. In principle the same is applicable for other public backing from The County Administration, for example, or from the County Council, the National Rural Area Development Authority and the state.


Public backing is important because it gives the development groups access to public means, it stops them becoming entangled in bureaucracy, as well as, but not least,  letting them feel that they themselves and what they are involved in are of importance. Figuratively speaking, these budding flowers in the countryside can be delicate plants and it is a question of nurturing them carefully. A "normal" restrictive treatment by the responsible administration can lead to resignation. A feeling that the local authority is not interested in rural development and that it therefore does not pay to even try to do something can spread, and smother the grassroots. This problem can arise when the local government has not yet decided how it should relate to the local development groups (Wahlström 1989 pg 3-6). It is therefore important that the local politicians give priority to a plan for support to local-development initiatives and that they ensure that this plan is clear and can be followed throughout the administration.


An important trait of the local government as empowerer is, therefore, its ability to spread the attitude that it is positive, meaningful and permitted that people in the village take initiatives in development ventures. This can among other things be done through progressive Municipal Development Corporations.








 External stimulation


Prototypes and good examples from other areas and communities can play an important role for a local group's commitment. Also, a capable resource person, e.g. a community worker coming from outside or maybe a "returnee" (a person who returns to his home village after being away for education, work, etc), can be significant as a catalyst for local development. Here we focus on community work and community development methods for mobilization and development which inspires or animates by a leading light, a community worker or a project leader. A community worker can, even though coming from outside of the local community or group, assist members thereof to organize themselves and define what they want and are able to achieve on the basis of their own conditions and resources.


An interesting example of resources and catalysts of the kind described above is the group of community workers and cooperative advisors at the Cooperative Development Center in Ås (15 km north of Östersund). They have been involved in a number of these local activities. The Center is itself a cooperative and economic organization and is supported by the eight municipalities of the county, the County Council and the large so-called "established" consumer and producer cooperatives (Konsum, farmers' cooperative and others). The National Cooperative Council, the National Board of Health and Welfare - as well as many of these small newly established local cooperatives - are members of the Regional Cooperative Council.


The origin of this Development Center can be traced back to a project, Cooperative Studies, which was started at the University of Östersund in 1983. Its purpose was, among other things, to stimulate the development of new forms of cooperatives in the county. In 1988 this activity moved out to its own localities in Ås. One reason for this move was a wish to stand free from the university world in order to identify more closely with the new cooperative movement per se.



The Center has three cooperative advisors and a secretary. The group assists those interested in starting a cooperative by arranging meetings where basic cooperative ideas can be clarified: how they can be implemented in practical activities within the actual area of interest for example. More generally, the advisors help to spread ideas and experiences of cooperative activities through study circles, seminars, lectures and courses around cooperative ventures and strategies for local development. The group functions as an intermediary and builder of networks between the active cooperatives. They are also a link between these and prospective cooperatives as well as to relevant authorities on all levels. The Center answers for pedagogical, social, economic and judicial advice either personally or through other resource persons.



Women power coming to the fore


It is interesting to note that women are strongly represented in many of the local development projects in the county of Jämtland. This is especially true of the local cooperatives. That women are so active can coincide with the fact that many of the projects concern questions of care. In the beginning several of the village-development projects had been forced to focus first on child-care needs. While women are initiators, men soon become involved in even the childcare activities and then take more active part in initiating following projects. With child-care service established, and when it is clear that all can work together and achieve envisioned changes, they go on to other projects in the village. Today this interdependency can be seen in the sixty or so child-care cooperatives in Jämtland.


Women's engagement can also be explained by the fact that many of the women in these areas are unemployed or are housewives. Also, the drift of the women from such regions, as mentioned earlier, has been extensive; an alternative is to become involved in one's own activity, to take one's own initiatives. Women have then, in a sense, both time and good reason to engage themselves when an opportunity arises or if they feel an urge from somewhere.


Getting a puch


Such an urge can come when women participate in a seminar on the now popular theme women can! Jämtland has had quite a few "Stårsmässor", women fairs. "Women Can" the organization, has had a big national women fair in Jämtland May 1994, . The County Administrative Board, the Federation of Swedish Farmers, and the Cooperative Development agencies have embarked on a program of stimulation for initiatives and entrepreneurship among women, and set up a special support group for this purpose. It was through participation in one of their seminars that a group of middle-aged women initiated the process which led to what is today a nationally renowned cooperative for the elderly (Ingelsgården).


The Idea Village of Lövvik


On returning home to their village in the north of Jämtland - Lövvik, with only 39 inhabitants - they started The Idea Village of Lövvik, a club where ideas for the development of the village are born. One such idea came in answer to the expressed concern about how the village could offer service to their elderly and make it possible for this group to continue to live in the village.


Lövvik had been on the decline for a long time and had by then lost the base necessary for most of the vital services. The idea for a cooperative for the elderly evolved into the building of a new complex in the centre of the village. The cooperative home has six apartments encircling a large open combination livingroom, kitchen and dining room. It has cost 5 million Swedish crowns and was possible through the active support for the cooperative from the municipality, which among other things stood surety for the bank loan. The Idea Village´s activities have included the renovation, modernization and extension of the village's old Meeting House (The People's House), which now harbours a number of activities: dancing, music cafeteria, study circles, returnee days, elk-hunt dinners etc.


When the old people moved into their cooperative home, the houses in the village which then became vacant received two families with children - a very important event in a village where most of the inhabitants are over 60 years of age. The handful of local women who are clearly the driving force in the village mobilization process are now inspiring examples for many women in Jämtland (Björklund 1994).





The action theory for community work in the periphery, as it is presented here, can be summed up in the concept "the necessary triangle". This means that one works with a three chord strategy. In the outlined examples the reader can clearly see this three-chord strategy. The community worker 1) supports or sensitizes the local initiative into being (which is alpha and omega); 2) tries to take advantage of impulses, models and expertise from examples which can give inspiration and experience to build upon; and 3) gives a nudge to get the process started. This also means that the community worker must develop a strategy to win support and recognition from the local community. It implies developing work methods and attitudes that enable and enhance the community organization.Basic in the strategy for strengthening the civil society is to enhance the community spirit and self- reliance among people in the communities. The community - on whichever level - must trust in the strength of its own members.




[i]  This section (5.7) is written with the help of material collected by myself from two registers: Local Development Groups in the county of Jämtland, LÅS 1992 and New Cooperative Associations in the county of Jämtland, CDC  in Ås 1993 and material from the Council of the Peoples Movement: Hela Sverige bladet 1993 and 1994,  Förslag och beslut från Landsbydgsriksdagen 1994, Presentation of the Council of the Peoples Movement 1994.



[ii]  Information is taken from a study made by the National Rural Area Development Authority about village schools in 1992 and a study of local shops by Handelns Utredningsinstitut, HUI 1993 ref from Hela Sverige bladet nr 1/93 and the magazine Landsbygd nr 3/94


[iii]  Information taken from and organized form the list of new cooperative associations in Jämtland (Nya kooperativa föreningar i Jämtland) CDC in Ås , 7 October 1993.




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