The network was funded by NordForsk and consisted of distinguished scholars and young researchers who study voluntary associations in contemporary Europe both in a comparative and historical perspective. The network was active 2005-2007.
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Voluntary associations are a key form of organizing joint action in society, both past and present, but their importance and impact have been very little investigated in diachronic and cross-national comparisons. The few comparative studies that exist are mainly based on contemporary quantitative data.
European Voluntary Associations in the Modern and the Contemporary Period is a scholarly network with participants from Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Estonia and Germany. The network is funded by NordForsk (former NorFA) and consists of distinguished scholars and young researchers who study voluntary associations in contemporary Europe both in a comparative and historical perspective. Extensive research undertaken in a range of national contexts from across Europe will be brought together to analyze nationally differentiated cultures of association-patterns, parameters and functions – and through this work to illuminate wider differences in political cultures. A historical perspective is essential, in conjunction with social science approaches, to shed light on the continuities – and discontinuities – in recent developments in associational organization and activity.
The network arranges every year an interdisciplinary seminar and two workshops for the doctoral students. The seminars will be held with invited established scholars from selected countries to compare the national cases, with the aim of producing two major edited volumes on voluntary associations in historical and comparative perspective. The workshops will be led by the members of the steering committee. The foci will be, first, on the nationally specific conceptionsand parameters of associations, and, second, on the nature of associational activity at a micro level. The first theme implies the study of voluntary associations in relation to the state and other forms of collective action and pressure group activity. The second theme will enable a close-textured examination of the character of associational activity in relation to community structures, sociability, innovation and local identity.
The Centre for Nordic Studies at the Renvall Institute (University of Helsinki) hosted a preliminary workshop in 2003 to discuss European Voluntary Associations in the Modern and the Contemporary Period. This was attended by scholars and doctoral students of history, sociology, and other social sciences. Special emphasis was put on the way the academic debate in different European countries had dealt with the topic of voluntary associations. Surveys of existing literature were presented. Among the findings from the meeting was the striking absence of comparative studies in the field, despite or perhaps because of the profound knowledge of voluntary associations in specific national political cultures, and the clear value of combining in an interdisciplinary way historical and social science approaches. Also it was evident that there are many doctorate students and young researchers at all of the attending institutions working on themes in connection with voluntary associations, and for them it would be invaluable to have closer contacts between the institutions and research groups. For that reason it was agreed to set up a steering committee to establish a network and eventually to launch a major comparative research project in the field with a solid historical dimension.
The aim is that in the following three years the scholars and doctorate students of the network will meet frequently and discuss their work and share ideas. The idea is that after the working period of the network the young researchers have formulated close and fruitful contacts with each of the institutions of the network, they have given lectures on their subjects at the institutions, and hopefully also a new research program has been established by the research groups of the network. By the end of year 2008 the network will publish two edited volumes on the below mentioned themes.
The point of departure of the network is that in conceptualising voluntary associations different social groups in one society, and political cultures in different national settings and different historical periods have understood associations in different ways, and accordingly developed different social and political practices. There is for instance more than one way to define the borderline between the public and the private, or between the first, the second and the third sector. Analyzing the various aspects of the civil society the network will pay special attention to the issues where the lack of empirical research is evident. One such issue is the borderland between the civil society (voluntary associations) and business life (corporations). Two fundamental dimensions have been selected as the main themes of the network:
The aim of this part of the project is to produce comparative narratives of the history and development of voluntary associations in different European regions up to the present day, focusing on:
The main phases in the evolution of voluntary associations including (a) the growth of local and regional societies, clubs and associations, (b) the growth of national federated organisations (c) the growth of international type organisations
The micro perspective makes it possible, through a number of case studies, to examine associations at the level of community, local networks and everyday life and to study the role of both horizontal and vertical ties in the relationship of associations to their environment.
At this level may be observed the ways in which the nationally varying traditions of local administration and local democracy have shaped associational life. Also of importance is how far associations may contribute to local identity and economic and cultural "modernisation". A further dimension is how far associations have to compete and cooperate with the private sector for social and communal space.
From Finland there are two research groups plus the head of the steering committee (Henrik Stenius). In addition, there is one group from Estonia, Denmark and Germany, two groups from Norway and two groups from Sweden. Research groups consist of the members of the steering committee and doctorate students. Special attention has been paid on the equal representation of genders in selecting of doctorate students.
Coordinator M.A. Kaisa Heinlahti
Seminar "The Age of Associations in Northern Europe", March 26 2007, Finnish Institute in Berlin. Presentations on the main ideas of up coming EVA –network’s volumes (vol. I: Prof. Risto Alapuro and Dr. Henrik Stanius, University of Helsinki & vol. II Dr. Filip Wijkström, Stockholm School of Economics). Key note speaker, visiting commentator, Universitätsdozent Dr. Jürgen Nautz (University of Vienna) and discussion.
Conference "Nordic Civicness Revisited in the Age of Association", November 23-25, 2006, Tallinn University. Organized by the Centre for Civil Society Study and Development (KUAK) at Tallinn University in collaboration with the Network on European Voluntary Associations
A meeting was held in Copenhagen in December 2005.
Conference “Politics of Participation – Focus on the ‘Third Sector”, August 25-27, 2005, Helsinki. TIn collaboration with a EU-project on "Small Consensual States in Western Europe" as well as the following institutions in the University of Helsinki: Department of Social Science History, Faculty of Social Sciences, Centre for Nordic Studies CENS, Renvall Institute, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Sociology, Faculty of Social Sciences and Department of Political Science, Faculty of Social Sciences.
June 2005, Steering committee meeting in Helsinki.
The Centre for Nordic Studies at the Renvall Institute (University of Helsinki) hosted a preliminary workshop in 2003 to discuss European Voluntary Associations in the Modern and the Contemporary Period. This was attended by scholars and doctoral students of history, sociology, and other social sciences.
Risto Alapuro, Henrik Stenius (Ed.) Nordic Associations in a European Perspective, European Civil Society, Nomos Publishers 2010
Filip Wijkström, Annette Zimmer (Ed.) Nordic Civil Society at a Cross-Roads. Transforming the Popular Movement Tradition, European Civil Society, Nomos Publishers 2011