Local Worlds of Activation: The Diverse Pathways of Three Swedish Municipalities

Kerstin Jacobsson, Katarina Hollertz, Christina Garsten

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Much welfare research is based on the assumption that welfare regimes are homogenous entities. Nevertheless, the practice of activation may vary considerably within states. This is especially so in a country such as Sweden where municipalities and state agencies are both involved in activation. This article studies local activation policy and practice in three Swedish municipalities, representing three distinct ‘local worlds of activation’. The analysis shows that policy orientations in the municipalities studied ranged from ‘work-first’ to ‘life-first’ approaches to activation. Governance arrangements and the role of private services and actors in service delivery differed significantly too, ranging from strictly market-based forms of governance to classical public administration. The article moreover shows how the different activation approaches were reflected in the radically different usages of Coordination Unions, as multi-party collaborate organisational structures established for activation policy implementation for certain target groups. Thus, activation must be approached not as a fixed and universal policy for social inclusion, but as susceptible to local practice and hence open to influence from local politics, established local traditions, patterns of networking and modes of collaborating, as the notion of ‘local words of activation’ intends to capture.
Original languageEnglish
JournalNordic Social Work Research
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)86-100
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Activation
  • Labour market policy
  • Social welfare
  • Local governance

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