Intens forvaltning: En systemteoretisk analyse af fællesskab som strategi i kommunal styringspraksis

Anne Skafte & Louise Christoffersen

Student thesis: Master thesis


This thesis offers a systems theoretical investigation of municipal steering in 2015. Our interest is driven by a growing interest with communities, traceable in Danish municipalities’ strategic work. Increasingly, municipal strategies stress how the municipality is to be viewed as a community, as part of civil society, and ultimately how welfare is a shared responsibility of citizens and municipalities. Self-descriptions of a communal municipality seem to be emerging, in which municipalities and citizens co-create welfare. This solution, however, raises new and important questions. Ultimately, how does one govern the facilitation of communities in which future welfare might thrive? Seemingly, the municipal administration seeks to eliminate itself in order to allow for alternative kinds of welfare to be created. We show that – instead of successfully suspending the municipal steering of welfare – these strategic self-descriptions challenge municipal steering in ways that fundamentally set the municipal administration at stake. Our argument unfolds as follows. We show how engagement with new self-descriptions empowers the municipal administration to handle a growing sense of powerlessness by redefining the distribution of responsibility between the municipality and the citizens. However, stressing welfare as a communal responsibility does not eliminate municipal steering ambitions. Rather, we see how new governing aspirations emerge, which circle around questions of how to mobilize the citizens’ contribution to the community. Ultimately, the new strategic narrative of the communal municipality introduces a fundamental dependency within the administration upon the citizens, who are to be engaged in new ways. Paradoxically, the ambition seems to be self-evolving communities that nevertheless need municipal guidance, and ultimately, steering in order to emerge. In conclusion, we argue that instead of realizing their communal ambitions – and ultimately suspending the municipal identity for a communal one – a municipal administration emerges that fundamentally challenge itself and its couplings with the citizens in crucial ways. We frame it as an intense administration, which seems to be set in the span between potentiality and actuality, between municipal agendas and authentic, citizens-driven communities. Ultimately, the communal municipality introduces steering ambitions that require an administration that claims intensity as its main resource in seeking to mobilize communities, and citizen-driven welfare. Following this, we encourage municipal practitioners engaged with co-creation and the mobilization of communities to use it as an opportunity for self-reflection. The municipal fascination with civil society might serve as a source of innovation if new inputs are handled in ways that internalize them constructively into the administration. Thus, the communal municipality must not only mobilize its surroundings, but also – in order to claim legitimacy in its steering – itself.

EducationsMSocSc in Political Communication and Managment, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2015
Number of pages120