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In Event: Co-production Between the Voluntary and the Public Sector in Denmark: Legitimacy and Democratic Justification
The past two decades, a number of public policies in Denmark have sought to promote a closer and more formalized level of cooperation between voluntary associations and public institutions. These policies aim at integrating associations in various forms of public services delivered by local public institutions. This is a challenge for the relationship between the voluntary and the public sector.
Associations in Denmark have traditionally a close relationship with the municipality in which they belong. On the one hand, most associations can use municipal facilities free of charge and many of them also receive direct financial grants. On the other hand there is also a tradition of great autonomy, i.e. that municipality in principle does not influence what the association is concerned with and how they operate (Boje, Ibsen, Fridberg, Habermann, Sokolowski & Salamon 2017).
In the light of this tradition, it is the purpose of this paper to explore a) the extent of collaboration / co-production between voluntary associations and local public institutions b), the attitudes towards collaboration (from both the associations and the municipal institutions) and c) the democratic potential of this kind of co-operation.
The analysis is based on data from two online surveys in Denmark completed in 2016. The first survey includes answers from 68 % of 818 municipal institutions or entities (e.g. public schools and nursing homes) from five very different municipalities. The second survey includes answers from 47 % of 2510 associations from the same five municipalities.
The results of the analysis show, firstly, that the vast majority (67%) of municipal institutions cooperate with associations and volunteers and the municipal leaders strongly welcome the cooperation which they believe provides professional inspiration, variation in activities of the institution and better contact with the local community, but the prevalence of and attitude to cooperation varies considerably between municipal service areas. Secondly, almost half of all associations have some kind of cooperation with a municipal institution or entity, but the associations are much more reluctant in their attitude to co-production. The associations cooperation with municipal institutions depends on the size, the degree of professionalization and how ‘local’ (i.e. concerned with local community interests and development) the association is. The final part of the paper raises the question how democratic this kind of cooperation is in relation to the traditional form of cooperation based on principles of ‘associative democracy’.