by Heidi Sandberg

Forum – idéburna organisationer med social inriktning

A society is only as strong as its weakest link. That is probably true. But equally true is that a society that turns every relationship into economic transactions, will become both weak and poor, and a chilly place to live in.

In Sweden, as elsewhere in Europe, we tend to see society in three parts – the private sector, the public sector and civil society/social economy/NGOs/non-profit sector. For a long time in Sweden we have been accustomed to thinking that welfare is provided exclusively by the public sector. This picture is not really true – many important parts of our welfare have always been provided by the civil society in Sweden (for example women’s shelters). But we are not used to describing our society in this way.

We know that all societies change. Continuously. New challenges appear, new needs and demands needs to be met, and new skills have to be acquired.

This is a challenge. How can a society be designed which will not only handle such changes, but even embrace this kind of development?

Six years ago Forum developed a new solution for this. We call it IOP (Idéburet Offentligt Partnerskap, partnership between public authorities and NGOs). The idea is that in situations where new challenges arise, that require different players to interact and contribute knowledge – then we need a solution that is not based on procurement and market solutions. A collaboration model which is not focused on financial transactions, and where the financial return is not the key. Right now we are experiencing an explosion of interest in the cooperation form IOP in Sweden, and the last six years have seen IOP come into fruition all over Sweden. We now have successful examples of IOP in many different areas; such as youth, elderly, women’s shelters, language training, trauma treatment for torture victims, victim support, outreach to newcomers and support for EU migrants.

IOP is a method where we, rather than focusing on economic transactions stress long-term relationships between various parties to seek joint development. A partnership where, by sharing responsibility, knowledge and resources new solutions can be built which will help create a better society – where 1 + 1 can actually be 3. That is what IOP is about.

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So what does this really mean? Let me be perfectly clear. We are not suggesting that market solutions should be replaced. We are not questioning the value of procurement. On the contrary. When there is a market, it is vitally important to nurture competition. And it is precisely then that procurement is a really good method. But in some contexts public procurement simply does not work. When there is no market there is no competition, and then procurement is the wrong tool. In situations like these we have to nurture partnership and cooperation. And in those cases it seems that IOP can be a model that really works.

Relevant links for more info

On March 10, 260 people participated in a national conference on IOP in Sweden. The conference gathered a large number of people from different parts of society. Several of their presentations were filmed and are currently being translated – which forms a good base for those who want to know more about IOP.

You can find more information about the IOP (in English) here:


Here you can find the speech by the Minister of civil affairs Ardalan Shekarabis on IOP

Heidi Sandberg

Forum – idéburna organisationer med social inriktning