The civic sector in Norway

What might be the most frequent reason for misunderstandings in cooperation between Polish and Norwegian civil society organizations?

Leiv Igor Devold – a Polish-Norwegian film director, graduate of the Łódź Film School, who lives and works in Norway and has worked for three years for a large Norwegian organization fighting cancer – points out three basic differences between these two countries:

  • the number of inhabitants (in Norway there are almost ten times fewer than in Poland, while all spheres of public life still need to be served; some issues take longer to deal with, because there are fewer people to do the work – e.g. answering e-mails, which can be wrongly interpreted as being ignored by Polish organizations),
  • efforts to reduce bureaucracy and simplify as much as possible all procedures, including accounting (this should be taken into account when developing a system of accounting in the bilateral partnership, because Norwegians will not understand why all the regulations in the Polish accounting system are necessary),
  • an egalitarian, democratic approach to decision-making, especially in civil society organizations. If a Polish organization approaches a Norwegian one with a proposal for cooperation too late, it may face refusal, not because the idea for the project is inappropriate for that organization, but because there is not enough time to carry out the process of joint decision-making, in which the whole team will often participate. If there is not enough time for a participatory decision, the proposal will be rejected.

In Norway there are registered over 115,000 civil society organizations, which means that the civic sector there can be considered as large, dynamic and innovative. 80% of Norwegians are members of one or more organizations. Civic society therefore has a recognized role and a strong political influence there. Civil society organizations evaluate and criticize the work of the government, involve and educate society, and constantly train to better understand democracy and its principles. In addition, civil society organizations provide a wide range of services, represent the interests of different groups in society, and specialize in advocacy, awareness-raising, and reaching out to citizens. In order to achieve this, they establish intra- and inter-sectoral partnerships. Civil society organizations participate in policy and decision-making processes, including the promotion of an enabling environment for civil society development.

Examples of social organizations in Norway specializing in building capacity in the civic sector:

  • Senter for likestilling (Center for equality) https://senterforlikestilling.org/  – provides competency enhancement and process guidance to public authorities, private companies, and CSOs in their work on gender equality and non-discrimination. Examples include guidance on developing strategy and governance documents, information material or events, and teaching law and equal public services (LOFT).
  • Oslo Center https://oslocenter.no/  – provides assistance for democracy through a method identified as the Oslo Center Approach – strengthening democratic institutions and processes, and responding to requests to assist political parties, parliaments, governments, commissions and civil society.
  • The Royal Norwegian Society for development – https://norgesvel.com/home/ – Internationally, the overarching goal is to reduce poverty by helping local economic growth through business development. Norges Vel helps local communities increase revenues and the number of jobs through sustainable use of local natural resources. Through advising, courses and seminars, they help clients find solutions, whether they need help with devising a concept, writing up a business plan, access to the market, a new network, or the entire project from A – Z.
  • Health and Human Rights Info https://www.hhri.org/ HHRI is a resource database providing free information about the consequences of human rights violations for mental health in the contexts of disaster, war and conflict. The organization aims to make resources on mental health more accessible to health professionals and others working with people exposed to human rights violations in disaster, war and conflict areas.
  • The Norwegian Association of Youth with Disabilities https://ungefunksjonshemmede.no/  – offers a range of resources to member organizations, decision-makers, public services, private sector and other organizations.



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