Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics
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The Economic Research Institute, Stockholm School of Economics SSE/EFI Working Paper Series in Business Administration

No 2004:20:
Scope, Roles and Visions of Swedish Foundations

Filip Wijkström ()

Abstract: Sweden has a long and rich foundation history, but foundations are today also found in the midst of a number of challenging societal transformations. Excluding the absolutely smallest, some 15 000 larger foundations operate in a wide variety of fields. I will here focus on the approximately 11 500 larger public benefit foundations. Excluded are “labour-market” foundations and very small foundations. In Sweden, foundations are grant-making as well as operating and can be administered either autonomously by their own board or through another organisation’s board. They represent an important share of nonprofit sector expenditures and their economic importance will be further highlighted. However, foundations are not only of economic interest. The dominant role for Swedish foundations seems to be one of complementarity to the public sector. Foundations substituting public welfare arrangements are less frequent. Other roles discussed are organisational tools and governance instruments for economic control and ideological governance. Foundations are created by wealthy people and often rooted in a more conservative or liberal tradition. Still, segments of the foundation population today can be understood as embedded in a social-democratic vision. Also identified are a number of alternative visions, among which the strongest is a liberal vision.

Keywords: foundations; roles; functions; philantrophy; history; legal environment; economic importance; Sweden; (follow links to similar papers)

19 pages, December 20, 2004

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