This page in Swedish

Research projects

Network for learning and change? A study of Swedish energy and climate politics

About this project

Project information

Project status



Jan Olsson

The purpose of the project was to empirically study environmental public officials and their policy networks as well as to study and critically assess the importance of the networks for the policy content and its output. The project is based on a survey (n=701) and 15 interviews with public officials.  Generally speaking, the networks of the officials are quite extensive and complex. 91 percent of them are part of formal and informal networks of importance to their work and for 51 percent it is a main work task to build and preserve networks. The networks are important as information sources, for knowledge spreading, financing, lobbying and coordination of the work activities. Our analyses of the survey do not show any significant differences concerning the role and importance of networks between public officials within local governments that took part in the project Uthållig kommun (Sustainable city) and local governments that were not part of the project. However, this does not mean that this project was unimportant for the participating local governments. On the contrary, officials that were interviewed were satisfied with the project. The public officials’ own pictures of their importance show clear positive results, for instance 63 per cent assert that their personal contacts and networks have had great importance for the environmental policy of the local governments. A really interesting result concerns what we call green inside activists. This type of official has a”fire spirit” with extensive networks both within the local government and with the environmental movement; they are spiders of the webs and are really competent and active in environmental policymaking with large discretion. 23 per cent of the local governments in Sweden have green inside activists. Our analyses show that local governments that have inside activists  have much better results on three different “green performance index” in comparison with local government without inside activists (statistically significant differences). However, we cannot conclude safely that the explanatory mechanism is the inside activist who contributes to a more progressive environmental policy. Instead, there are good reasons to expect that there are positive interactive forces in operation here: Inside activists are greening environmental policy in a broad sense, but they also have a tendency to look for interesting jobs and having a good chance to get them in environmentally progressive local governments



Research funding bodies

  • Swedish Energy Agency