Stina Hansson

Building trust and collective action to promote local interests and reduce inequalities in health in the city district of Angered.

Attending to the voices and knowledge of the local population as well as local public officials, this project aims to improve our understanding of how local authorities and populations can build trust and act collectively in order to improve governance and promote the interests of socio-economically marginalised city districts in relation to the city as a whole.. The project is conducted in collaboration with the Angered city district administration and takes as its point of departure the report Inequality in Living Conditions and Health in Gothenburg 2014 that shows that life expectancy in the city of Gothenburg differs significantly between districts. Apart from material and structural factors, such as housing and unemployment, participation in society is highlighted as a crucial factor behind inequalities in health. Angered shows low rates on participation in elections and a high percentage of the population experience social isolation and lack of trust in others. The project is inspired by co-production method and will work closely with local authorities and the population to identify the collective action problem and explore possible solutions. In the first stage of the study interviews till be conducted with local public officials, representatives of civil society organisation and members of the population to map and anlyse the collective action problem at stake. In the second stage of the study ways of working will be developed in close cooperation with involved actors.
Final report
The purpose of the project has been to investigate obstacles and possibilities for building trust between residents and administration in Angered city district, a socio economically marginalized area in Gothenburg, Sweden, in order to better understand the potential for collective action to promote equity in health. Taking its point of departure in the theoretical understanding of trust as ’the willingness to be vulnerable based on positive expectations of the intentions and behaviour of others’, and as relationally constituted in specific situations, the project has investigated the expectations residents and civil servants have of each other and how those expectations shape their willingness to engage in shared concerns as well as their openness to be influenced by the other. The project has looked at individual and collective expectations and how they affect and are affected by governing mechanisms in public administration as well as perceptions of differences between residents and civil servants. The project has followed the plan but has developed in accordance with the further elaboration of the theoretical perspective on trust.

The study has focused on two instead of three cases, as a result of the complexity of the chosen cases and the need for extended engagement. The first case was a city planning project in Hammarkullen, Angered, where four municipal directors collaborated to improve a specific area, an intervention that was intended to strengthen trust and increase participation among residents. The other case focused on the social services as a result of the interviews made in the first case. It was also suitable since the social services are engaged in several processes with the aim to strengthen the relationship between residents and the administration. The second case therefore focused on the establishment of a child services office in Lövgärdet, a subdistrict in Angered.

The two case studies have been complemented with two tasks within the administration. One was to investigate the possibilities for improved representation within the elderly council of the city district. The second was to hold workshops with the city district office leadership with the purpose to strengthen their understanding of trust-based governance. The two tasks have significantly contributed to the results of the study.

The plan was to divide the project into two phases, starting with knowledge gathering followed by implementation but it turned out the two phases needed to be woven together in each case, in order for continuous feedback and development to be possible.

The project has been conducted in close collaboration with relevant civil servants. The fact that the collegues and managers within the public administration have been the objects of study of the project has created both challenges and interesting insights. The city district office was during the project period affected by changes in management positions and restructuring which affected the project's anchoring at the management level and placed high demands on the adaptability of the project. However, a very good collaboration with planning and executing civil servants created good conditions for the execution of the research project.

The most important contribution to the international research front regards the importance of perceptions of difference and how they shape expectations of the other and thereby the willingness to be vulnerable. This concerns both the expectations civil servants have of the residents and vice versa. The contribution is both to the field of trust theory and to knowledge of how public administrations need to work differently based on local preconditions for trust.

Another important result regards the possibility for first line administrators to build relations with residents and create opportunities for local problem solving. This possibility builds on existing governing mechanisms and trust within the organisation and how the strategic leadership manages to involve and include co-workers in quality work to better adapt tasks to the local context. Important factors are systematic learning in the organization based on the local context and clear mandates for problem solving based on reflections around shared goals. This is in line with the conclusions made by the investigations of Tillitsdelegationen.

Finally, the study shows the complexity of how collective narratives are created and provide basis for the expectations residents have on public institutions, particularly when there is a lack of knowledge of how the system functions and of resources to control ones living conditions. In the specific context, a socioeconomically marginalised and racially segregated area, these narratives are based on experiences from the country of origin, perceptions of the Swedish state, and experiences of vulnerability and difference based on categorisations of socioeconomic status and minority status.

As a result of the project two new projects are being developed. One is about the effects of housing inequality on social work and social cohesion and equity. The effects concern both how structural homelessness and overcrowding lands in the lap of the social services as the last resort, and the inability to deal with the social problems that emerge as a result of the housing situation. The decisions and practices that emerge in the gap between housing policy and social policy need to be investigated in order to better understand the governing mechanisms required to create housing equality.

Another important question concerns the function and effect of ’trust mediators’, i.e. cultural interpreters, health guides, democracy ambassadors, but also the use of staff with minority status as trust builders within public institutions, a field that is relatively unexplored.

The international dimensions of the project have primarily concerned building networks to discuss research results and theory development. Contacts have been established with a project for area development in London with exchange of ideas, experience and research results. Further, contacts have been established with researchers in trust theory at Århus University and Boston University, for development of the theoretical contribution of the project.

The results have spread within the university through a seminar organised by the Center for Global Migration, GU, and a well attended presentation arranged by Folkuniversitetet and the Faculty for Social sciences at GU. The results have further been presented at the Network for participatory health research (VGR), the project group for Accessible Cities, a collaboration between Gothenburg City and Nelson Mandela Bay, SA, within Mistra Urban Futures, and to the reference group of the research project ”The effects of citizen participation”, led by Nazem Tahvilzadeh, KTH. THe results have further been treated at subject relevant seminars at the School of Global Studies, GU, and in education.

Together with two other Flexit researchers at GU a half-day seminar about collaboration between academia and society was arranged.

Outside the university a range of presentations have been held. The results have been presented to residents in Angered as well as to groups of administrators and managers at Angered city district office and other CDOs, as well as the Department of Social services, the Department of Education, the Urban Planning Office, the Network for health promotion, and politicians and managers at the Gothenburg city democracy days. Presentations have further been held at Forum Equal City, and as part of educations arranged by the association for municipalities in the Gothenburg Region (GR).

The project has contributed to increased collaboration between university and external actors through the knowledge exchange that has been the result of presentations, workshops and seminars mentioned above. Specific contributions have been made through the task as method support and workshop leader in trust work within the project Accessible Cities, a collaboration between researchers and practitioners, and through the seminars that have brought together practitioners and representatives from academia. The project has also resulted in an ongoing evaluation task with the project Democracy in Angered, conducted by the social services in Angered.
Grant administrator
Stadsdelsförvaltningen Angered
Reference number
SEK 1,813,000.00
RJ Flexit
Other Social Sciences not elsewhere specified