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Merdovic, Zana-Sofia, 2024. Tapestry of rural lives : trust and ties within BYGDSAM association. Second cycle, A2E. Uppsala: SLU, Dept. of Urban and Rural Development



Local communities across Europe have been experiencing a decline in population and public services. To counter this trend, civil society often steps up through voluntary associations. Sweden has a strong tradition of voluntary associations (föreningar) that serve a variety of functions in the community, from small repairs to organizing cultural and sporting events. These associations rely heavily on local networks but there has been an attempt by governments to utilize voluntary associations and localize rural development strategies. In this thesis, I have investigated a newly started project by Örnsköldsvik Municipality in Sweden called BYGDSAM, a collaborative project between the municipality and local civil society that works for the goal of rural development.

This thesis examines how the strength of interpersonal ties between different members influences work within the BYGDSAM association as well as outside of it. Through looking at the ties created and their strength I aimed to investigate what role weak networks play in organizing for a common goal. In this thesis, strong ties are conceptualized as relationships that exist between individuals who have frequent interactions, while weak ties are characterized by less frequent interactions and a lesser amount of emotional investment, and often operate through a more extensive network of acquaintances. I studied how different kinds of ties influence BYGDSAM’s ability to organize with other actors in the area for a variety of objectives: making the area more attractive to live in through increased services, employment, housing, and tackling depopulation. Additionally, the aim of the study was to shed light on what role trust and social capital play in this organization.

Using a qualitative methodology, I investigated three out of four BYGDSAM associations currently active in the municipality. The data was collected through semi-structured interviews, participant observation, and gathering of extra material that was later thematically analyzed. The study found that BYGDSAM utilizes both strong and weak ties. Strong ties were more common between the members of the association while weak ties were found between BYGDSAM’s board members and other actors in the area such as small business owners and other civil associations. It was also shown that BYGDSAM acts as a bridge and facilitator between different actors in the area through facilitating cooperation, connecting actors with municipal channels, and connecting actors that would otherwise work alone. Finally, the study found that BYGDSAM areas that have a lower presence of different associations have challenges getting actors to engage in their work. This seems to be due to fewer ties between different actors.

The significance of these findings is that they open the potential for further research into the importance of weak ties within rural development. It also opens a possibility of creating a rural development policy that focuses on establishing a link (such as BYGDSAM) that can facilitate cooperation between already existing actors such as civil associations and small business owners.

Main title:Tapestry of rural lives
Subtitle:trust and ties within BYGDSAM association
Authors:Merdovic, Zana-Sofia
Supervisor:Hansen, Kjell
Examiner:Fischer, Harry
Volume/Sequential designation:UNSPECIFIED
Year of Publication:2024
Level and depth descriptor:Second cycle, A2E
Student's programme affiliation:NM009 Rural Development and Natural Resource Management - Master's Programme 120 HEC
Supervising department:(NL, NJ) > Dept. of Urban and Rural Development
(LTJ, LTV) > Dept. of Urban and Rural Development
Keywords:weak ties, civil associations, rural development
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Deposited On:02 Feb 2024 08:47
Metadata Last Modified:03 Feb 2024 02:01

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