Monthly Archives: March 2016

Why Stockholm? Welcome from your Swedish hosts.

In a series of blog posts, researchers from and friends of Ersta Sköndal University College will introduce conference participants to ISTR 2016 in Stockholm. This first post is by Ola Segnestam Larsson, researcher and member of the ISTR board.



Are you ready for Sweden and ISTR 2016? As a board member of ISTR and an expatriated Swede, living in Costa Rica, I am of course exceptionally excited about the ISTR conference in Stockholm, this coming June. As we speak, I am shopping around for the best airline ticket, working on my papers (at least in theory…), and planning my stay in Sweden.

What are your plans for the ISTR conference? Are you planning to see more of Stockholm than just the inside of a number of classrooms?

In a series of blog posts, colleagues of mine and friends of ISTR will do our best to prepare conference participants for ISTR 2016 in Stockholm by writing about the PhD Network seminar, the two receptions, and related matters. (Do you have suggestions for useful information? Do not hesitate to comment on this blog or send an email to

 In this post, I will try to restrict my enthusiasm somewhat and focus mainly on a few words about what you can expect of Stockholm and Ersta Sköndal University College.

Why Stockholm?

The organization behind Visit Stockholm argues that it is one of the world’s most beautiful cities. Be that as it may, we – the “Stockholmers” – usually tell our guest that Stockholm is built on a set of islands, located on the verge of the archipelago with its more than 30.000 islands, and that it offers plenty of opportunity for sight-seeing, shopping, and outdoor activities.

Skating in Stockholm

For those with an interest in all things civil society, Stockholm also has a lot to offer.  As showed by research, a large welfare state notwithstanding, Sweden has a vibrant civil society with more than 200 000 associations (one per every 50 Swedes), an estimation of 3,5 memberships per capita, and every other Swede volunteering on a regular basis. While in town, take the opportunity to visit a Swedish “folkrörelse” (popular movement) or volunteer as a “soccer parent” with the rest of us.

Everything is not shiny, however. Although Stockholm is generally considered a safe city, similarly to the rest of Europe, Stockholm and Sweden is currently struggling with issues related to migration, solicitation for money and food in the streets, and the refugee crisis in the Middle East. What should the role of civil society be in relation to these issues? How can the conference, civil society researchers, and practitioners contribute to the on-going discussion about possible solutions?

Why Stockholm as a venue for the ISTR conference?

Given the size of the Swedish civil society and generous research funding (at least historically), over time Sweden and Stockholm have witnessed the establishment of a set of research centres focusing on civil society related issues, including centres at Stockholm School of Economics, Södertörn University, and Stockholm University. Over and above the conference itself, Stockholm provides ample opportunities for networking and developing new and exciting research ideas. (Who knows, they might even be fundable?)

One of these research centres is located at the ISTR 2016 conference venue – Ersta Sköndal University College. We pride ourselves with the best location in the city, with a 360-degree view from the top of our campus of Stockholm, including the Old City, the royal castle, and the inner city ski slope. Although the university and its city campus are quite small, even by Swedish standards, it hosts one of the largest civil society research groups in Europe and CivLib – an information centre for Swedish, European, and international civil society researchers.

See more of Sweden

For those who simply cannot get enough of civil society issues and want to see more of Sweden, I would strongly recommend visiting the island of Gotland. In addition to the possibility of “seeing the world in one day” as the slogan goes, every year the island is the meeting spot for national politicians, civil society practitioners, policy-professionals, business representatives, and lobbyists. “Almedalen” – as the democratic experience is called – conveniently takes place the week directly after the ISTR conference (3 – 10 of July).

With that, its time for me to wish you all the best in your preparations for ISTR 2016, and hope to see you in Stockholm and in Almedalen,

Ola Segnestam Larsson

Board member, ISTR

Researcher, Ersta Sköndal University College, Stockholm University, and Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza


What are your plans for the ISTR conference? How will you make sure that some of those Swedish meatballs come your way? Comment on this blog or send an email to