The social area needs knowledge that works in practice

16.10.18 | News
Viden der virker i praksis
The social area must be strengthened to keep up with the challenges the Nordic countries face today. So says Árni Páll Árnason, former Icelandic Minister of Social Affairs, in a new report in which he presents fourteen proposals for improvements and renewal of the Nordic co-operation, as well as work in the individual Nordic countries in the social field. The central ambition is to focus more on knowledge that works in practice.

Árni Páll Árnason has consulted over 200 representatives from the social area in the Nordic countries, which provides the foundation for the content of the report: Knowledge that works in practice - Strengthening Nordic co-operation in the social field. The report contains fourteen proposals for ways to strengthen Nordic co-operation in the social sphere, to the benefit of the 28 million citizens of the Nordic region, and is the result of the Nordic Council of Ministers commissioning Árni Páll Árnason to conduct a strategic analysis of how the Nordic co-operation can be strengthened in the coming years. On 16 October he will present his proposals to Annika Strandhäll, Sweden’s Minister for Social Affairs and Chair of the the Nordic Council of Ministers for Health and Social Affairs, and Dagfinn Høybråten, Secretary General of the Nordic Council of Ministers.

Overrækkelse af den sociale gennemlysning

Formand for Nordisk Ministerråd for Social- og Helsepolitik Annika Strandhäll og Nordisk Ministerråds generalsekretær, Dagfinn Høybråten modtager gennemlysningen af socialområdet fra udreder og den tidligere islandske socialminister Árni Páll Árnason.

The report gives us important input for the next step, when we will go from words to action and strengthen social work in the Nordic region. Many of the challenges that are addressed are common to the Nordic countries, and we recognise them in Sweden. For example the consequences of an aging population, and the need to make strong efforts on behalf of our most vulnerable citizens. I think there are good possibilities and advantages in confronting this together.

Annika Strandhällsiger, chair of the Nordic Council of Ministers for Health and Social Affairs

Share what works. Drop what doesn’t.  

The report concludes that a key issue for a strengthened social area in the future will be a focus on knowledge that works in practice. The Nordic co-operation and the Nordic nations must focus on meeting the demand for evidence-based knowledge which can be translated into concrete actions that will have an effect for the users. In concrete terms, Árni Páll Árnason points to the possibility of a greater degree of systematisation of the current Nordic co-operation fora and organisations on the basis of the motto: Share what works. Drop what doesn’t.  

The risk is that, despite the fact that we wish to promote social innovation, we will to a large extent continue to produce what we already produce, and underestimate the need for change.

Árni Páll Árnason
I flere tilfælde er lykkedes med at inddrage brugergrupper på fx ungeområdet

New ideas drown in systems of habitual thinking  

When Árni Páll Árnason turns to the global scene, he finds that innovation in the social area is gaining ground in several countries. Social innovation is one of the fourteen proposals for a strengthened social area in the Nordic region, but there are obstacles. The systems in the social sector are not always built up well enough to be able to absorb new ideas, and often, the systems do not impose the same critical requirements towards old interventions as they do towards new ones.

- The risk is that, despite the fact that we wish to promote social innovation, we will to a large extent continue to produce what we already produce, and underestimate the need for change, Árni Páll Árnason points out. He proposes a collaboration between the Nordic Council of Ministers for Health and Social Affairs and the Nordic Council of Ministers for Sustainable Growth in order to create a better framework for social innovation. Another proposal aims at motivating further social innovation by establishing a Social Innovation Prize at the same level as the Nordic Council's existing prizes.    

I believe that this report identifies several important points where the Nordic countries could work together to strengthen the social area, and I see good prospects that the report will contribute positively to this process. 

Dagfinn Høybråten, Secretary General, Nordic Council of Ministers

Great innovative potential in user consultation 

A key point in the report is that social interventions must be based on the needs of the individual users. The report points out that the opposite is often the case: the efforts are producer-oriented and complex for the user, and the public systems are insufficiently co-ordinated. But significant improvements have also been made, such as in the area of ​​disability, where there is a much greater degree of user influence today than there was thirty years ago. Árni Páll Árnason also believes that voluntary organisations play an important role in the social field, and points out that in many cases they have managed to involve user groups – for example in the area of young people. There is a great innovative potential here which the Nordic co-operation can help to develop, the report states.   

Nordic Council of Ministers reviews 

I believe that this report identifies several important areas where the Nordic countries could work together to strengthen the social field, and I see good prospects that this report will contribute positively to this process, says Dagfinn Høybråten, Secretary General of the Nordic Council of Ministers. As Secretary-General, Dagfinn Høybråten has helped to launch Nordic reviews in the areas of health, the labour market, energy, the environment and climate, as part of the New Nordic Region reform project of the Nordic Council of Ministers. The purpose of the reform project is to make the Nordic co-operation more effective and, in particular, more politically relevant.   

Fourteen proposals to strengthen the social area

Towards a more knowledge-based and demand-oriented Nordic co-operation in the social area
1. Systematic co-operation on knowledge and initiatives that work in the social field 
2. A more demand-oriented co-operation 
3. Development of organisational structures  

Key themes for Nordic co-operation in the social area
4. Social innovation 
5. Social investment and prevention
6. Social initiatives focusing on the user
7. Voluntary organisations

Strengthened Nordic co-operation on children and young people, vulnerable adults, the elderly and people with disabilities
8. Vulnerable children and young people 
9. Vulnerable adults 
10. The elderly 
11. The disabled 

Social initiatives in a broader perspective 
12. Housing and social policy
13. Sparsely-populated areas
14. International co-operation