Perception of societal influence among civil society leaders – an elite perspective
Summary, in English
This article explores the perception of societal influence of civil society leaders based on a survey study conducted in 2017 among leaders of Swedish civil society organizations. Civil society leaders represent organizations that are often based on and guided by religious, political, or cultural values and that often strive to achieve some sort of social change. To exercise influence on society is thus a crucial feature of civil society leaders. Drawing on elite theories, the article seeks to explain differences in the perception of influence by looking at the following factors: (1) personal qualities and resources such as age, gender, country of birth, education, and working experiences, (2) social networks and contacts with representatives of different institutions (media, government, etc.), and (3) organizational position and resources, including relations with public authorities. The analysis shows that two out of three surveyed leaders perceive they have great influence in society concerning the issues they work with. Among the factors explaining the perception of influence, we find being a leader of an organization at the regional level, being of older age, having leading representatives of the media in one’s personal network, and stating that one has great influence over the
organization one leads.