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Political leadership in local councils. Comparing Norway and Denmark (POLECO)

About the project

While citizens’ expectations regarding service quality and equity are growing, fiscal pressures on the Nordic welfare models have resulted in continued economic stress at the local level. The level of welfare services that local governments can provide depends increasingly on local entrepreneurship to ensure innovation and continuous change.

Due to the multi-level and multi-actor political system characterizing the Nordic countries, local councilors do not automatically possess the political influence and power needed for efficient problem solving. There seems to be a call for proactive local politicians who can take the lead in driving policy processes forward, rather than local leaders who stick to adapting and ensuring service provision within a nationally regulated framework.

In this research project we aim to study current conditions for local councilors exercise of political leadership in Norwegian and Danish municipalities. The projects involves in depth studies of local governments, as well as a survey among councilors in both countries.


We will investigate:

  • What kind of political leadership we find among councilors – concentrating on differences between proactive and adaptive approaches to leadership.
  • The way in which institutional contexts impact upon local political leadership. Here differences between the countries, for example national government control over different policy sectors. Similarly, the impact of differences at the local level will be scrutinized, for example the degree of delegation to committees and ad-hoc organization of the political work in the municipalities.
  • The extent to which local political leadership is a determining factor for the attainment of local goals, problem solving and progress.


Empirically, the objective is to identify current conditions for local councilors’ exercise of political leadership, and to explore how local political leadership can be strengthened to improve the role and functioning of local government.

Theoretically, the objective is to develop the theoretical concept of local political leadership, including the relationship between political leadership and local autonomy.


The project is financed by the Norwegian Research council, program on “Democratic and Effective Governance, Planning and Public Administration” (DEMOS).

Advisory Board

Associate Professor Sarah Ayes, University of Bristol, UK

Professor Paul t’Hart, University of Utrecht, The Netherlands

Professor Jean Hartley, Open University, London, UK

Associate Professor Daniel Kübler, University of Zurich, Switzerland

Published Aug. 11, 2016 1:23 PM - Last modified Mar. 14, 2018 3:58 PM