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A decade of societal change



Insights from a decade of investing in social change

The insights from the last ten years tell us a lot about what we have achieved, but it also gives us information about where we are going. We have analyzed the last ten years' work with children's rights, education, mental health, social inclusion, and entrepreneurship. We have looked at how the initiatives we have built have developed, we have analyzed the world around us and the present, and we have compiled the factors that have contributed to the foundation's success. We have also summarized lessons learned here. Our magazine includes even more from these insights. We are proud and grateful that we have made a difference by investing in individuals and initiatives that work tirelessly to give people a better life. We have learned an enormous amount from them.

A uniting force

For the past ten years, Stenbecks Stiftelse has been a uniting force for people who wish to contribute to a better society in different ways. Social entrepreneurs, grassroots initiatives, established civil society organizations, and business leaders have all come together behind the foundation’s vision of a better Sweden for everyone.

Focusing on children's rights

The mission of the Stenbecks Stiftelse has always been to work in the best interest of the child. When Sara Damber joined as COO, she brought with her knowledge and commitment from her work with child rights issues in both the public and social sectors. She recruited a team with great knowledge and the foundation prioritizes addressing the most urgent issues for children and youth in Sweden. This has made it possible for the foundation to contribute to societal change that benefits the youngest of our fellow human beings.

Entrepreneurship as a tool

In the spirit of Jan Stenbeck, the foundation celebrates entrepreneurship. Using innovative methods to solve social problems in a way that is financially sustainable is necessary to quickly create the change that is needed.

Download the magazine (PDF)


Focusing on initiatives


During the past decade, the Stenbecks stiftelse has also built five different platforms for large-scale and long-term impact.

For many, the support from the Stenbecks Stiftelse has become an important step on the road to something bigger. The recipients often have a desire to reach more people and to grow. Others are more focused on making a significant difference for a few. Just as the organizations have different objectives, the support given varies from case to case. During the past decade, the Stenbeck Stiftelse has also taken the initiative towards large-scale and long-term impact. Here we will share more about the initiatives that we have been part of building up from scratch.

Youth 2030 Movement

Youth 2030 Movement is a movement of young leaders, child rights activists and democracy activists who work to strengthen young people’s place in democracy. The goal is for all young people in Sweden to have power and influence over their own lives and the democratic structure of society.


Child 10

When the C10 Awards took place in Malmö in January 2020, it was the sixth time that ten courageous leaders from Sweden and across the globe were rewarded for their work for some of the most vulnerable children in the world. Everything started with an eye-opening book.


Reach for Change

Ten years ago, social entrepreneurship was an unknown concept in Sweden. As one of the pioneers in the field, Reach for Change has not only paved the way for innovations that create better conditions for children, but it has also changed the idea of how societal change can happen. Sofia Breitholtz, the CEO of the organization, is looking forward to the next leg of the journey.


Innovation for Integration

When tens of thousands of unaccompanied children and youth came to Sweden in 2015, Stenbecks Stiftelse and Reach for Change realized that action was needed, and it was needed fast. A few months later, the initiative Innovation for Integration was launched. In the years since then, the foundations have supported seven social entrepreneurs, and, together, they have developed solutions to improve the situation for unaccompanied children and youth in Sweden.


Medvind - Tailwind

"Hi politicians and decision-makers, we have a chance to create tailwind for everyone.” That was the call to action issued to newly elected politicians by the five organizations that make up Medvind (Tailwind). It was a call to action for the right of all children and youth to be a part of society, for homeless people’s right to health, and for poor people’s human rights.



Working for a change
– a changing work

Working for a change – a changing work

From charity and the membership democracy of associations – to social entrepreneurship, hashtag activism, and the Greta-effect. The conditions for creating societal change has changed dramatically during the past decade.

Over the past decade, the Stenbeck Stiftelse has directly and indirectly (through platforms like Reach for Change) supported hundreds of organizations and individuals in the civil society. They all have in common that they work to create better life conditions for especially vulnerable groups. But they also have in common that they operate in a fast-moving world and under conditions that are constantly changing. The borders between the sectors of society are dissolving; digitalization is accelerating; and there is a gradual shift towards more individualistic values. These are some of the societal trends that have affected – and been affected by – the Stenbeck Stiftelse and the initiatives supported by the foundation over the past decade.


Trend one: Dissolution of borders and concept-confusion

A strong trend is that the roles of different sectors and industries in relation to each other changes quickly, and traditional borders are pushed further and being erased. One such shift that has been discussed within academia and research over a long period of time, is the shift of civil society from “voice to service”. Historically, civil society organization have had the role of a free and independent challenger of the public systems, but the shift means that they have increasingly taken on the role as implementer and provider of social services.

Another border that has been pushed further this past decade is the border between the business sector and the civil society, or what is seen as “commercial” compared to “voluntary”. Frameworks such as the 2030 SDG Agenda have played an important role in emphasizing the role of the private sector for solving the greatest societal challenges. Perhaps even more important for the companies, are the expectations from customers and employees. Numerous studies the past decade show that a corporate social engagement and social impact are important factors when we choose which products to buy and where to work. This means that a visible engagement in society has become an important competitive advantage and an attractive position for commercial brands.

Trend two: The commercial goodness

While we see a trend of a purpose and sustainability revolution in the corporate sector, we can also see a commercialization of civil society actors. The research field discuss the shift in civil society where associations are moving away from a focus on their members towards a focus on customer, donor, and volunteer relationships.

Many non-profit organizations are getting better at – and to a large extent are forced to shift towards – developing new business models, and that skills, language, and mindset are transferred from the business sector to civil society. The growth of social entrepreneurship as a model for social change is a part of this development. But there are several external forces that contribute as well, such as a greater competition for the target groups’ time and money, and that donors increasingly demand measurable results.

Connected to the commercialization of the civil society, there is also a professionalization characterized by people being employed in the civil society based on their professional skills rather than their personal commitment. Over the past decade, the need for measuring impact, both to justify funding and to drive the development of more effective methods, has gained increasing focus in the civil society sector.

Trend three: A popular movement of individualists

One of the pervasive shifts in values that has characterized society these past decades, is the shift from collective to individual values. In more and more areas, we can, and expect to be able to, make individual life choices. In global surveys, such as the World Values Survey, Sweden stands out as one of the societies in the world that is most strongly characterized by individualistic values.

Working for change in society is often about getting people to act collectively towards a common goal, to mobilize a movement. The Swedish civil society is historically built on a strong tradition of collectivist popular movement, where individuals' commitment has been channeled through membership associations and their various processes for internal organizational democracy.

In civil society, the “Greta-effect” and the #metoo movement are examples recent examples of movements that have gotten their explosive power from the strength of individuals' voices and testimonies.

Trend four: Commitment is stable – and changing

One could imagine that the increasing individualization in society means that we become less involved in society and less inclined to care about others than ourselves. But that does not seem to be the case.

Several studies show the opposite, that young people today are more politically engaged than previous generations, and researchers mean that the extent of civil engagement is “exceptionally stable” over time. The fact that there is a great commitment and that people are prepared to come together and act when individual groups or society as a whole are challenged has become clear on a number of occasions in recent years. The #metoo movement and the “Greta-effect” have already been mentioned, and the mobilization of volunteers during the refugee wave in 2015 as well as the #openstockholm that brought Stockholmers together after the terrorist attack in 2017 are other powerful examples.

One challenge in this development is perhaps that it becomes more difficult for civil society organizations to have a long-term perspective. With commitments that change quickly and declining membership fees and other similar revenues that provided a stable and predictable financial base, it becomes more difficult to obtain the resources needed to drive the long-term work needed to create sustainable societal change.

Trend five: Digitalization and hashtag activism

When talking about significant social trends of the 2010's, one would be remiss not to mention digitalization. For civil society and the work to create better conditions for the most vulnerable in society, the development of digital technologies has played an important part on many levels.

One such level, is technologies that enable innovations aimed at solving societal challenges. Many of the entrepreneurs who have been supported by Reach for Change, have integrated some form of technical solution in their innovations. Several other initiatives and organizations have an even clearer focus on developing social innovations based on digital technologies.

Another level is the crowdfunding platforms and other digital tools that lower the barriers from fundraising. The single event that seems to have had the greatest impact is when Facebook introduced a donation button in 2017. According to Giva's membership statistics, Facebook accounts for more than two thirds of the funds that the organizations receive over digital platforms. However, in total, it remains a relatively small part of the total funds raised.

Trend six: A new collectivism?

Individualization, digitalization, and the dissolution of borders have made it possible for new actors and new perspectives to contribute to the development of civil society and to act quickly and vigorously to address new societal challenges. Many of the individuals and organizations that the Stenbeck Stiftelse have supported over the past decade have both been affected by and had an impact on this development.

In all likelihood, many of these trends will continue to grow stronger and many more methods and organizational structures for social change will emerge during the 2020’s. It is also possible that current sectors and organizations will be divided into new clusters based on their role in society.

When it comes to overall shifts in values, the Sweden Study, which maps the values that characterize the Swedish people, show signs of a return to collectivist values and a desire for functioning social services and support from the collective to the individual. Regarding Swedes’ civic engagements, statistics from Volontärbyrån (The Volunteer Bureau) show a declining interest in forms of digital and remote engagements. Could this perhaps also be interpreted as a return to a desire for more collective solutions and organized cooperation?

Success factors

success factors

An effective way to develop organizations and businesses is to build on what is already strong. The success factors that emerged in the interviews with Stenbecks Stiftelse’s stakeholders have contributed to the impact the foundation has made over the past decade.

Building a culture for large-scale change

We have strengthened others to have a greater impact. Creating large-scale change with new innovative methods is not the same as growing your own organization. The impact that Stenbecks Stiftelse has made takes place in an ecosystem of several different actors. The organization Ashoka has developed a model that describes how an organization’s influence increases over time and called this the direct influence. However, the greatest potential for change lies in the impact Stenbecks Stiftelse helps others create. It is this indirect impact that leads to a ”tipping point” and real system change.

Courage and well-calculated risk

We have invested in people who have been well aware of the risks and taken on great challenges with true courage. Recipients, the team, and partners have all demonstrated courage in various ways. They have accepted that there are risks and have worked with endurance and purpose. Courage has been a central success factor in the foundation’s work because there has always been an active risk awareness. Courage is a strength that is easy to overuse, but then it turns into foolhardiness. Throwing oneself into something unknown can definitely be what is required in certain situations, but it is not what builds large-scale and significant impact. The type of courage shown among the stakeholders is rather a calculated risk-taking.

adam grant

”Creating knowledge without sharing it is elitism. Sharing knowledge without creating it is marketing. Creating knowledge for the purpose of sharing it is thought leadership.”

and thought leadership

We have shared knowledge in a generous spirit. A generous way of working with ideas and knowledge leads to success in organizations and can have a positive effect on larger contexts. Stenbecks Stiftelse itself has invested heavily in knowledge development and has invested in social entrepreneurs and initiatives with expertise in their field. By seeking new learnings and generously sharing them with others, the foundation has positioned itself as a thought leader.

Contact with the target group

We have created relevant points of contact with the target group. Sweden is a country with an extremely well-developed welfare system. Working with social issues and vulnerable groups always means intensive collaboration with societal actors. Many of the initiatives that the foundation has supported over the years reach their target groups through, for example, schools, social services, and substance abuse care. Using remarkable collaboration skills, they can work together to fill the gaps in the safety nets. In work where children are the target group, virtually all activities involve some connection to the school. In countries where fewer children have access to education or where school systems are built in more recent times, it often looks different. There, the organizations work directly with the children.

Marlene Claesson, Secretary General
of Youth 2030 Movement

“To make children and young people’s voices heard has been a top priority from the beginning. My passion is to create conditions for people with different experiences and perspectives to meet to jointly change society for the better. My driving force is the struggle for an inclusive society, a society where everyone gets and has a place.”


Facts & Numbers


What do we see when we weigh and measure?

197,907,000 SEK
for social change

Ten years of social investments

Over the years from 2009 to 2018, the Stenbeck Stiftelse has given close to 200 million Swedish kronor to initiatives in Sweden who improve the lives of children and vulnerable adults. In many of these cases, we have made it possible for the recipients of grants to find more donors and initiate strong collaborations enabling them to continue their work even when the support from the foundation has ended.

All of Sweden for everyone

Children, youth, and adults face difficulties across Sweden. The problems can be different in difference places and initiatives with solid understanding of the local context have the greatest impact. The Stenbeck Stiftelse has therefor actively sought out initiatives from around the country, from Haparanda to Malmö.

Global sustainability goals

Similar to children's rights, the global sustainable development goals provide a holistic framework where the different goals interact and support each other. The investments can be understood on the basis of the sustainability goals, as pieces of a pie in a collective whole. As an example, the foundation has invested 7,250,000 SEK in goal 4, quality education for all.

Investing to help other to grow

The Stenbeck Stiftelse has intensified their investment in the social sector during this ten-year period, driven by both an increased distributable capital and higher ambitions for impact. From 2009 to 2018, the Stenbeck Foundation has invested the majority of its funds in organization who in turn invest in others to scale up the impact.

The largest investments

The largest investments for the Stenbeck Stiftelse during 2009–2018 have been Reach for Change, Friends, Ashoka Sweden, Musketörerna i Rågsved, and the Stenbeck Stipend (which was awarded to 101 individuals to celebrate the 50-year anniversary of the foundation).