Don’t hoard food – hoard neighbours

In Sweden the ABF is supporting Beredsam – a podcast on readiness for crisis and “prepping”. Today they have released an extra podcast (in swedish) because of the Corona virus outbreak.

They have five tips on what to do in this situation, as an individual:

  1. Wash your hands.
  2. Stay at home if you are having symptoms – if possible work from home even if you are not having any symptoms.
  3. Have a little extra of the food you normally eat at home (but don’t over do it).
  4. Don’t spread rumours.
  5. Be solidaric!

You can also read this interview with Herman Geijer in Dagens Nyheter where his best advice for handling a big crisis is to get to know your neighbours. Our ability to co-operate is essential and a collective crisis is best handled as a collective.

What do you learn from representing your co-workers as a shop steward? The Balance model can be a way of documenting it.

As a shop steward (def. a union member elected to represent coworkers in dealings with management) you build new competences through your work representing your fellow co-workers. The Norwegian Federation of Labour Unions (LO) has together with AOF Norway tried to map out which these competences are and find a model for how they can be documented. The project has been a part of the “Year of elected representatives 2019” and the final report has just been presented.

The so called “Balance model”, taken from the retail and health sectors, has been tried and the results are positive. The model can be used to build a common “LO-qualification” that can describe the informal competences built up over a few years. This would not only benefit todays shop stewards but It could also strengthen recruitment.

Read more about it (in norwegian) here.




Life long learning – a must in our digitalized future

Several of the member organisations of ABF Norden offer a wide range of basic skills/digitalization training. It takes place in for example evening schools and study circles (Denmark, Sweden), together with employers and trade unions at the work place (Finland) and as net based courses open to everyone (Norway). It is truly about life long learning and acquiring the skills needed both for the work life and the private life in this digital age.

As the ABF Norden chairman John Meinert Jacobsen puts it: “We (ABF Norden) as a whole has an important role to play when It comes to contributing to a positive development of society and giving people the opportunity to acquire new knowledge and compences needed in all parts of life.”


Here you can read a brand new report on the need to politicise digitalization from a labour movement perspective and the need for life long learning is mentioned as a way to ensure a decent work life:

Systems and paths for life-long learning.

Given the fast pace of technological change, as well as the more flexible labour market, education and skills training need to be stimulated as well as revamped, and move away from the mass, one-off education system that may have worked well earlier.”

Learn more about Methods!

This is an online handbook for anyone who wants to start working with newly arrived migrants or who already does so. It offers tips and ideas that may be useful to you in your work. The methods are drawn from a number of European countries including Sweden, Italy, Finland and Belgium. Take inspiration from both articles and videos via the link.

Methods focuses on non-formal learning/folkbildning and both ABF Sweden and TSL Finland were involved as partners in the project funded by the European social fund from 2017 – 2019.

Here is an example with Urban farming in Gammelbyn in the north of Sweden:


Can the Nordic Model prevent polarization? A question Nordenskolan tries to answer.

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The course Nordenskolan – The Nordic School – focuses on giving the participants knowledge about the Nordic Model and its three pillars; organized work, economic governance and public welfare. The question is also what challenges does the Nordic Model face and how can they be solved?

Young leaders from the member organisations of SAMAK, who has commissioned the course from ABF Norden, meet up over in total six days to listen to lectures and do a pan -nordic group assignment on the challenges of the Nordic Model. The fifth edition of Nordenskolan started in Stockholm in October 2019 and finished in late January 2020 in Copenhagen.

Some of the subjects for the assignments of this class of Nordenskolan were;

  • Part time employment in the Nordic countries and how we can increase the number of full-time jobs?
  • Polarization – causes and possible solutions
  • The status and strategy of political and union co-operation in the Nordic countries 

The chance to deepen the knowledge about the Nordic Model is of great importance to anyone who wants to affect society in any of  the Nordic countries in a positive way, or find solutions to the challenges the model faces.

The Nordenskolan participants also go on study visits to learn more from those who work in the everyday realities of political policy implementation in parliament or trade union federations and so on. A tradition is also to visit the SAMAK annual meeting where all the leaders of the Nordic Workers’ movement gather. In 2020 the meeting was held in Copenhagen at Marienborg, the residence of the danish prime minister, currently Mette Frederiksen (S).

There is another aspect to the course which also is of great importance. In Nordenskolan you meet, make friends and connect to a network of alumni students from all the Nordic countries.  They are active in several sectors and levels of the workers’ movement. Among the alumni of Nordenskolan many will be an active part of mapping out the future of the workers’ movement in the Nordic countries and the future of the Nordic Model.

And what about the question of polarization? The group who chose the subject did propose some solutions; create more jobs in challenged areas (“reversed urbanization”), equal access to public service and increased prosperity and action against climate change based on technologichal advancement – not just reducing or removing options for those with less financial resources.

Nordenskolan 2019/2020 was led by Lars Gaardhoj and Tor-Espen Stenerud from ABF Norden and applications for Nordenskolan 2020/2021 will be accepted in the spring.

Learn more about the Nordic Model in only six short minutes here!



ABF and democracy

ABF was founded out of the struggle for democracy and equality and the realization that the basis of that struggle is education and organization.
Today, ABF has activities in all of Sweden’s municipalities and reaches over a quarter of a million people through liberal, popular education based on the needs and challenges of the local community. Even more people are reached through ABF’s cultural programs such as lectures and concerts. ABF is also a resource in developing our member and partner organisations through education.
ABF is part of a mobilization which aims to give everyone the opportunity to grow as a individuals and to influence society – no matter where and when you were born or where in the country you live. The door to knowledge must never be closed. Lifelong learning is a prerequisite for defending and developing democracy.
”Gör din röst hörd!” (Make your voice heard!) is a multi-year investment to give people the knowledge and ability to take their place in society on their own terms. Part of the venture is the ”Hip-hop bus”, which gives young people the opportunity to write lyrics, produce beats and perform their songs through workshops and a mobile studio. It uses rap music to tell about everyday life and experiences of injustice in society, in the universal language of music. That makes hip-hop a powerful tool for making your voice heard.
The initiative ”Tillsammans mot ensamhet” (“Together against loneliness”) is part of a venture together with the pensioners’ organizations to seek and reach elderly who experience involuntary loneliness. Through study circles you get to meet people who have experienced involuntary loneliness, but you also get to be inspired by good examples of how to break it.

Basic skills are needed

The PIAAC survey measures the basic skills of adults in OECD countries. In this study, literacy, numeracy, and computer problem-solving were measured as basic skills. According to the study, increasing the basic adult education in each country would be very important. Indeed, members of ABF Norden have already taken up this challenge and are providing basic adult education in the Nordic countries.
Most adults in OECD countries know how to read and write, but there are already more problems understanding long sentences. Literacy also includes a critical examination of knowledge, which has become increasingly important in the era of various fake news and social media. No wonder populist parties are strong if people are not critical of what they read on Twitter, for example. Critical and analytical literacy are essential for active participation in the development of society and one’s own community.
Indeed, the survey showed that those with the lowest levels of basic skills were the least likely to believe in their own influence in society. They also participated less in volunteering and relied less on other people. In addition, their health was lower than that of those with stronger basic skills. Therefore, it is not an exaggeration to say that basic skills have an impact on people’s wellbeing in general, not only that they have an impact on the position in the labor market.
As technology advances and the world of work changes, IT skills are no longer just a requirement for highly qualified engineers, but have become the basic skill that every person needs. Almost work-to-work requires basic skills such as literacy, numeracy, and the use of technology to solve problems.
According to the study, strong basic skills in reading, numeracy and computer literacy led to better job opportunities as well as better pay. Particularly good IT skills will result in better pay and well-being at work.
Basic skills are important for people’s integration and participation in society, education, employment and social life. Basic skills are needed in a variety of contexts at work and leisure. The most important thing to remember is that these skills can be learned! That is why ABF Norden has also set up a working group to develop basic adult education.

Katri Söder


Katri Söder, Manager of Education in Työväen Sivistysliitto TSL (Workers’ Education Association in Finland), and a member of the ABF Norden Basic Skills -group.