Waves on frozen water
Researcher: Rebecca Stenberg
Tour Skating and Skridskonätet (‘the Skating Network’)
Scandinavia has the best conditions in the world for skate sailing and tour skating on natural ice, a well-liked activity in the winter season. Since ice is difficult to assess and its conditions change by the day, many tour skaters prefer participating in skating organized by tour skating clubs offering experienced leaders and up-to-date ice information. In order to offer nice tour alternatives and acceptable safety conditions, a considerable effort is spent on accumulating and analyzing information about ice, weather, and wind conditions in planning the tours. But ice knowledge, or knowing intelligence on current ice conditions, tours to join all over the north of Europe, as well as the spread and exchange of experiences and lessons learned, can nowadays be reached, exchanged and preserved within minutes among the members in Skridskonätet (skridsko.net, ‘the Skating Network’).
The originally Swedish website initiative was created by a group of skating enthusiasts. Now Skridskonätet (skridsko.net) is an organization for collaboration between nearly 80 tour skating clubs all over Northern Europe. On skridsko.net all members and clubs can find and report fresh information on ice and skating conditions. Like YouTube, Face Book or other social media communities, Skridskonätet offers a frame of organized possibilities for information, communications, and a few restrictions. The users create the value, and the more they use Skridskonätet the more value they create for themselves and for other members.
Skridskonätet thereby also provides an intersectoral field of communication possibilities, interactions and influences between different actors, interests and perspectives. It provides means for network activities between skating clubs and members as well as valuable information on ice conditions for profit actors in winter tourism. The information is also used by the rescue organizations for estimating risks for ice accidents and the positioning of hovercrafts.
An unorthodox entrepreneurial initiative
The Skridskonätet initiative can be seen as an unorthodox example of a societal entrepreneurship initiative not aiming at universal social values but more at facilitating activities on an every-day basis, leading to gratifying, safe and joyful experiences as well as public health, primarily for skaters, but also for others who tread upon natural ice.
Interactive case study research
With the aim of describing the organizing and meaning-creation in and around Skridskonätet from different actor perspectives, an interactive qualitative case study was carried out during the 2009-2010 skating season. It was based on interviews, documents and on my own experiences and impressions as a dedicated tour skater and member of two tour skating societies. This interactivity meant both a high degree of dialogues with my research group as well as with all kinds of tour skaters (often during coffee breaks on the ice) as well as more organized discussions on produced texts with a chosen group representing Skridskonätet, the two largest participating skating societies, The Federation for Swedish Outdoor Life, The Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency, The Swedish Sea Rescue Society, and the Swedish Maritime Administration. The project became an integrated part of the organizing around Skridskonätet, giving perspectives and concepts to use as well as initiating and encouraging communication, as for example between the clubs and The Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency. A presentation of the project results at The Congress of Ice, an international conference, spread the thought of societal entrepreneurship even further into how skating societies viewed their role in society, as for example cited and discussed in the 2010 Yearbook of Gothenburg’s tour skating society. Finally, the project has brought forward other possible views on our own roles and responsibilities in society as ice specialists. Several clubs and Skridskonätet were represented at a formal symposium at the Contingencies Agency about drowning prevention.
Results and further questions
An analysis of narrative themes showed, among other things, the difficult balancing act between the sometimes antagonistic efforts of capacity (to be accessible and understood by many), robustness (being trustable, with no risks of misunderstanding and exposing individuals to danger), legitimacy (among member clubs as well as in the local community and with public authorities), and identity confirmation among members (like possessing the spirit of adventure). In Skridskonätet standardization and free zones for social communication as well as photographs were used to overcome some of the difficulties, but also to create new ones. How does, for example, standardization in itself affect the organizing of tours and the understanding of skating? How can both strong and weak ties be safeguarded in the organizing? Can web site activities form other ties, not yet understood? Other questions remain, like those about how to view societal entrepreneurship activities outside the social economy. What about activities for safety, for example? Another question concerns the importance of infrastructure and institutionalization in societal entrepreneuring in different fields.
The study has generated two working papers:
The Organizing of Societal Entrepreneurship in Sweden – Waves on Frozen Water – Organizing and Creating Meaning in and around Skridskonätet. Abstr
Presented at the national FEKIS conference 2009. PP-pres
Outdoor Safety as Societal Entrepreneurship – The Example of the Safety Information Work (SIG) in Skridskonätet. Abstr
Presented at the National Conference of Outdoor Leadership, 2009. PP-pres
The Waves on Frozen Water project presented at the International Ice Congress 2010. PP-pres
Conclusions from the project crossbred with research in safety were presented at The First National Symposium of Security and Crisis Management, TAMSEC. Pres First responders.
The crossbreeding of thoughts of Outdoor Safety and Societal Entrepreneurship was also presented at the 2010 National Conference of Outdoor Leadership. Abstr
Scientific articles in production:
Institutional processes in social entrepreneurship – Entrepreneurial isomorphism. Abstr
The Relay Race around Lake Runn – Sustainable societal entrepreneurship by the efforts of a manifold of actors.
This post is also available in: Swedish