The Openness Buzz : A Study of Openness in Planning, Politics and Political Decision-Making in Sweden from an Institutional Perspective

Sammanfattning: In today’s society of increased globalization and digitalization openness has become a buzzword. This raises questions about what we mean by openness and how it is interpreted in various contexts. This thesis has two aims; to explore how openness is interpreted in planning, politics and political decision-making, and to develop an analytical tool to assess openness in different contexts. A new institutional theory framework that centers on the interplay between institutions and actors has been used, and three empirical case studies in a Swedish context were conducted to analyze how openness is interpreted in planning in metropolitan regions, in politics through the political parties and in political decision-making in the Stockholm region. The research concludes that openness in planning, politics and political decision-making is interpreted along two inter-linked narrative lines: ’openness to people’ and ’openness to knowledge, information and ideas’. It was more common to talk about peoples’ accessibility to public services and participation in different parts of society (’openness to people’) than to talk about issues of transparency and ’openness to knowledge, information and ideas’. The institutional framework shows how openness is interpreted at different institutional levels. To what degree openness is expressed at different institutional levels vary by context. In planning for instance, openness is mainly interpreted in terms of governance, whereas in politics and political decision-making, openness is interpreted in an inter-play between culture and norms, institutions, governance and practice. The institutional framework complementary context-specific theories and elaborated into an analytical model, was found useful to explain what mechanisms are at play when dealing with openness in planning, politics and political decision-making, and can be applicable in future research of openness in other geographical or organizational contexts.