Ahead of the election: seven types of citizens that are affecting the Swedish society, today and tomorrow

Everywhere one looks – from bus advertising to news editorials and online trolls’ posts, even as far as in the latest Disney movie The Incredibles 2 – the future of society and the role of its citizens is being discussed. But who is the citizen of the future?

In Disney’s latest installment, the enigmatic villain Screenslaver warns against citizens’ passivity to society’s problems, expecting that superheroes will solve everything while they themselves live pseudo-lives through their many screens. An interesting commentary to one of society’s ongoing discussions.

At Kairos Future, we are naturally curious of the relationships and attitudes that define the citizen of tomorrow, as they contain the foundations for society’s architecture. Together with partners such as the Swedish Armed Forces, the Swedish Police, the Red Cross, and Region Västmanland, Kairos Future has authored a soon-to-be-released report on the citizen of tomorrow. A challenge as there isn’t just one type of citizen, of course. But based on responses from over 6,000 Swedish citizens, we have narrowed them down to seven types of citizens.

Before we get acquainted with the seven citizens, we wish to clarify our definition of citizenship. In this study, a citizen is not defined by any legal definitions. Instead, Kairos Future has researched individuals’ relationships, values, and actions pertinent to interactions with other citizens, society’s institutions, and organizations. Listed below are seven aspects that we conclude are part of the experience of being a citizen.

Kinship: A feeling of community that offers a sense of identity and security while affecting how an individual is willing to utilize their and society’s resources. 

Trust: An individual’s positive or negative expectations, in particular of strangers’ willingness to act with good intention towards others. 

Faith in institutions: Individuals’ perception of public organizations’ efficiency, objectivity, and competence. 

Rights and obligations: One’s opinion on the mutual obligations of society’s individuals, institutions, companies, and other organizations.  

Power distribution: Individuals’ view on how power should be distributed structurally throughout society, but also throughout the democratic process itself. 

Participation: To involve oneself in temporary or long-term projects, often unpaid, with the purpose of helping others, engaging volunteerism, completing political tasks, forming opinions, etc. 

Service expectations: As the welfare state grows into an established market, individuals not only place demands on what service they are offered, but also how they are offered.

These seven aspects are all influenced differently by the trends that are changing society as we progress towards year 2030. This implies consequences for all organizations that in some way depend on citizens’ trust, participation, desire for influence, and service expectations. Already today there exist differences between how different types of people define themselves as citizens. 

Feel free to quickly introduce yourself to Sweden’s seven citizens. But don’t expect to fully understand them afterwards, there is much more hiding beneath the surface. 

Sweden’s seven citizens

The average citizen is the largest group, almost a quarter of the population. As the name suggests, the average citizen doesn’t lean heavily to any direction being a close statistical mix of the other six types. If anything sticks out, it is their weak sense of obligation to participate in society and defend it. 

The local citizen is the second largest group, roughly a seventh of the population. The local citizen feels most connected with people of similar identity traits such as ethnicity, religion, and culture. They seldom engage in volunteer work and would like to see more compensation for those type of activities. 

The remaining citizens fall into one of two classes: either Doer or Customer.The titles hint at their perception of themselves as either customers or co-creators of society. In addition, they are defined by their level of participation and trust: local, national, or global.  

The national-doer citizen is almost as many as the local citizen, but in contrast to the global-doer citizen feel much more a part of society. Furthermore, they are strongly convinced that everyone has a duty to contribute to society, for example through volunteerism or by pressuring companies to act with moral responsibility. 

The local-customer citizen is defined by their trust in society’s social institutions, such as police, defense, and healthcare. Non-profit organizations and politicians are not trusted to the same extent. Compared with other types, The local-customer citizen is not only less involved in society, but their dissatisfaction with society is much greater than other groups. 

The local-doer citizen shares the global-doer citizen’s high goals of contributing to society but are more focused on the local community. They are also ready to defend society and are comparatively well prepared for crises. 

The global-doer citizen is most content with society, consider themselves more involved than others, and feel largely a part of society. Their trust is directed towards non-profit organizations rather than the armed forces and the police. They are least motivated of all citizen types to helping police in their work. 

Last but not least, the global-customer citizen is characterized by their high willingness to provide social benefits to non-citizens as well as their religious orientation which violate society’s established norms. However, this citizen is not likely to take a job that they don’t like nor defend the country compared with other citizens. Rights are more important than obligations.

Seven citizens, formed by their upbringing, zeitgeist, and living conditions. Understanding them – and there is much more to discover – increases the ability to make sound strategic decisions for all organizations that are dependent on citizens’ participation, satisfaction, and trust. How society’s citizens evolve as we progress towards year 2030 depends on a broad spectrum of trends. 

By Fredrik Torberger