Groups of organizations
Organizations functioning as part of a civil society can be grouped in many ways. Here is one classification:
Sport and exercise clubs
In Finland the basic unit of sport activity is a sport club. It used to be usual that in one club people practiced different kinds of sports. In recent years clubs which focus on one sport have become more common.
The variety on offer includes almost all sports known in the world. The most popular sports are soccer, athletics, skiing, floor ball, ice-hockey, and pesäpallo (the national game of Finland, a combination of traditional ball-batting team games and American base-ball). In addition to these, the variety of sports includes fitness training, sport of the disabled, military sport, and so forth.
In the cultural sphere, many new associations have been formed in recent years and different art forms have got their own associations and organizations. The spectrum extends from painting to audio-visual and digital art. In addition, many cultural institutions have their own supporters’ associations.
Regional associations cherish the local and regional culture. In the last few years, multicultural associations have become more common. In these organizations people work in the midst of immigrant cultures and Finnish culture, and also with the common culture of immigrants and Finns.
Leisure and hobby organizations
The variety of hobby organizations has increased enormously in the last couple of decades. Pet associations, sauna clubs, dance associations, automobile and boat clubs, live role game associations, fan clubs, etc., all demonstrate people’s wish to act together within, and for the good of their own dear hobby. The phenomenon is typical of the postmodern era.
Those driving a Jaguar, Porsche or a Mustang have their own associations, as do the supporters of the English top football clubs. People want to belong to a group and act together, while also building their own identity. The Finnish way is to organize the activities in the form of an association.
Social and health organizations
The associations of disabled people, patient associations, child welfare organizations, the Finnish Red Cross, etc., attend to their members’ interests and offer peer support and professional help for their members.
In the sphere of social and health organizations, the number of the associations and national organizations linked to certain illnesses continue to increase. Alongside the traditional organizational activities, social and health organizations have increased the production of services in the last few years.
Municipalities have especially been willing to buy certain social services from organizations, instead of producing all the services that are needed in the municipality.
Youth organizations and student societies
Youth work has been and still is a strong field in the domain of Finnish organizational activity. Alongside the child and youth work of municipalities and parishes, there are the Scouts, the 4H organizations, religious and political child and youth organizations, student societies, and so forth. They all engage in diverse and extensive activities involving children and young people.
The standing of political child and youth work has decreased in the last two decades, but at the same time the memberships of hobby associations have increased and the scope of their activities has grown.
In Finland, political parties have local organizations in villages, municipalities and districts. In addition, political parties have some women’s organizations, and the biggest parties also have their own national women’s federations. Parties have various child and youth organizations, educational and cultural associations of their own, or functioning in their vicinity.
Thus, the variety of political associations, or associations of a given political inclination, is altogether very extensive, even though nowadays the activities of these organizations interest people less than in the 1970s.
In industry there have traditionally been local, factory-specific, trade union branches. Other occupational groups have trade unions and trade organizations with locally or regionally based activities.
In specialized trades, the workers belong directly to a national trade union. There are plenty of local trade union branches and trade unions in Finland, but at the moment many of them are not operating well, because people are not as interested in the trade union activities as they used to be thirty years ago.
Economic and industrial associations
In Finland, medium-sized and large-scale enterprises belong to one national confederation and small-scale entrepreneurs have their own interest group. The farmers have their own strong union, with local activities in every part of the country.
Junior chambers of commerce, traders’ associations, fishermen’s associations, etc. complement the diverse repertoire of economic and industrial associations.
Advisor organizations have a long and noteworthy history especially in the Finnish countryside. Agricultural advisor organizations have worked to develop farming and stock raising for decades.
Domestic and handiwork advisory organizations have been active in both rural and urban areas in order to cherish, maintain and pass on the traditions and skills.
Religious and ideological associations
The associations of different religious groups and the Christian associations organize activities, but the memberships of these organizations are mostly small. The working methods of religious, Christian and ideological associations are different from many other organizations. Spreading the spiritual or ideological message is the main theme around which the activities revolve. Organizational activity is of secondary importance.
Pedagogical, scientific and study organizations
Scientific organizations, teachers’ organizations of different subjects, educational and study organizations, and the support groups of educational institutions form their own organizational group in Finland. The total size of this group reveals that Finns want to act voluntarily in the sphere of pedagogy and education.
In the background there is the enthusiasm stemming from the national awakening and the aspirations to educate the workers, which have led to the interest in educational and pedagogical matters. This enthusiasm has been maintained and revived even in the twenty-first century.
The Finnish Association for Nature Conservation was founded over sixty years ago to protect biodiversity, to promote sustainable consumption patterns and to conserve nature. Despite this, the nature conservation associations, animal rights organizations, bird watching societies, etc., can be seen as phenomena of the postmodern era in the domain of Finnish organizational activities.
Ecological matters began to interest young people in the 1970s, after which many organizations of this group were formed, among the city dwellers in particular. The memberships of environmental associations do not belong to the biggest organizational groups in Finland, but their activities have received a lot of publicity due to the members’ activeness and the bold interventions of the various organizations.
Pensioner and veteran organizations
In the Second World War approximately 630,000 men and women took part in active service. This guaranteed many members for veteran organizations and associations of women who had served in the front. Now these organizations are closing down as their members pass away. The pensioners’ organizations, on the other hand, are rapidly growing as the population ages.
Both types of organization have strong traditions in supervising the interests of their members, but in pensioners’ activities the focus is on the recreational aspects and spending time together. The veteran organizations have focused their efforts on rehabilitating their members in recent years.
Village and local organizations
Village committees spread rapidly to all parts of the country in the 1970s and 1980s. The associations became first and foremost organizations of joint activity and lobbying in rural villages. Through initiatives and village plans they influenced the municipal decision-making process.
In recent years the associations have carried out extensive projects with the help of local development funding from the state and the European Union. In urban areas the corresponding organizations are the district associations and the associations of those living in one-family houses.
National defense and peace organizations
The reserve organizations of those who have served in the military are typically male organizations. The officers and non-commissioned officers of the reserve have their own organizations, as do the reservists of other branches. The enthusiasm for voluntary national defense has grown in the recent years and the activities attract women as well.
While the interest in the national defense organizations has increased, the peace organizations are at low ebb. The heyday of the peace organizations was in the 1960s and 1970s.
Friendship societies, ethnic organizations and development cooperation organizations
In Finland, there are numerous friendship societies of different countries and peoples. The most well-known are the League of Finnish American Societies and the Finland-Russia Society. Other similar societies are, for example, the Finnish-Indian-Society, the Finnish-Somalian Society Koor, the Finnish-Arab Friendship Society and the Finnish-Latin American Society.
These associations maintain good relations between countries and peoples as well as distribute information on the country in question, organize cultural exhibitions and events, trips and language courses.
In addition, the different ethnic minorities have their own organizations. Among others, the Somalis have formed various associations. Many organizations continue to work in the area of development cooperation and help refugees in Finland and abroad.
Lions Clubs and Rotary clubs are well-known organizations throughout the country. In Finland there are many Lions Clubs in proportion to the population. These organizations focus on charitable work and offering aid, either as financial support or voluntary work.
The volunteer fire-brigades can also be classified as service organizations, because they are still in charge of the fire prevention in most parts of the country.
Article is based on the text “The groups of organizations” by Aaro Harju, published earlier on this web site.