Room to improve

The ties between parlia­ment and foun­da­ti­ons is much weaker than those between parlia­ment and asso­cia­ti­ons. There are simple reasons behind this. 

The list of inte­rests for members of the Natio­nal Coun­cil and Coun­cil of States details about 2,000 manda­tes at asso­cia­ti­ons, foun­da­ti­ons and various orga­ni­sa­ti­ons within the private sector. Of these roles, 333 are at foun­da­ti­ons, 239 of which are unpaid. This means foun­da­ti­ons are much more badly networked in parlia­ment than asso­cia­ti­ons: parlia­men­ta­ri­ans hold 965 roles with asso­cia­ti­ons, 631 of which are unpaid. Lukas Golder, co-direc­tor of the rese­arch insti­tute gfs.bern, is not surpri­sed: ‘For poli­ti­ci­ans, foun­da­tion manda­tes are just a supple­ment, but asso­cia­ti­ons can form the basis for a poli­ti­cal career,’ he says. He cites an association’s members as the lever that makes them appe­al­ing for parlia­men­ta­ri­ans. They are closely linked to the asso­cia­ti­ons and their issues. ‘Asso­cia­tion members can lend their support during an campaign and help with finan­cing,’ he says. He sees foun­da­ti­ons as prima­rily commu­ni­ca­ting exper­tise on very speci­fic issues and, in some cases, with little public impact. 

Unde­re­sti­ma­ted power

‘Poli­ti­ci­ans may well unde­re­sti­mate the power they can gain by taking up a trus­tee­ship,’ says Golder. He also sees a certain reluc­tance on the part of foun­da­ti­ons. They fear that their acti­vi­ties could be depic­ted in a contro­ver­sial way and are put off by the incre­asingly pola­ri­sed nature of poli­tics. This is where the invol­vement of female parlia­men­ta­ri­ans could help to reduce their misgi­vings. ‘Despite the fact that we have a civil parlia­ment, the people there are prac­ti­cally profes­sio­nals,’ says Golder. They can take away the fear asso­cia­ted with invol­vement in poli­tics. An important task, in his eyes – because, he says, if you think poli­ti­cally, you quickly become more rele­vant. ‘You have more leverage on the ground and can create the basis for some­thing new.’ Due to their speci­fic skills, he sees the poten­tial in foun­da­ti­ons and would like them to acquire more of a start-up menta­lity, acting as a coun­ter­weight to pola­ri­sed poli­tics. Poli­ti­cal educa­tion is of central importance to a demo­cracy. and he has iden­ti­fied a gap here that foun­da­ti­ons could close. There are alre­ady a few indi­vi­dual commit­ments, but nowhere near enough. ‘Poli­ti­cal educa­tion crea­tes a coun­ter­weight to pola­ri­sa­tion. It teaches people to respect their opponent’s argu­ment, to come toge­ther and to have a cons­truc­tive dialo­gue,’ says Golder. 

Worth five times as much

The members of the FDP parlia­men­tary group have the highest number of unpaid posts on boards of trus­tees, with its 41 poli­ti­ci­ans totting up 59 roles among them. At 1.4 roles per person, the FDP also tops the leader­board in terms of roles per person, follo­wed by the Centre parlia­men­tary group with 1.3 and the SP at 1.2. Green Libe­ral and Green parlia­men­ta­ri­ans come in at 0.9 and 0.8 respec­tively. Repre­sen­ta­ti­ves of the SVP have the smal­lest number of unpaid posi­ti­ons on boards of trus­tees. In a compa­ri­son of both coun­cils, members of the Coun­cil of States have a higher number of unpaid trus­tee­ships, both per person and in total. ‘A seat on the Coun­cil of States is worth five times as much as a seat on the Natio­nal Coun­cil,’ explains Golder. The Natio­nal Coun­cil has almost five times as many members, but both cham­bers are on an equal footing. State coun­cil­lors are of parti­cu­lar inte­rest in terms of trus­tee­ships since they are gene­rally invol­ved in more committees.

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