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About ABF

Arbetarnas Bildningsförbund, (ABF) translates to Workers’ Educational Association and is the largest study association in Sweden.

Who we are?

Arbetarnas Bildningsförbund, (ABF) translates to Workers’ Educational Association and  is the largest study association in Sweden. ABF is a non-governmental organization, based on a clear set of values. ABF is party politically independent but with values that coincide with the labour movement and its aim to counteract the class society.

ABF history and more:

ABF was established in 1912, by the social democratic party, the trade union confederation and the cooperative union. The foundation and backbone of ABF is popular education and especially the study circle method. In Swedish we use the word Folkbildning, that directly translates to peoples education, and in English we usually say popular education or sometimes non-formal adult education.

ABF is a non-governmental organization, and we are not directly affiliated to any political party, however we share the values of the labor movement and consider ourselves part of it. Both the social democratic party and the left party are members of ABF, so we do have a rather clear ideological compass or profile.

ABF: Connecting Communities Across Sweden’s 290 Municipalities

ABF is active in all of Sweden’s 290 municipalities. We are divided into regional and local branches with one central office. There are 51 local branches, 21 regional branches. ABF is a member based organization, and has 55 member organizations, ranging from political parties and trade unions to cultural and ethnic associations. We also have 63 organizations with cooperation agreements, that are not fully members, but that cooperate with ABF in different ways. Our extensive network allows us to act as a networking agent, and open the door to new, inspiring constellations of organizations and individual visionaries.

ABF: Empowering Minds, Enriching Lives

Every year we carry out around 75 000 study circles and arrange 98 000 events. The topics of the study circles are extremely diverse, ranging from trainings on collective bargaining for trade union members, to Swedish for immigrants, multilingual choir, Spanish for tourists, burlesque dancing, book circles, and so on and so on.

In 2019, around 5,5 million people attended ABF activities.

YGAP deltagare

International agreements and projects

As part of the global labor movement, we see it as obvious that we should also engage and partner up with like-minded organizations and networks around the world, since the local is connected to the global and the other way around.

We believe that public education is necessary to counteract class society and promote democracy. In this way, we play a key role as a popular education organization. With our international activities, we show solidarity, spread popular education and educate people about the world in Sweden.

studiecirkel at ABF

International work within ABF is not only about taking people out into the world, but also about taking the world and a global perspective to all of Sweden’s 290 municipalities. For many, global issues and challenges are the way into movement involvement and active citizenship. ABF strives to keep low thresholds in our international work, and enable grassroots involvement at equal level with our international partners. Therefore, it is very important that our international collaborations take place on equal terms and are characterized by an actual exchange, where we are responsive and open to learning from our partners in the same way that we share our methods and experiences from popular education work. Although of course this is not always easy, seeing that we are financial donors.

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Read more about international projects

Today, ABF, both locally, regionally and on a central level, have around 20 international projects in for example Bosnia and Hercegovina, Namibia, Palestine and Zimbabwe. At the central office we have 6 projects at the moment, in South Africa, Turkey, Burma, Serbia, Bosnia & Hercegovina and the Philippines. We are also engaged in a Palme Center project in the DRC. The partner organizations that we work with in these countries are mostly focused on workers education but some organizations work more broadly with for example culture or economic and social rights.

ABF is a founding member of the International Federation of Workers Education Association, IFWEA, created in 1947 after a decision at the annual conference of the WEA in 1945, with the purpose of creating an international coalition to support collaboration between the national organizations. ABF is working closely together with IFWEA since 2015 and annually conduct the Youth Globalisation Awareness Programme, YGAP, in Cape Town South Africa. The 2 week long course is the flag ship of our cooperation, where we gather young activists from the global labour movement with the aim of creating global dialogue and solidarity and to offer deeper knowledge on global issues using interactive popular education methods. The course also offers 2-3 days of internships at local civil society organizations.
Labour Education and Research Network, is a Philippine labour center that supports trade unions and CSOs with education, research and networking activities, in many ways similar to ABF

More international agreements and projects