Background for DANIAS
to strengthen the collaboration between Denmark and the Danish diaspora
Published by the Danish Diaspora Task force in 2019
Published by the Danish Diaspora Task force in 2019
Denmark is a small open economy fully integrated into and dependent on the global market, which continously creates new opportunities for growth. It is in our common interest to create the best possible framework for our country and our businesses and organisations to realise their full growth potential.
Many analyses show that the Danish business sector desperately needs to attract international labour to secure growth in the future. Furthermore, limited access to knowledge about foreign markets, language and culture is an impediment to growth, especially for small businesses.
We can only overcome these barriers by engaging the Danish diaspora. More than a quarter of a million Danes live outside Denmark and they represent a valuable source of knowledge about local markets internationally and their cultures. The diaspora can share the good narratives of Denmark in their international network with high credibility and authenticity, which can strengthen Danish companies and Denmark’s international reputation.
With the recommendations of the task force, we now have the foundation for strategic collaboration between Denmark and the Danish diaspora. What we need now is to invest in developing the relations with the Danish diaspora and for Danish businesses, organisations and politicians to unite around the vision devised and the recommendations made.
Today, a number of networks organise collaboration between members of the Danish diaspora. The networks make an important contribution with regard to supporting social and cultural ties locally. However, no organisation exists today to connect them with our Danish diaspora on a larger scale, focussing on Danish businesses’ and organisations’ business and knowledge stakeholders. This means that the valuable competencies and resources of the Danish diaspora are not fully brought into play, and Denmark misses out on the potential of the Danish diaspora contributing to enhanced knowledge, growth and employment.
The task force recommends that an association called Diaspora Denmark be established, such association to ensure that the recommendations of the task force are rooted in the right target groups and strengthen Denmark’s diaspora effort. The association must be a one-point-of-entry that drives existing and new business-oriented Danish diaspora efforts and facilitates direct collaboration between the Danish diaspora, the business sector, knowledge organisations, political levels and other existing and future players working for and with the diaspora. The association must be supported by a small but effective secretariat that physically could be placed with a host organisation which, in addition to making office facilities available, is also able to provide access to IT infrastructure, finance functions as well as communication and marketing services. The association will be responsible for procuring the financing for the secretariat and for the priority areas recommended below.
A comprehensive view of the diaspora’s knowledge and competencies does not exist today. Therefore, it is quite a challenge for the Danish players to find the information and resources they need in their internationalisation. Similarly, obtaining an overview of the most important narratives of modern Denmark – narratives which it is in Denmark’s clear interest to have spread to the rest of the world – is a time-consuming task to fit into a busy schedule. The information is available, but today it is spread on many different websites and not adapted to the diaspora as a target group or a channel. Finally, no platform exists today that allows Danish players, in an easy and unbureaucratic way, to reach out to the parts of the diaspora that are willing to help with e.g. local knowledge. Overall, this means that Danish businesses miss out on international opportunities with which our global fellow countrymen have specifically expressed their willingness to help.
The task force recommends that a digital platform be established to catalyse collaboration between domestic stakeholders and the Danish diaspora. The platform must facilitate matching individual parties and make it easy for them to start a dialogue and collaboration. It must also provide the diaspora with access to updated knowledge about Denmark. The platform should retrieve and link to relevant content from other websites, including information about Denmark, branding material, jobs and legislative matters. Use of the platform must be attractive, intuitive and motivating, so that the diaspora, including also existing diaspora networks, will want to use the platform. The new association will be responsible for building, running and developing the platform.
Denmark is a ”Small Great Nation” and Denmark excels internationally within a great number of core strengths, e.g. within sectors such as life science, medico, food and ingredients, green energy and environmental engineering, digitisation, Blue Denmark, trade and logistics as well as the creative sectors such as design and architecture, film, music and gaming. But in order to strengthen the general branding of Denmark globally, one coherent and value-based core narrative of modern Denmark is required. The narrative must be based on a few Danish core values that are deeply rooted in Danish culture and history. The core narrative must contribute to establishing stronger and more value-creating ties between the diaspora and Denmark, while at the same time increasing interest in Denmark internationally. Targeted information must also be provided to the Danish diaspora about the above-mentioned strengths.
The task force recommends that a general core narrative of Denmark be developed, based on a few intuitive Danish core values that are deeply rooted in Danish culture and history. The core narrative must as far as possible be timeless and remain true despite waves of social change and movements in political debates and opinions. It must highlight what unites us Danes and it must provide the modern credible image of Denmark we want to present to other countries. The task force has interviewed a number of Danes living abroad and they considered i.a. trust, equality and innovation to be Danish core values. These values are also represented in the Denmark Canon, to whose development more than a quarter of a million Danes contributed in 2016, and are thus possible candidates for core values for the core narrative. It is important that the core narrative works well with existing sub-narratives from e.g. State of Green, Denmark.dk, VisitDenmark, Food Nation Denmark and Healthcare Denmark. We recommend that promotion material and tools concerning Denmark be developed which are targeted at the Danish diaspora and made available to them to spread the narrative of modern Denmark.
In a world where access to talent with specific competencies is essential for the continued growth and success of the Danish business sector, we need to be able to attract and retain foreign specialists.
This is especially relevant when it comes to talent with competencies within STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) as we have a huge shortage of engineers, IT and life-science experts, but it also applies on a broader scale in relation to e.g. skilled labour. Denmark offers good conditions for international talents and scores high on various lists ranking attractive destinations for talents. Unfortunately, the best international talents are more or less unaware of this fact.
The task force recommends strengthening the Danish diaspora’s knowledge of and possibilities of promoting Denmark as an attractive career destination as well as of sharing specific job postings in their local networks. The digital platform will be useful for disseminating knowledge about career opportunities in Denmark. In addition, existing Danish missions, Danish embassies and Denmark’s innovation centres in knowledge-intensive areas can contribute to disseminating knowledge to the diaspora at their local destinations. Engaging current and previous Danish students who have completed part or all of their education aboard will also be useful.
In addition, we recommend encouraging the Danish diaspora and their descendants to study, take jobs or establish new businesses in Denmark. This can e.g. be done through targeted campaigns and a visiting programme that motivates children and descendants to live in Denmark as students or trainees or to find a job in Denmark. We also recommend establishing a corps of ambassadors targeted at descendants of Danes with the purpose of promoting career opportunities in Denmark in their local networks and also be offered concrete jobs in Denmark.
Finally, an effort must be made to maintain ties to international talents that have left Denmark in order to motivate them to promote Denmark as a career destination in their networks or return to work in Denmark themselves.
Only 5-6 percent of Danish businesses engage in export and many businesses face challenges with regard to expanding internationally because they do not sufficiently possess the necessary competencies and resources. Looking at the number of innovative businesses, Denmark is only doing average compared with other European countries, particularly SMEs are lagging behind. The Danish diaspora has valuable knowledge of international markets and international networks which can be very useful for Danish businesses and organisations. Knowledge-sharing can contribute to value-creation for both parties. Therefore, it is essential to reduce barriers to knowledge-sharing. Today, access to knowledge and networks can be facilitated through Danish innovation centres and embassies – subject to a charge and tailored to match the individual business’ needs. But there is no system today that in a wider sense enables Danish businesses and other players directly and free of charge to establish access to the knowledge and networks of specific persons in the Danish diaspora.
The task force recommends that the association Diaspora Denmark initiate a targeted effort to create an overview of the Danish diaspora’s specific access to knowledge and networks on the digital platform. This way, the platform can, via a digital matching solution, support companies and organisations in reaching out to relevant individuals in the Danish diaspora with a view to enlisting their assistance in obtaining access to concrete knowledge and specific networks that can contribute to increased export and internationalisation, particularly with SMEs.
In this regard, we recommend that well-known and influential members of the diaspora be engaged in contributing to activities in areas where they can make a difference for Denmark as well as inspire other players in the diaspora and in Denmark to contribute to the effort.
Strengthened collaboration between the Danish diaspora and Denmark requires strong local roots. Denmark already has contact to a large section of the Danish diaspora through the activities of the embassies, the consulates and the innovation centres. The Danish missions are, however, not represented at all destinations and often lack sufficient resources to engage the Danish diaspora in a broad sense.
At some destinations, a strong local diaspora effort is shouldered most exemplary through other channels, e.g. the Danish chambers of commerce and the seamen’s churches. Unfortunately, several of the relevant destinations lack the organisational rooting and financial resources to facilitate ambitious collaboration between the local diaspora and Danish business players.
The task force recommends that additional resources be allocated to local Danish players abroad. e.g. embassies, consulates, innovation centres, chambers of commerce, seamen's churches etc. to promote Denmark’s collaboration with the diaspora. The task force recommends the use of an activity-based financing model to financially support the local players best suited to perform the task. This way, the enhanced diaspora effort will not be at the expense of already existing activities but instead complement and strengthen them. Therefore, the effort should for each relevant destination involve considerations as to which projects make most sense in the short and long term in the local context and which relevant players to involve in the diaspora work.
Danish businesses’ internationalisation and presence in a globalised world are essential for growth in Denmark and thus for a continued well-functioning welfare society. It is of great value to Denmark and the Danish business sector when Danes travel and get jobs with businesses and organisations abroad as this is a way for them to obtain unique knowledge, competencies and networks. This also applies to the Danish scientists who attend foreign universities to improve their skills or to obtain employment as a researcher. However, many members of the diaspora experience a lot of prejudice and administrative barriers with regard to being expatriate Danes, which is a challenge for their continued connection to Denmark. These things affect their desire to contribute actively to a positive development in Denmark. Therefore, it is essential to have these matters investigated so that prejudice can be broken down and the barriers experienced by many expatriate Danes in their connection to Denmark reduced.
The task force recommends that the Danish government and parliament acknowledge the importance of the Danish diaspora for Denmark’s internationalisation and development – including referring to long-term stays abroad and experience living abroad in positive terms for the individual as well as for Denmark. The task force also recommends looking into what significant barriers that exist today in relation to the Danish diaspora’s connection to Denmark and that the Danish government and parliament make an effort to reduce these barriers. This will enhance the diaspora’s motivation to contribute and collaborate with Denmark. This way, the Danish government and parliament will contribute to uniting the Danish nation across national borders.
More than 250.000 Danish people live outside of Denmark – they are the Danish diaspora. 98% of them hold Danish citizenship and 20.000 return to Denmark every year. The majority of the Danish diaspora are between 18-59 years old and working, primarily residing in the EU and the U.S.
Download the full report with recommendations from the task force on how we can create growth in Denmark by establishing a strong collaboration between Danish companies and the Danish diaspora.