norwegian dugnad

Dugnad: The Norwegian Tradition Explained

Norway has often been described as an inclusive economy, a concept that is evident in the Norwegian dugnad tradition.

The tradition, an ancient one, conceptualizes the country’s commitment to erasing social barriers as they relate to race, sex, orientation, and religion. Norway’s well-run economy constitutes a favorable environment for businesses of all sizes.

What Is Dugnad?

Translated as “help” or “support,” dugnad describes voluntary community work. Members of the community engage in such service periodically.


Dugnad signifies the beauty of human relationships as expressed by people’s commitment to helping one another.

Dugnad in the Past

The tradition of dugnad calls upon people to contribute their time and effort for the well-being of the community.

The dugnad tradition began in the 14th century when rural communities came together for building projects. Upon completion of such projects, the people celebrated by hosting feasts as a reward for a job well done.

The dugnad involved all members of the community. There was no pressure to outdo or perform better than the other person. In essence, everyone was encouraged to do their best. Thus everyone was regarded as equal members of the community.

Dugnad Today

While the nation has moved past the era of economic dependence on fishing and farming, the dugnad legacy lives on as a form of voluntary work in various segments of the society. This includes sporting events and international outreach programs.

In both rural and urban communities, the dugnad focuses on the outdoors. Think of it as a large-scale spring cleaning and gardening project. In short, neighbors come together to clean up parks and yards. Also, they complete repairs on damaged public utilities.


The service extends from homes to other establishments as well. For example, people participate in cleaning and restoring public parks, health centers, and even schools. Therefore, it’s not surprising that people are eager to learn more about dugnad.

When Is It Time?

Dugnad is usually practiced four times a year with the changing of the seasons. From spring to winter, each season change takes its toll on the outdoors. At the end of autumn, fallen leaves fill the yards, clogging drains, and gutters. The snow in winter also comes with its share of troubles.

While individuals are responsible for the upkeep of their own residences, dugnad takes other facilities that are not privately owned into consideration. It calls on the people to collectively contribute to cleaning up the entire community.

How It Begins

Leaders publicize each upcoming event ahead of time with posters and emails sent to every member of the community.

The benefits of this tradition extend beyond the satisfaction of playing a part in improving the community. For example, every participant in dugnad has the chance to interact with everyone else in the neighborhood. Also, for individuals who participate, it is an opportunity to expand their network and form new friendships.

A Final Word

The Norwegian dugnad eliminates social hierarchy by involving all members of the community. Embodied in a culture of inclusiveness, dugnad strengthens the bonds of community, teaching that we all matter and together, we can make the world a better place.