The Swedish forest commons can be regarded as self-organized community groups which jointly manage a forest resource. However, previous studies point out the diminishing role and engagement of shareholders in terms of governance, thereby challenging some vital design principles of robust common-pool resource institutions. We assume that major reasons for this is associated with socio-demographic changes meaning a large proportion of shareholders do not live in the area. Therefore this study compares resident and non-resident shareholder participation in and perceptions about their common, as well as assesses their engagement in the management of one major forest common in Northern Sweden. To this end a questionnaire survey was conducted together with regular consultations with the common's board and staff to discuss shareholder participation and other major issues concerning the common.
The study shows that the common has a low shareholder engagement and a high proportion of non-resident shareholders. Even though a large proportion of resident shareholders acknowledged benefits from the common, they were also less satisfied with the cooperation among shareholders and less optimistic about the possibilities to influence management decisions. In contrast, the majority of non-resident shareholders saw ‘no disadvantages’ of the common. Although most of the shareholders regularly visit the common, hardly any participate in the general meetings. While residency outside the municipality certainly seems to have an impact on the engagement of non-resident shareholders, our study suggests that simple strategies from the board including accessible information and better timing and/or location of meetings might even increase the participation among all shareholders.