Today there are more than 12000 public foundations and about 3000 labour market foundations in Sweden. The public foundations are mostly active within fields such as research, education and social help. That is not the way it has always been, however. Before 1800 education was the biggest beneficiary, to be replaced by social aid and from about 1850 research has been the main beneficiary of new foundations.
The fact that foundations are formed for different purposes during the course of time, leads to the conclusion that, as a whole, foundations appear to fill a flexible function in society. This in spite of the fact that individual foundations are very inflexible. The roles in society that foundations from earlier eras have had do not disappear. Either they continue with their same original mission or they are reinterpreted and changed to be able to function as society changes.Foundations dynamically adapt to new realities in their environment. They may keep their general purpose and character but adapt to new circumstances. The possibility of permuting and changing the statutes of foundations enables this adaption. It should be said, however, that it is quite difficult to change statutes. Only if the original statutes are considered highly irrelevant is this allowed. One such example are foundations supporting professions which no longer exist.