Civil society is not dead. Some will claim that it needs a good shake-up—and that may be true in parts of Europe. There are new conflicts facing societies now, including the fight against terrorism and populist extremism, marginalization of new groups, and Islamophobia. The challenge is to find new ways to address these concerns, but it is exacerbated by a paucity of funding and support. At the same time, active individuals are striking out with the knowledge and tools that are needed to bring these issues to the forefront. In my experience, civil society is very much alive and kicking and tackling the challenge it faces head on.
In Antwerp, grassroots organizations are coming together and empowering each other through the creation of coalitions, and in Berlin, local government and civil society groups are working together to document religious prejudice and build the capacity of ordinary people to tackle issues affecting their lives. In Marseille, programs are being developed to mobilize dormant voters to understand the importance of the right to vote and what its exercise can achieve.
Strengthening civic participation increases the voice of citizens and advances shared interests. Committed individuals and groups can and do bring about change in their everyday lives and they do this through creative means and methods. They often do this very successfully and mainly on a voluntary basis.
The At Home in Europe Project of the Open Society Foundations works to support civil society and encourage participation in democracy and society. We are seeking innovative partners in Antwerp and Marseille who are actively engaged on the issues that matter to their communities, city, and country.
If you are interested in partnering up with us, I encourage you to have a look at our call for proposals.
Who said civil society is dead?