OPEN CALL for contributions to CIVICUS’ State of Civil Society Report on ‘Reimagining Democracy’

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The upcoming CIVICUS State of Civil Society Report, to be published in September 2018, will focus on the special theme of ‘Reimagining Democracy’. The publication will explore the current state of democratic practices, the contemporary trends that are having an impact on them, and civil society initiatives to respond to major democratic challenges and reinvent democracy from the ground up. As with previous reports, we are seeking to collaborate with and hear the views of a wide range of civil society activists, leaders, experts and stakeholders.

This is where you come in: we want your thoughts on the situation of and perspectives on democracy in your context, your stories about civil society action in connection to our theme, and your ideas about what civil society can do to reimagine, rebuild and project democracy into the future. Through your submissions, we hope to be able to view our theme from a variety of different angles in order to get as complete an nuanced a picture as possible.

Submissions will be published in a dedicated section of our website and will help inform our final report.

About submissions

This is an open call for submissions, and anyone who has a story to share that is in one way or another related to the theme is welcome to participate.

We will receive short written submissions (ideally of up to 1,500 words) on a specific aspect of the theme. Submissions should preferably focus on a practical case study of civil society experience and response. We are particularly looking for case studies that focus on innovative and creative responses to the challenges and limitations of current democratic practices.

We would like to collect the widest possible range of experiences of legitimate democratic expressions - of the many ways in which ‘people power’ can express itself. We are taking a broad view of democracy, beyond elections, encompassing a variety of democratic practices at every level. Please feel free to present your working definition of democracy as you frame your issue and tell your story.

Key questions for submissions to address may include:

  • How does your particular topic relate to the overall theme of ‘Reimagining Democracy’?
  • What was the problem in your context that civil society sought to respond to?
  • What were the key ways in which civil society responded, and what was creative and innovative about the response?
  • What were the main successes and challenges encountered in responding?
  • What further civil society action is required, and what is needed to support this action?
  • What recommendations can you make for wider international learning?

Submissions may be made by individuals or organisations, and may be written in English, French, Portuguese or Spanish. We encourage the submission of audio-visual material and photos alongside written submissions.

All submissions received will be published, provided they show a clear relation to the theme, highlight examples of civil society action, and are consistent with CIVICUS’ core values and principles, as articulated in our 2017-2022 Strategic Plan. We may edit submissions before publication for house style and consistency of language usage, but will correspond with authors if substantive changes are suggested.

About the theme

Our theme. ‘Reimagining Democracy’, comes as a response to the various challenges to democratic practices observed in country after country around the world. These include personal presidential rule and challenges to the rule of law, pushback by the politically powerful against the expression of democratic dissent, public dissatisfaction with contemporary democratic practice, restrictive definitions of citizenship leading to the exclusion of many people, and the rise of extreme and polarising political movements.

Seeking to move beyond pessimism, our main focus will be on the responses of civil society to defend, rebuild and deepen democracy – to reimagine democracy. We will highlight examples of successful practice in reimagining democracy, as well as the challenges encountered in responding, and make a series of practical recommendations on how civil society actions to reimagine democracy can be nurtured and strengthened.

Possible topics as part of this theme include:

  • Presidential/personal rule, constitution and election rigging and the declining rule of law
  • Cronyism, elite collusion and grand corruption
  • Attacks on democratic dissent
  • Majoritarianism and attacks on political minorities and excluded groups
  • Political populism and extremism
  • The rise of uncivil society
  • Political disaffection and rejection of conventional politics
  • Democratic deficits in international institutions
  • Protest responses, social movements - and pushback against these
  • Civil society engagement before, during and after elections
  • Community organising and neighbourhood participation
  • Workplace democracy and democracy within civil society organisations

For more information about the ‘Reimagining Democracy’ theme and process, see our background note here. If you have any questions, or to submit your contribution, please contact .

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