The Civic Ecosystems Initiative brings together researchers, activists and practitioners interested in civic ecosystems.

CIVIC ECOSYSTEMS

Civic Ecosystems are complex systems organised around diverse and interdependent social actors and held together by shared civic values.They can enable or constrain civic actors and action in critical ways.Our interest in civic ecosystems reflects a particular understanding of social change that is bound up with their distinctive characteristics:

Diversity is about the actors – individuals and organisations, networks and movements – and logics of action driving them such as institutional and normative change, pre-figurative experimentation, and personal transformation.

Interdependence draws attention to how resources, ideas and practices flow and circulate through direct and indirect forms of connection and interaction.

Civicness implies a shared commitment to certain norms and values that emphasise and prioritise concern for the public interest.

Our Initiative

Our initiative is a vehicle for researchers, activists and practitioners interested in civic ecosystems to initiate productive conversations and collaborations.Our approach involves a combination of research, engagement and resourcing strategies, and our methods include ecosystem mapping and analysis.Our aim is to make visible emerging and established civic ecosystems in different domains and make sure they are getting the attention and resources they need to thrive.

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CIVIC ECOSYSTEMS INITIATIVE

COLLABORATORS

Iavor Rangelov & Marika TherosCo-Founders

Over 15 years of working together in some of the world’s most difficult places, Iavor and Marika have engaged with a host of civic actors, ideas and practices. That engagement revealed the extent to which the success of civic actors and action is determined by the broader systems they are embedded in and dependent upon. It became clear that these systems often cut across civil society, public authorities, and the private sector, and can extend from the local to the global. Iavor and Marika have developed the concept of civic ecosystems in order to understand the nature of this phenomenon, make it more visible, and help unlock its potential to drive social change.

Iavor and Marika are researchers at the London School of Economics based at LSE IDEAS, working at the intersection of research, policy and civic engagement.

Iavor chairs the governing board of the Humanitarian Law Center and Marika serves as a senior fellow at the Institute for State Effectiveness and non-resident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council.

Chris Abbott

Chris helps civic actors at risk understand and manage their holistic security risks. He has a particular interest in scaling impact through the use of open resources and remote support. He is the lead author of the Holistic Security Protocol for Human Rights Defenders, the Minimum Operating Travel Security Standards (MOTSS), and Frontline Policies. In 2011, Chris founded Open Briefing, a non-profit that provides physical, digital and psychosocial security support to civic actors at risk around the world. He was previously the deputy director of the Oxford Research Group and an honorary research fellow in the Centre for Governance and International Affairs at the University of Bristol and in the School of Social and International Studies at the University of Bradford.

Amy Blackwell

Amy is an impact adviser working with families to design philanthropic strategies and incorporate impact investing in their portfolios. She specialises in building consensus across families to develop values-aligned frameworks for achieving social impact. Amy is particularly interested in the implications of the civic ecosystem model for resourcing social change, responding to the need for beneficiary-led solutions and the different ways in which millennials give and engage with social causes compared to previous generations. Amy is a partner at Acorn Capital Advisers and has extensive experience in the private and non-profit sectors.

Jelena Đureinović

Jelena is a researcher, practitioner and activist working on memory. She is particularly interested in memory cultures and politics in post-conflict and post-socialist contexts, as well as the politics of memory in contemporary authoritarianism and populism. Most of her work revolves around the role, actors and practices of memory in the post-Yugoslav space, with wider implications for other regions. Jelena is a postdoctoral researcher and coordinator of the research platform ‘Transformations and Eastern Europe’ at the University of Vienna. She developed the Memory Activism Programme at the Humanitarian Law Center in Belgrade, where she is still involved in providing strategic direction to the programme.

Andrea Carolina Guardo

Andrea is a Colombian lawyer and development practitioner with extensive experience leading human rights, rule of law, and civil society programmes in conflict-affected environments. She is particularly interested in the role of civic actors in driving peacebuilding and sustainable development. In the peace implementation process in Colombia, Andrea's work enabled local civic actors to engage and shape peacebuilding efforts. Her past appointments include management and advisory roles with USAID, the Colombian Government and Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office. She currently leads Programme Quality and Innovation efforts at the World Alliance for Citizen Participation (CIVICUS) and provides strategic advice to the U.S. Institute of Peace in Colombia.

Poonam Joshi

Poonam helps independent philanthropy respond more strategically to the issue of closing civic space by advising funders on effective strategies to counter restrictions on freedom of assembly, expression and association. She has a particular interest in the trends that will shape the future of civic space over the next decade, including the increasing use by governments of counterterrorism and security laws, technological tools and discourse to criminalise, surveil and delegitimise civic actors. Poonam is the director of the Funders Initiative for Civil Society. Prior to this she was the Executive Director of the Sigrid Rausing Trust, and Director of the European Office for the Fund for Global Human Rights where she gained experience of supporting civil society in MENA, Balkans, South Asia and CEE.

OUR THEMES

CIVIC SPACE

The phenomenon of closing civic space is normally approached through the lens of restrictions on civil society activists and activism in particular settings. However, that approach may obscure the diversity of civic actors and the extent to which they are embedded in broader ecosystems that often cut across civil society, the state, and the market, and extend from the local to the global.

By drawing attention to disruptions and distortions at the ecosystem level, our approach offers an alternative lens for interpreting the closing space phenomenon. In practical terms, it offers new ideas and strategies for opening up and expanding civic space, for example by reinforcing the diversity, interdependence, or normative alignment and coherence of civic ecosystems.

PROTECTION

Protection tends to be associated with public security provision although in practice, the security apparatus can both protect and threaten the safety of individuals and communities. An ecosystem lens brings out the diversity and interdependence of the actors and practices, both public and private, that are involved in providing protection in particular settings. It also enables experimentation with new ideas and approaches for enhancing and expanding protection ecosystems.

PEACE PROCESSES

Peace processes are often interpreted through the narrow lens of those who are directly involved in the negotiations. An ecosystem lens reveals how a broader set of actors, ideas, and practices activated at multiple levels can influence such processes and affect their outcomes in significant ways. Adopting an ecosystem approach enables us to identify civic openings in the wider systems that shape peace processes and to develop strategies for sustaining such openings and unlocking their full potential.

MEMORY & JUSTICE

The rise of memory activism in different parts of the world is injecting new energy in local and global struggles for justice. Memory activists are experimenting with different forms of social mobilisation and knowledge production that draw attention to past oppression and injustice and strive to expose and challenge their lasting legacies in the present. An ecosystem approach allows us to capture the emerging synergies between memory and justice activists and activism and consider how they could be strengthened and harnessed in productive ways.

RESOURCING

Conventional approaches to resourcing social change tend to focus on particular actors, ideas or practices that are selected for support, whereas an ecosystem approach emphasises the broader systems they are embedded in and dependent upon. The concept of civic ecosystems is useful in thinking about resourcing because it draws attention to patterns of interdependence and interaction, revealing how resources flow and circulate among diverse actors in the system. It also implies a broader understanding of resources and resourcing that goes beyond the provision of financial support.

CONVERSATIONS

Here you can listen to our latest podcasts.

Episode 1. What is Civicness?

In this episode, Marika Theros and Iavor Rangelov discuss civicness with Professor Mary Kaldor, Director of the Conflict Research Group at the London School of Economics.

Runtime: 21:35

Published Date: 20 April 2022

COLLABORATIONS

Here you can learn about our collaborations.

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