Spaces for Democracy

Democratic societies are depending on the existence of a plural public and of free spaces. Functioning civil societies open citizens opportunities for free cultural and political expression. Their spaces open individuals opportunities to experience self-efficacy as free people through experiencing successful participation and successful involvement in public discourses and decisionmaking processes. Democratic civic culture is condition and result of the vivid interaction between individuals, institutions and decisionmaking structures.

Civil Resilience

Civil Resilience is describing the civil society’s ability to resist challenges and threats and to transform a current state. It could be perceived as well as a key indicator for describing the civic culture of a country. Furthermore, it is describing the ability of concrete institutions to share and incorporate democratic principles, attitudes and processes.

In order to contribute to social innovation and democratic transformation the democratic resilience of individuals can be strengthened through resilient civil society organizations. The starting point is empowerment of individual citizens for public expression and for proactive, targeted engagement in CSOs.

Civil Resilience describes the ability of an organization to include democratic principles, processes and attitudes in a context of social change and as well its ability to share these democratic features. It describes, how organisations are contributing to a democratic civic culture.

Resilient democratic spaces

Civil Resilience is strongly connected to learning of active citizenship, especially it is the condition for acquiring the competences for initiative and engagement (civic competencies). Those among the actors in civil society working at the intersections between the different social subsystems can best gain impulses for social innovation and increase their social impact by offering and maintaining such spaces for learning and collaborating.

Therefore, these organizations with hybrid features or a strong potential for hybridity and especially their leadership equipped with cross-sectoral competence are key actors in social transition. Looking on CSOs from this angle new spaces for the cross-sectoral dialogue and organizational development might contribute to strengthening democratic actors, social innovation and the European civil society.

Robust Democracy

However, today we see in various places how democracy can be weakened: By harming the self-governance and organisational capacity of CSOs. When groups that aim to overcome democracy occupy the public space. When powerful coalitions silence the critical and plural diversity of voices. Therefore, civil resilience includes also an attitude of solidarity, the will to resist and the courage to change conditions.

Challenge today: Shaping transformations democratically

The major transformations of our time extend beyond our own local horizons. Whether climate change or digitalization, shaping society is only possible by learning to perceive interdependencies, connections and feedbacks. We in Europe have the opportunity to address the challenges associated with these transformations in a way that is oriented toward democratic values, while other societies are primarily exposed to them. But being able to seize this opportunity also requires broader systems thinking and a more comprehensive competence for transformation. Democratic resilience in this sense contains transformative and systemic thinking.

Civil society organizations offer their members opportunities to experience democracy. They co-create the democratic public space.