Toward the Concept of Civil Resilience

In times when democratic principles and the rule of law are threatened by public violence or conflict, civil society has the potential to react and transform it into a less violent, more peaceful, and constructive interaction. Networks of citizens and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) can act as advocates for freedom of speech, equality, and solidarity. It is important to note that any subjective evaluations will be clearly marked as such. CSOs must be capable of engaging in public discussions, addressing conflicting issues, opening public disputes, explaining their own missions and agendas, and negotiating with others while maintaining transparency. Additionally, they must be resilient.


The term ‘civil’ refers to the way in which discussions, negotiations, and disputes are conducted.CSOs contribute to fairness, peace, non-violence, participation, and collective solution orientation.


Resilience refers to the capacity of CSOs to adapt to new conditions, develop resistance, and renew themselves by rethinking their actions, catalysed by external stimuli.

Resilience of Organisations

he impact of civil society organisations depends on their ability to integrate values into their structures, to create channels of communication with other sectors and to actively participate in interactions, especially at the interface between civil society and other social sectors.

People are agents of change. They generate ideas, connect with others, collaborate and shape organisations. Civil resilience is the capacity of citizens to act proactively, responsibly and democratically – civic competence.

The following core functions seem to influence the ability to civil resilience.

Institutional Trust

Organisations provide opportunities for people to trust others, and they demonstrate this through their internal and external credibility. A network of trusted organisations representsdemocratic public sphere. Through this they mobilise and generate social trust by defining balance: between cooperation and competition, between drawing people and building bridges between them to other social groups.

Systems & Political Thinking

Social life is an interaction of different spheres, logics and organisations. Civil society organisations, which have an impact on society as a whole, need to look at their mission as a whole. Systems thinking combines both attitude and willingness to change. As a capacity, it means addressing the fundamental issues that affect a society, such as the rule of law, corruption, fairness and solidarity, in operational work. Democratic resilience involves understanding political issues and how one relates to fundamental ethical-normative ideas.

Robust Civility

Constructiveness, humanity, awareness of diversity or democratic rules are needed in good times and bad. Robust civility is the ability to (re-)establish freedom of speech and the ability to engage constructively and peacefully in conflicts.

Inclusion & Democratisation

Representation and participation require open spaces for individual engagement. Inclusive CSOs develop fair and participatory governance. They combine an inclusive attitude with democratic standards such as responsiveness, transparency or clear and legitimate accountability.

Collective Impact

Common spaces need common sources. Why not think of ourselves as democratic commoners? When organisations share and exchange resources, they contribute to new common goods. By providing open access to them, they create the basis for collective impact. This also becomes a backbone for social innovation.


The creation of cross-media communication, the ability to campaign, the fight against malinformation and disinformation are key for actors in authoritarian or challenged environments. Communication is the sum of efforts to communicate, behave and shape relations with the internal and external spheres.

Robust Civility is aiming to transform communication into public dialogue – after a sculpture of Karel Nepraš: The Great Dialogue (Czech National Gallery)