Citizenship and Civil Society in Development

Rationale and Background

Messages about the shrinking spaces of civil societies are continuously articulated from all over the world. The freedoms of speech and association are being restricted, and especially the organizing and mobilizing around human rights is being increasingly controlled. At the same time, development policy-makers and development researchers have pointed out how the “civil society enthusiasm” in development policies of the 1990s resulted into NGOization of civil society and emergence of field of professional organizations distant to the ideas and needs of grassroots. Additionally, the aid funding allocated to civil society in under threat with the increasing emphasis on private sector and multi-sectoral partnerships. For a long, development discourse has started to emphasise citizens’ action and engagement rather than civil society and civil society organizations. Human-rights-based approach to development emphasises the capacity-building of right-holders to demand for their rights.

While the interest in civil society in development research has decreased in recent years, we argue that the phenomenon related to civil society continue to be at the heart of the debates when it comes to inclusive development, societal transformation, and equal societies.

There is need for contextualised research on processes on the dynamics of organizing and mobilizing, as well as the question of citizens’ capacities, motivations, constraints and possibilities to address joint issues and challenges.

The EADI working group provides a forum for bringing together different theoretical and methodological approaches, as well as a great variety of contextual expertise in order to improve our critical understanding of what goes under the label of civil society, as well as the critical examination of the concept itself.

Webinar on Citizenship and Civil Society in Development

Webinar #6 | Tiina Kontinen (Finland), Marianne Milstein (Norway), and Kees Biekart (Netherlands)

"Civil Society, Citizenship and Development"


Kees Biekart, PhD, is Associate Professor in Political Sociology at the International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam. He has co-ordinated the Knowledge Programme on Civil Society Building with Hivos, and is currently leading the Civic Driven Change Think Tank together with Professor Alan Fowler. In addition, he is a co-editor of the ISS journal Development and Change. He leads a research strand of governance institutions in the Civic Innovation Research Initiative (CIRI) programme that explores how organizations and individuals mobilize to change their societies, and has published extensively on issues revolving around citizenship and civil society.

Tiina Kontinen, PhD, is an Academy of Finland Research Fellow at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland. She was a Finnish representative for EADI ExCo for 2011-2017. Currently she coordinates a research group on Civil Society and Development and is a Principal Investigator in a research project Growth into citizenship in civil society encounters - GROW (2015-2019) partnering with Ugandan and Tanzanian Universities.

Marianne Millstein, PhD, is a senior researcher at the Norwegian Institute for Urban and Regional Research (NIBR), Oslo and Akershus University College. She was the Swedish representative for EADI ExCo from 2014-2016 (while working at the Nordic Africa Institute), and is currently co-convenor of the EADI Urban Governance group. With a main empirical focus on South Africa, her key research topics include the politics of urban governance, local democracy and development, and urban citizenship. She is also part of a research project titled Breaking the curse? The politics of drought in the Brazilian Northeast, collaborating with US and Brazilian universities.


Kees Biekart
Associate Professor
Institute of Social Studies
Erasmus University Rotterdam
Postbus 1738
3000 DR Rotterdam
+31 70 4260566

Tiina Kontinen
Senior Lecturer
Department of Social Sciences and Philosophy
Humanities and Social Sciences
University of Jyväskylä
PO Box 35
FI-40014 University of Jyväskylä

Marianne Millstein
Senior Researcher
Centre for Welfare and Labour Research
Norwegian Institute for Urban and Regional Research
Oslo Metropolitan University
Holbergs gate 1
Oslo, HG525
+47 67 23 56 78

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