Hivos International

Civil Society

New laws enacted in 2009 and 2010 opened up possibilities in the Bolivian political system for indigenous peoples to exercise territorial autonomy. More than 20 million hectares of land were subsequently designated as Indigenous Peasant Territories. These areas are extremely rich in biodiversity and natural resources. 

How to be more innovative in your practice: 6 reflections from SIX and Hivos

Across the world, development and social challenges are increasingly more complex and urgent. From INGOs to community organisations to governments, finding new ways of working to meet these challenges is more of a priority than ever. The organisations that are best placed to deliver the biggest impact are those that are highly connected, that are agile and seek to be disruptors. But what does this mean in practice?

Politics is central to development discourse, yet remains peripheral.  And, over some twenty years, a civil society narrative has not fulfilled  its potential to ‘bring politics back in’. Reasons can be found in  conceptual confusion, in selectivity in donor thinking and policies  towards civil society and in the growth-driven political economy of  NGO-ism.

Are we entering a post-NGO era in development? Aid critics very much  suggest so. Hailed as a magic bullet for development two decades ago,  NGOs are increasingly criticized for being ineffective agents of change,  out of touch with broader social currents in society and operating in a  fragmented way. Under pressure to show results, NGOs and their donors  are increasingly attempting to align with social movements in a bid to  scale up their impact. Social movements are an older, looser form of  organizing with a better track-record in structural societal change.

Are we entering a post-NGO era in development? Aid critics very much  suggest so. Hailed as a magic bullet for development two decades ago,  NGOs are increasingly criticized for being ineffective agents of change,  out of touch with broader social currents in society and operating in a  fragmented way. Under pressure to show results, NGOs and their donors  are increasingly attempting to align with social movements in a bid to  scale up their impact. Social movements are an older, looser form of  organizing with a better track-record in structural societal change.

Michael Edwards spoke about Know-How’, ‘Know-What’ in his lecture entitled ‘Know-How’, ‘Know-What’ and the Politics of Knowledge for Development at the internationale dialogue Knowledge & Change: Theory and practice of development. Michael Edwards is widely recognized as one of the world’s leading authorities on civil society, philanthropy, and social change. In his speech he addressed particularly the politics of knowledge, which determine how thinking is translated into action of various kinds and which ideas are considered legitimate. He also stressed that these political factors are going to become even more important in the future.

Reflections on gender, knowledge and change

When social change movements of all kinds are under attack, progressives need to build coalitions and to talk to one another as never before. Feminist models and methodologies can enrich every social change movement. A good question is worth its weight in answers. Good questions provide a framework to explore issues. Good questions determine answers.

Video: Talking Knowledge?

Experiences from the Civil Society Building Knowledge Programme

The Hivos-ISS Civil Society Building Knowledge Programme aims at a better understanding of civil society dynamics in order to facilitate changes in the unequal balance of power in favour of vulnerable and marginalized groups. But how useful is this effort? And who benefits from it in practice? We asked our colleagues, researchers and activists at seminars, meetings and forums how they have experienced their participation in this Knowledge Programme.

This paper is an introduction to available literature on local democratic governance in fragile settings with an emphasis on contexts marked by protracted violent conflict. In this paper the term ‘fragile settings’ is used as it covers fragile states as well as regions within countries that experience state fragility.

For many decades, the main driver of progress in developing countries was considered to be either the state or the market. Civil society existed only in relation to, and by the grace of, these forces. But people-centred development requires that individuals take control and address the problems in their communities. People and organizations should acquire a stronger position in relation to both the state and the market. Real change can only be achieved through challenging dominant political and economic interests.

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