Civic Driven Change
Civic Driven Change refers to change processes that are directly initiated, lead and owned by people themselves.
The development of the concept of Civic Driven Change originates from the observation that often states and markets are seen as the main drivers of change in societies. This vision has characterised development policies and the work of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) for several decades.
In spite of popular notions of ‘ownership’ and ‘bottom-up approaches’, leading development thinking largely ignores the important contributions that citizens all over the world have made and are constantly making to world history. The official development discourse is underpinned by the conviction that changes in social systems rely on top-down control, and linear cause and effect relationships. Citizens are reduced to the role of beneficiary, consumer, client and voter.
The focal point of Civic Driven Change is not ‘development’ (supported by the aid ‘industry’), but change in society at large. The challenge is not to conceive programmes and projects and then try to mobilise local people to participate, but to find ways to assist people as they try to achieve their own change.
In the concept of Civic Driven Change, change is a complex and ‘messy’ process, which cannot be entirely planned, but can well be influenced. Civic action needs to be based on an analysis of power relations and corresponding local and global strategies. Complex societies develop on the basis of asymmetric power relations. The role of Civic Driven Change would be to alter these asymmetries in a pro-poor direction. As such, Civic Driven Change is essentially a normative concept: there is civic behaviour (pro-poor, democratic) and uncivic behaviour (perpetuating asymmetrical power relations and unfair distribution of wealth).
As Harry C. Boyte, director for the centre for Democracy and Citzenship wrote:
‘The shift that is needed entails changes in how we understand citizens and citizenship, the role of professionals, the nature of government, and the meaning of democracy. It means a move from seeing most citizens as voters, volunteers, clients, consumers, or aggrieved and powerless outsiders to seeing all people as potential problem solvers and co-creators of public goods. It involves a shift in the role of professionals, including civil servants, non-profit managers, teachers, health providers, clergy, and elected office-holders, from being providers of services and expert solutions to being partners, educators, and organizers of cooperative action.’ (The Citizen Solution, pp. 14-15)
Further reading on Civic Driven Change:
- A short introduction to Civic Driven Change - in English
- A short introduction to Civic Driven Change - in French
- A short introduction to Civic Driven Change - in Hindi
- 'Deep Democracy' - Broker special report on CDC, Issue 10, 2008
Further reading on complexity thinking: ‘Connecting the dots’, article published in The Broker Issue 7, 2008, by Prof. Alan Fowler
Further reading on transforming institutions: 'Shaping institutions', article published in The Broker 10, 2008, by Jim Woodhill