FAQs about CDC
What is Civic Driven Change?
Civic Driven Change is about people being concerned about the environment that they live in and taking control over the changes that are happening. There are thousands of initiatives worldwide that can be defined as Civic Driven Change. Well-known examples in the past are the movements for women’s suffrage, the anti-slavery movement and, more recent, the anti-apartheid movement. But also the small but effective changes introduced by small civic groups in neighbourhoods, communities and villages, like for instance the activities of community-based organisations in South Africa, and the initiative behind the World Social Forum can be considered as Civic Driven Change processes.
What are the key pillars of Civic Driven Change?
Civic Driven Change is:
- People centered;
- From below and from within;
- Not relying on market or state to provide solutions;
- Not relying on civil society organisations;
- Complex and non-linear;
- Based on analysis of power relations;
- Focussed on change rather than development;
- About seeing people as actor in the change process;
- About new relationships between the local and the global;
- About deep democracy.
What’s new about Civic Driven Change?
Civic Driven Change as such is not a new phenomenon. What is new is the combination of existing things, ideas and experiences in people changing their lives and society in an innovative way. Also new is the way to look at society; not as divided in state, businesses, civil society and private, family life, but as a whole, intricate system.
Where did it come from?
The new emphasis on Civic Driven Change stems from the observation that, in many cases, civil society organisations, as institutionalised change agents, have lost touch with reality. They have lost the link with the people’s self-organisation, their struggle for societal innovation and for change of power balances. Challenges in society cannot be resolved just by following the structure dictated by either the state or the market. Societal change is a political process, and cannot be accomplished merely through ‘technical interventions’, such as training, consultancies, technical assistance etc.
Why is CDC emerging at this point in time?
The reason for the emerging emphasis on Civic Driven Change is partly rooted in the fundamental crisis of the international aid system. During the past few years, Northern donor organisations have increasingly lost credibility and are facing growing struggles to justify their traditional approaches and policies, which seem to consume vast financial resources with relatively little significant, visible impact. The growing trend towards clear, measurable outcomes and short-term results adds to the pressure the classical aid agencies are facing. This trend is going hand in hand with a diminishing interest in political parties. Many citizens doubt that the traditional political parties will really be able to handle the complex challenges of the time and can provide answers to the problems that humanity is facing. This results in a strong call for new approaches and ideas, and a new understanding of politics and civic engagement. This new vision on civic agency puts strong focus on the responsibilities of each and every individual. It calls for strong partnerships for change between all actors and levels of society.
Who are other proponents of Civic Driven Change?
Examples of other relevant institutional players to mention are the Center for Democracy and Citizenship of the University of Minnesota or the Community Development Research Association (CDRA) in South Africa. In the Netherlands the Civic Driven Change Initiative based at the Intitute of Social Studies (ISS) is worth mentioning. All over the world, many other initiatives at all levels of society belong to the CDC actors community.
What are the challenges around Civic Driven Change?
One critique on the concept is that Civic Driven Change is not much more than a rephrase of old notions like local ownership and bottom-up approaches. Northern Non-Governmental Development Organisations turn to Civic Driven Change to solve their loss of credibility. The danger is that, by embracing Civic Driven Change processes, these organisations will incorporate and thus destroy local civic initiatives.
Furthermore, the link between the local and the global is problematic in Civic Driven Change. Civic action is very often limited to local problems and the analysis often does not go beyond that. In fact, a stronger connection between the local and the global should be aimed for. Further research needs to be conducted to explore how such connections can best be established. This includes an exploration of how Civic Driven Change resonates with (local) governance and systems of democracy.
How helpful is CDC to the actors of the aid system?
Civic Driven Change gives the aid system a chance to regain its credibility. Ideally the aid system could champion the movement of Civic Driven Change and maximise the capacities of civic action.
What’s in it for the poor and the marginalised?
The concept of Civic Driven Change respects the situation of the poor and marginalised. The ideas and initiatives originating from the people themselves are put centre stage. The power for change of individuals and civic groups – including poor and marginalised people – is made more explicit and can possibly be enhanced. Civic Driven Change takes the politics of the local serious. Ultimately, the local is where everything eventually happens, as people connect in the first instance to their local surroundings.