Civil Society Movement

Aid and Development Global Reform Network

International aid and development has evolved over the last seventy years into a global multi-billion dollar industry.  A complex, self-contained, self-perpetuating, global aid system has emerged. Participants in this system include government and philanthropic donors; multilateral institutions; international non-governmental organizations (INGOs); for-profit development companies, consultants, and financiers; and community-based organisations.

Critiques of the aid system have proliferated in the last decade, but the global industry remains robust, readily absorbing criticisms that externally directed aid and development generates dependence. Governments, institutions and INGOs have attempted to deflect this critique by outsourcing aid delivery to “local organisations”, but in the process have created a sector of agencies in developing countries which are donor-driven, with an externally imposed mission and managerial culture.

Civil society groups in recipient nations are entangled with this global aid and development system, but their voices are rarely heard in the global discussion. Many lament the disempowering methods by which the aid system operates and their own financial dependence on it. Many have hoped that voices for change in the aid system will arise, and force the adoption of an alternative framework for development.

Civil society groups in donor nations also lament the relationships of dependence generated by the aid system and its inability to deliver significant reductions in poverty. But they too lack an alternative framework and practical strategies to reform the system.

Reform of the aid and development system is long overdue. Transformational change in the system cannot be generated by the industry itself, but can only come from individuals and organizations in global civil society who are without vested interests in “business as usual” or the stalemate it generates. INGOs are too conflicted to lead a reform agenda. Most international discussion of “accountability’ and “effectiveness” in aid and development is led by INGOs, who always exclude their own interests from the discussion.

Our aim is a new framework for aid and development that is generated by, and accountable to, civil society rather than the aid and development industry.

The Aid and Development Global Reform Network is a global initiative for reform. It will encourage, support and connect reformers around the world who seek reform, but who have often felt isolated or ineffective.

The Network will create three international Registers as tools for reform:

a Register of Authentic Civil Society Organisations;
a Register of Local Intermediaries; and
a Register of Donors who support the reform framework outlined below.

Your participation is invited. Our Charter for Aid and Development Reform and Civil Society Empowerment follows. A Global Leadership Group will guide the development of the network. Country Convenors will coordinate activity in each nation.

Expressions of Interest in participating may be expressed through the online form below.


Charter for Aid and Development Reform and Civil Society Empowerment

  1. Global aid and development funds should be allocated only to Authentic Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in recipient countries. Authentic CSOs are those that meet three criteria:a. are independent community-based organisations with an independent history (not created by governments or INGOs or aid contractors;
    b. have community-based governance; and
    c. are not donor-driven in their mission or management.
  2. In recipient countries, Local Intermediaries should be created by Authentic CSOs to act as instruments  for directing resources to authentic CSOs. Local Intermediaries would be partnerships of Authentic CSOs and may include other local organisations including governments, providing that Authentic CSOs maintaining a controlling interest.
  3. Both government and private donors should commit to:a. allocating funds only to Authentic CSOs or to Local Intermediaries;
    b. not allocating funds to INGOs and international contractors; and
    c. allocating 25% of all funds in recipient countries in the form of institutional rather than project grants.
  4. The Aid and Development Global Reform Network will maintain three international Registers:a. a Register of Authentic CSOs that meet the criteria in 1.;
    b. a Register of Local Intermediaries that meet the criteria in 2.; and
    c. a Register of Donors that commit to allocating funds according to the criteria in 3.The Network will promote the Registers and encourage organisations to signal their support for reform by inclusion on the Registers.
  5. A Global Leadership Group will guide the development of the network. Country Convenors will coordinate activity in each nation.

The Aid and Development Global Reform Network is an independent network of participants and is not aligned with any provider, consultancy business or government in the aid and development field. It is not a provide of services, nor is it a consultancy business.

Express your interest using this form.

When is civil society a force for social transformation? Michael Edwards

When you look at the numbers, the growth of civil society has been remarkable: 3.3 million charities in India and 1.5 million across the United States; NGOs like the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee that work with hundreds of millions of people; 81,000 international NGOs and networks, 90 per cent of them launched since 1975. That’s not counting all the street protests, social movements and informal community groups that are often omitted from the data. In the UK, for example, these latter outnumber registered charities by more than four to one.

These statistics are mightily impressive – except when compared to the problems that civil societies want to solve. You could argue that things would be worse without the involvement of these groups. There’s also evidence to show that they’re making inroads around the edges of poverty and injustice.

But there’s no sign that the underlying structures of social, political and economic violence and oppression are being shaken to their roots.

As a result, fewer people in the world are dying young, and basic indicators of health and education, income and employment are getting slightly better – at least for most people in most countries. However, economic inequality is rising, democracies are being hollowed out, climate change is worsening, and discrimination based on race, gender, ability and sexual orientation remains endemic.

Social movements have helped to challenge these underlying problems, and they’ve successfully unseated dictators in many parts of the world. But they haven’t been able to secure lasting gains in democracy, equality and freedom.

Expecting civil society groups to achieve these gains by themselves would be foolish. However, given the rapid growth of all these organizations, shouldn’t they be having at least some impact on the deep transformation of self and society? What is going wrong?…

At its core, civil society has always been a deeply human construction, a way of “rearranging the geometry of human relationships” and not just cementing the bricks and mortar of NGOs and other groups. That, too, is being lost to the tide of corporatization and technocratic management.

Reversing the decline of civil society as a force for transformation will be exceptionally difficult, because the processes of hollowing out and separation, of commercialization and muzzling have become so deeply embedded. Any group that bucks these trends will be isolated and undermined. Philanthropists will deny them funding, politicians will curb their rights to organize, corporations will co-opt their language and their tactics, and other, less radical groups will try to colonize their work and capture their supporters.

But since civil societies are ours to lose, they are also ours to reclaim, to refresh and re-energize against the background of a constantly shifting landscape of opportunities, tools and techniques – social media and social enterprise included.

The destruction of civil society is easy, and it’s happening around us now. Its re-creation is much more difficult, a task akin to accumulating all the ‘snow’ that eventually makes the ‘iceberg’ of everyday citizen action.

That may sound like too little, too late, or simply take too long, or be too much work in an era when instant gratification is demanded. But it will be worth it. After all, it was an iceberg that sank the Titanic.

The full text of this article is available at

The Palestinian statehood dead end: isn’t it time to focus on civil society as a transformational strategy?

The defeat of yet another UN resolution on Palestine shows the ineffectiveness of statehood-focussed efforts in the Palestine-Israel stalemate. It is not that the goal of a Palestinian state is unimportant or unjust – it is that it is unachieveable in anything like the forseeable future.

The human cost of this focus on statehood over the last 4 or more decades has been huge. The demoralisation amongst Palestinians is now very deep, matched only by the intransigence amongst Israeli authorities. There is a stalemate here that breeds resentment, bitterness and hopelessness.

The alternative path is to focus on civil society. It is to view interactions and relationships between Palestinians and Israelis as the locus for change, not the pronouncements of officials or the resolutions passed or defeated in international councils. Some might say both are important: in reality the public focus is almost entirely placed on statehood rather than civil society.

What would a civil society focus on Palestine-Israel look like?

In schools, it would mean ending the segregation of Palestinian and Israeli children and students, co-locating education facilities, and sharing curriculum on language, history and culture.

In sport, it would mean integrating leagues and competitions across Israel and Palestine.

In business, it would mean maximising trade across national borders, and intentionally building up workplaces comprising both Israelis and Palestinians.

In aid, it would mean removing funding from NGOs which do not bring Israelis and Palestinians together in creating practical trust-building solutions.

Instead of other countries pouring in aid dollars to either Israeli or Palestinian sides of the fence, aid should be made contingent on de-segregation of projects based on nationality and religion.

International subsidies could be made available specifically for Israeli products sold in Palestine, and Palestinian products sold in Israel.

International civil society could drive this civil society focus, mobilising initiatives and resources for this agenda of de-segregation, social interaction and mutual trust-building, and against perpetuation of the status quo.

ThirdWay Alliance Kenya

ThirdWay Alliance Kenya is dedicated to creating a transformational politics in Kenya.  #ThirdwayKE

Thirdway Kenya was found in August,2014. Our objective is to build a like-minded community of Kenyans, a progressive-based majority community. ThirdwayKE represents a new kind of energy that is missing in our politics, and an effort to get more people directly involved in our political process.

  1. ThirdwayKE efforts have been spurred on by a network of activists from different advocacy groups with casual alliances of like minded Kenyans alarmed at the direction this country is taking.
  2. We have a right as citizens and taxpayers to demand a system that not only is free of corruption but one that promotes competitive elections and encourages civility and constructive engagement in our political process.
  3. We believe society should reward talent,intelligence,competence and hard work. We believe in integrity and are committed to an ethical approach to politics.

After the Market State, Phillip Blond

After the Market State, Phillip Blond.

Phillip BlondBeyond the Market State, Villanova University
Blond brings his civil society vision to America.  Redpublic has no official endorsement of Blond or Red Toryism, but found this lecture particularly insightful, especially when he dives into the more philosophical section. We were particularly fond of when Blond claims Jean-Jacques Rousseau can be read intelligibly by both statists on the Left and libertarians on the Right because both share a love affair with liberalism, which eradicates any true difference between the modern Left and Right.


We want to create a network of writers to promote a large and growing body of international work on civil society.

We are interested in writing in academic, strategic, journalistic and activist forms,  for diverse global audiences. Our aim is to enable the concept of civil society to become as familiar to general readers as the concepts of ‘democracy’ and ‘capitalism’, ‘market’ and ‘state’.

If you write on civil society, register your interest and share your work using the form below:

Local governments/ municipalities and civil society

In local governments/ municipalities around the world, there are many innovations taking place that are devolving  power to civil society.  We want to identify and promote these innovations and transform the operations and functions of local governance.

We also want to hear from and network citizens around the world who are standing for election to public office in municipalities who have a commitment to empowering civil society.

If you are considering standing for public office in this area, we would like to hear from you. Our hope is that we can generate and share ideas and innovations for transforming local governance, develop teams of people committed to working together in in this area, in electoral activity, policy and innovation.

Indicate your interest by completing this form, and we will connect people with common interests.