The changing face of citizen action

Civic Action05 Sep 2011Maarten van den Berg

Coming up next week in The Hague, The Netherlands: a conference on the changing face of citizen action.

Weather-wise many of us have witnessed a lukewarm summer. But Britain and Spain, Syria, Libya and Israel in the Middle East, and in Latin America, Chile, have been hot spots for civic action recently. The scenes are similar: young people taking the streets and occupying squares in city centers. Peaceful protesters mostly, facing armed forces at times – except in Lybia, where the rebels are armed, and in the UK, where the hooded rioters and looters were better equipped than the police. And everywhere activists use mobile phones and online social media to convene, coordinate and record their actions. Even in Syria, where the military regime of Bashar al-Assad still controls most if not all means of communication, activists manage to distribute images of protest to inform the world and inspire others to act.

Are these movements and events coincidences or are we witnessing the blossoming of a next generation of social activism? If so, what are the agenda’s, objectives, structures, connections and strategies? These are some of the questions to be addressed at a conference on the topic organized by the HIVOS Knowledge Programme in The Hague, The Netherlands, on 15 and 16 September. Coined ‘The changing face of citizen action’, the conference brings together a select group of 40 researchers, scholar-activists and social practitioners to deepen understanding of contemporary citizen action, sharpen questions and strengthen connections for future research, and innovative support practices.

Senior Editor Maarten van den Berg will cover the conference for The Broker, providing live comments via Twitter and a summary of findings at the Social Change blog on the website of The Broker.