Sustaining Civil Society in the Context of Multiple Crises: Hubs of Engagement in Central and Eastern Europe and Sweden


The Foundation for Baltic and East European Studies

Project type



For a long time, scholarship on civil society has focused mostly on formal organizations (NGOs or CSos) or individual engagement such as volunteering and voting, and examined mostly the “who” and “what” of civic action. This project design builds on the observation that in contemporary societies citizens often shun formal party politics and engagement in non-governmental organizations: they prefer to form loose networks linking individuals, groups and collectivities active online and offline, which appear to be better equipped to respond to volatile political contexts and to aim at the moving target of political change. Such informal, grassroots and flexible forms of activism are conducive to mobilizing people who were not previously engaged in collective action – e.g. parents, youths, migrants, the poor and dispossessed – who voice various grievances including the lack of social support for the marginalized, issues concerning human rights, climate, food security, housing justice, etc. When faced with hostile authorities at the local or national level, activists often jump geographical scales: they mobilize people at the local level, form coalitions with established NGOs or local governments, and/or reach out to international institutions and EU bodies. This research project thus focuses on the “how” of civic action, which allows us to better grasp the transformations of the multi-scalar space for civic action, changing forms of organizing and the strategies for strengthening civil society’s resilience.

This project sets out to comparatively analyze civil society’s resilience and resourcefulness in Poland, Hungary, Romania, Serbia, Czechia, and Sweden. It starts with examining the genealogies of the existing local/national/global crises, which include issues related to the economy, housing, the climate, food, the pandemic, and gender equality, and focuses on analyzing how people respond to these crises collectively. We ask: How does civic action emerge and develop over time in the face of multiple crises and exclusions? How do activists manage to (re)kindle and sustain civic engagement, how do they build multi-scalar solidarities under adverse conditions, and how does this transform their life-stories and affective responses? How alliances, cooperation and central relationships are built in contemporary civil societies, with whom and what role these relationships play? What can we learn about the emergence and development mechanisms of mobilization and civic actions from comparisons of differential patterns and interconnected trajectories?

The project is running between 2023 and 2028, is financed by the Foundation for Baltic and East European Studies, and is located at the department of Social Work at the School of Social Sciences. The project consists of an international and transdisciplinary research team.

Project information

Elzbieta Korolczuk, Associate professor
Michaela Pixova, PhD
Ana Vilenica, PhD
Ioana Florea, PhD
Luca Bródy, PhD

Research area / geographic area

Social Sciences Social Work Politics, Economy and the Organisation of Society Social sciences Eastern Europe

Contract ID


Project time

2023 — 2028


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