The new forms of engagement of civil society in Morocco, Tunisia, and Jordan in the post-2011 period distinguish themselves in their spatial, organizational, and ideational dimensions, as well as their status vis-à-vis the state. These new dynamics of Arab civil society are also characterized by their deliberate efforts in many cases to resist institutionalization, and the efforts to self-generate financial resources in order to assure autonomy from external agendas and potential accusations of foreign infiltration. Numerous civil society groups are loosely structured around a core group and lack a defined leadership structure, promoting ideals of ‘horizontality’, and experiment with democratic governance and participatory politics within organizational structures. Just as importantly, these new forms of engagement are challenging the state-imposed order on relationships between citizens, building new ways of being and acting together, and creating reciprocal relationships of recognition and sense of duty to one another.

These new forms of engagement, however, are under threat from both exogenous and endogenous sources, and it is as such vital to find ways to empower them to assure their viability and ability to convert from ad-hoc and largely informal activist efforts to more broad-based and efficient political forces. Through the project, ARI identifies and addresses key issues to provide civil society actors in Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, and Jordan with the tools necessary for their own empowerment. This includes:

  • Research into the methods and modes of building vertical coalitions that link social bases, local initiatives, formal NGOs, and policy experts, paying special attention to the issue of organizational format and representation.
  • Research into models for organizational and financial structures that respond to the desires for non-traditional institutionalization and autonomy while still providing the means for operational efficiency and financial solvency.
  • Research into innovative governance and leadership methods of civil society groups that respond to desires for horizontal decision-making while also preventing mission drift and internal fragmentation.
  • Research into the question of long-term commitment. What are the internal reasons that explain high drop-out rates and de-mobilization of the constituents of new forms of engagement? What internal procedures (training, member fees, socialization, etc.) can be undertaken to strengthen commitment and the staying power of membership?

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