skip to Main Content
Funders Initiative for Civil Society

Defending and expanding civic space

News & Resources
Contact us
  • Source: Pexels, Ryutaro Tsukata, People walking on spacious concrete square, August 25, 2020
  • Source: Shutterstock, Sharon Photo, Octagon Shape building inner court
What is FICS?

The Funders Initiative for Civil Society equips funders with the tools they need to understand and anticipate trends in civic space.

FICS analyses drivers of closing civic space and tests new ideas to pushback against civic space restrictions.

FICS moves resources to movements and their allies expanding civic space across the globe.

Source: Shutterstock, Jessica Girvan, Protesters at a KILL THE BILL protest, London, UK, May 1, 2021

Source: Shutterstock, Jessica Girvan, Protesters at an anti-PCSC bill protest in London, May 1, 2021

Source: Shutterstock, SGr, Soldiers marching in parade

Source: Shutterstock, SGr, Soldiers marching in parade
Civic space is under attack

Closing civic space is changing everything. On every continent there are now concerted attacks on the freedoms of assembly, association, and expression. Without these freedoms, people cannot come together freely, work out the answers to our problems, and create better futures for us all.

The closing of civic space is happening at a time when we need these freedoms more than ever. Humanity faces a series of crises. From irreversible climate change to the economic and social inequalities that are pulling societies apart, or a growing intolerance for dissent. Solving these problems demands an open and vibrant civic space.

Our current strategies to defend civic space will only get us so far. We need new ideas and approaches that expand civic space.

FICS exists to analyse civic space, shift funder strategy and practice towards expansion strategies, and resource movements expanding civic space.

Source: Youtube, Poonam Joshi, November 9, 2021
#OnWhatMatters: Hilary Pennington talks with Poonam Joshi

Watch our Director Poonam Joshi discuss shrinking civic space for the #OnWhatMatters series.
Source: Unsplash, Matt Palmer, Ice break up in the ocean, Antartica, June 23, 2021
Climate, civic space and philanthropy

Environment defenders are facing increasing restrictions on their ability to organise.
Source: Shutterstock, Marcin Jóźwiak, Aerial view of distribution center
How can we defend and expand civic space?

People organising in on and offline civic spaces have been integral to almost every progressive political and social ...
Time to push

FICS believes that the funding community has a special role to play in expanding civic space. Built on our expertise we use analysis, convening, incubation, and experimentation to shift funder strategy and practice on the drivers of closing civic space.

FICS strives to give funders the tools they need to expand civic space for those advancing democracy, human rights, social and economic justice, and environmental protection for the future. We want to galvanise and influence a broader cross-section of funders to direct resources to disrupt, reform, and transform civic spaces around the world.

Source: Shutterstock, Julian Leshay, Protect Black Women and Girls Banner, New York, USA, July 26, 2020

Source: Shutterstock, Julian Leshay, Protect Black Women and Girls Banner, New York, USA, July 26, 2020
  • Source: Shutterstock, 100 Words, Anti government protestors push shields of riot police during rally, Bangkok, Thailand, November 24, 2021
  • Source: Pexels, Yew Hui Tan, Red Balloon on Green Grass Field, July 03, 2021

We do this through:

1. Cutting edge analysis – short term and futures focussed research that keeps funders ahead of the curve in spotting opportunities and threats to civic space. This includes working across the field to map effective strategies while tracking donor resources and distributing learning on what works and what does not.

2. Building the field of funders – FICS activates and inspires a diverse cross section of funders to confront the drivers of closing civic space. Drawing from our analysis we create space for funders to connect, collaborate, and experiment with new ideas to expand civic space.

3. Incubation and resourcing – FICS nurtures pathways for funders and civil society to collaborate and test how resources can be used to expand civic space. We offer grant-making for nascent ideas and

approaches, incubation of new infrastructure for civil society, and new funding mechanisms to help take this work to scale.

At FICS we want funders to move resources to not only “hold the line” and protect activists and actors from downstream harassment, arrests, and abuse, but also to confront the driving forces behind these restrictions. We want to tackle the drivers behind the phenomenon of closing space and move to expansion strategies.

We analyse drivers of civic space. We propose solutions and incubate new ideas. We bring funders together to increase resources for movements expanding civic space.

Rethinking Civic Space

FICS spoke to more than 150 civil society representatives and funders working across the globe on human rights, equalities, climate change, land rights, corporate power and technological threats, to develop a unique analysis of the systemic drivers of shrinking civic space.

Our analysis, Rethinking Civic Space, lays out how the abuse of counter-terrorism laws and policy, intertwined with increasingly concentrated economic power and threats to democracy and pluralism from regressive political forces has put the shrinking of civic space on a full force trajectory.

FICS concludes that – responding only after activists are under attack is not enough. Civil society organisations urgently need resources to disrupt over-reaching security frameworks, create narratives which value pluralism and equality, and hold economic power in check.

Explore more
Source: Shutterstock, Alexandros Michailidis, Flags of UN and EU stand in European council Building, Belgium, May 15, 2018
Counter-terrorism policies are cutting off civil society’s access to resources

Expert Submission to UN Special Rapporteur, based on new research with funders and Civil Society Organisations, finds counter-terrorism ...
Source: Shutterstock, 100 Words, Anti government protestors push shields of riot police, Bangkok, Thailand, November 24 2012
FICS report reveals proliferation of agencies influencing counter-terrorism

Expert authors pinpoint drivers of human rights violations and call for radical change in funder approaches.
Source: Shutterstock, Merania, Street Artist
Being bold about futures-thinking

At the October 2021 EDGE Funders Alliance annual conference, FICS Director Poonam Joshi was among the keynote speakers ...
Back To Top