Civil society organisations (CSOs) are innovators, testing new approaches to both traditional and emerging problems. One of today’s issues creating an unprecedented challenge to civil society is the rise of populist leaders and their pervasive rhetoric, in different parts of the world. Populists have been adept at winning hearts and minds and creating or mining divisions in society, based on fear and hatred. This undermines the progressive values and ideals of inclusion, equality, diversity and respect for human rights advanced by CSOs working on social and environmental justice and sustainable development (the focus for this report).
Therefore, CSOs must find innovative, fresh and effective ways to not only respond but also more fundamentally revive their impact in this new landscape. They can also learn and benefit from the lessons encountered by others: the goal for this report.
Across 14 case studies from international and national civil society organisations, networks and movements from populist contexts around the world, the report highlights their: (i) innovativeness, (ii) effectiveness in countering different elements of populism, and (iii) responsiveness to the potential of digital media in the specific context. The report summarises the lessons which can be drawn from across these case studies, in six overall recommendations for our sector, and also include ‘futures’ provocations to prompt more thinking about further drivers of innovation in future.