Funders’ Initiative for Civil Society

Defending and expanding civic space

The Funders Initiative for Civil Society (FICS) brings funders together to tackle the problem of shrinking civic space – the physical, digital, and legal conditions through which progressive movements and their allies organise, participate, and create change.

FICS provides analysis on what is driving the attacks on civic space, tests strategic interventions, and seeks to motivate the funding community to move more resources to rights-based movements and their allies on the frontline.


In 2020, FICS published a landmark investigation of what is happening to civic space, entitled Rethinking Civic Space. This found that 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 tracks trends on civic space, shares futures analysis with a wide range of civil society, philanthropy and other partners, and incubates new initiatives that might disrupt the attacks on civic space upstream, before activists are actually facing harassment, arrest and worse. Sign up for our newsletter to find out more.

FICS began in 2016 as a donor affinity group, launched by founding members American Jewish World Service, Arcus Foundation, Ariadne: European Funders for Social Change and Human Rights, Asfari Foundation, Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, Euro-Mediterranean Foundation of Support to Human Rights Defenders, Ford Foundation, Fund for Global Human Rights, Human Rights Funders Network, Mama Cash, Oak Foundation, Open Society Foundations, Sigrid Rausing Trust, and Wallace Global Fund.

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