Funders’ Initiative for Civil Society

Defending and expanding civic space

FICS’ vision is a world in which people – both collectively and as individuals – have the power to hold their leaders accountable and shape their government, economy and society towards justice, equality and fairness for all.

In order to achieve that goal, FICS defends and expands civic space – the physical, digital, and legal conditions through which progressive movements and their allies organise, participate, and create change. We do this through:

  • Thought-leadership: FICS forecasts the trends that shape the future of civic space to ensure that progressive organisations and donors are ahead of the curve, and identify strategic opportunities to disrupt and reform the underlying drivers of closing civic space.
  • Building a donor ecosystem: FICS builds support from a community of donors and donor networks in alignment with its analysis, creating a community of learning and practice around what works to defend and expand civic space.
  • Incubation: FICS hosts new civic space initiatives to enable donors to mobilise resources collaboratively and at scale around key opportunities to disrupt and transform the drivers of closing civic space. Through these new initiatives FICS will offer civic actors not only grants but support with field-building, technical assistance and building alliances across sectors and movements.

FICS’ mission is shaped by the findings of our 2019 global review on the future of civic space, which interviewed 150 funders and civil society representatives working on the issues that will be most contested in the coming decade – including climate justice, democracy, racial justice, transparency and migrants’ rights.

Rethinking Civic Space, published in May last year, summarises these findings alongside an analysis of the political legacy of the COVID-19 pandemic and action that funders must take to tackle the drivers of closing civic space.

Priorities

  • Providing new analysis and intelligence on trends and drivers that will shape the future of civic space that can be used to inform civil society and funder strategies.
  • Building a wide and diverse coalition of funders willing to commit resources at scale to disrupting and reforming the three dominant drivers of closing civic space:
    • Threats to democracy from the far and religious right
    • The concentration and abuse of economic power
    • Use of counter terrorism and national security powers, discourse and tools to restrict civic space
  • From 2021, convening a new global initiative that will bring together civil society and funders globally to challenge the abuse of counter terrorism, security and emergency powers, tools and rhetoric to close civic space.

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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