Posts in category Civil Society Cookbook

Civil Society Cookbook

Azerbaijan: Democracy is a Motor that Needs Constant Maintenance

As people all over the world watch the Eurovision competition beaming in from Azerbaijan’s largest city, Baku, competing images of the country emerge. One is the clean, happy face of the music competition, while the other is one of oppression and control.

Sahand Sahebdivani spoke to Arjen de Wolff, current director of Radio Zamaneh, about his experiences working for the National Democratic Institute (NDI) in Azerbaijan. During the interview, De Wolff reflected on working in closed societies and the nature of democracy.

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Civil Society CookbookFree SpeechHalal InternetSimple Security

Breaking and Bending Censorship with Walid Al-Saqaf

Arseh Sevom — Reports from the Islamic Republic of Iran about internet speeds, work to create a parallel cyber Iran, and the growing success of filtering systems paint a picture of desperate efforts to exert control over the population. Iran is not alone in its efforts. North Korea has their own “intranet” called Kwang Myong (“light” or “hope, fair, just, open”). The North Korean version duplicates external content it deems acceptable. Iran’s new closed intranet is expected to do the same, in a cyber version of what the state already does in traditional media by cherry-picking content from international sources and editing or translating it in ways that often distort the original meaning.

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Civil Society Cookbook

Protest and Advocacy on Arseh Sevom

Arseh Sevom — With the announcement from Time Magazine that The Protester is this year’s person of the year, we thought this was a good time to remind our readers of all the great content on Arseh Sevom’s English site related to protests, demonstrations, and acts of advocacy.

The entire Arseh Sevom Zine for Winter 2011 responds to the question: “What’s next? What comes after the unity when the messy business of democracy begins?” A good place to start is with The Letter from the Editor, which sets the stage for the rest of the articles.

The first issue of Arseh Sevom’s Civil Society Zine looks at networking, networks, and change. You might want to check out Linda Herrera’s piece: Two Faces of Revolution: Why Dictators Fear the Internet.

In Creating the Impossible: The Invisible Network of Britain’s Activist Subculture, Avery Oslo discusses the consensus building of eco-activists. Some of it may sound familiar to people who have been following the activities of Occupy Wall Street.

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The Protester, Time's 2011 Person of the Year

Arseh Sevom — In 2009, hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of Iranians took to the streets to express their desire for more open and democratic governance. Most were wary of revolutionary promises and seeking reform with space to participate in society.

“I stood on the streets with women in chadors who were protesting for my right not to wear a veil,” a 29-year-old school teacher in Tehran told us. “It surprised me.”

That year many people urged Time Magazine to consider the protesters in Iran as the person of the year. They were disappointed by the choice of Ben Bernanke This year Time Magazine focused on The Protester, which professor and activist, Michael Benton calls, “Protest the way the American media establishment wants it — faceless and ambiguous. Note that last month’s time covers in the USA were different from the rest of the world’s — asking Americans to be ‘OK’ with ‘anxiety.’”

Scott Lucas of Enduring America tells Arseh Sevom, “”It is not just The Protester as the Person of the Year. It is the resurrection of belief in protest as a positive, a belief that rights, justice, and a better way of life are not simply to be held and withheld by those who claim to be leaders.”

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From the Zine: Tips from Peace-Worker Jasmin Nordien

Arseh Sevom — Arseh Sevom spoke with South African activist Jasmin Nordien about her experiences working in civil society organizations in South Africa. In a post published in the Civil Society Zine, we focus on her experiences throughout the 1990s, when she worked with the Network of Independent Monitors (NIM) reporting on state violence and supporting individuals and grassroots organizations. Jasmin shares some of the lessons she learned about the importance of creating networked organizations, the differences between leadership and management, and the need for clarity of purpose. Jasmin tells us, “…I no longer wanted to monitor the society I did not want to live in. I wanted to build the kind of society that my children and grandchildren would group up in.”

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Civil Society Cookbook

Civil Society Cookbook

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Arseh Sevom is launching a new project: the Civil Society Cookbook. We are talking to civil society actors from around the world to learn more about what makes them successful, how they approach challenges, and the obstacles faced along the way.

We would like to hear from you too. You can fill out our questionnaire or contact us and make an appointment for an interview.

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Civil Society Cookbook

Help Us Learn More: Tell Us What You Think

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Arseh Sevom is conducting a survey to gain an understanding of how organizations and civil society activists get started and overcome obstacles. You can help us learn more by filling out this survey. If you would rather we talk to you over the phone, please contact us using the form here.

This questionnaire is the first in a series. We hope that you will continue to share your experiences and knowledge with us over time.

The goal of this survey is to learn more about how to face and overcome challenges. We plan to publish a selection of the responses on our site and use the results to develop toolkits. You can choose to remain anonymous or you can choose to associate your responses with your name and organization. It’s up to you.

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Civil Society Cookbook

Are You a Civil Society Activist?

What is Civil Society

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Before trying to delve deep into a practical definition of a “civil society activist” let us see what is exactly meant by a “civil society”.

According to Jeffrey C. Alexander – one of the thinkers who has helped us understand this rather abstract idea – civil society was conceived in the 18th century in a positive way. It was in the words of the philosopher Immanuel Kant, “a burgher, city dweller’s society.” Later, more complex ideas were annexed to the endless definitions and as per a recent version, civil society is “a basic configuration in which society stands apart from the state, develops autonomously and becomes increasingly conscious of such autonomy at both the individual and the collective levels.” All that would translate into an active society wherein citizens take matters related to their community, neighborhood, rights and etc. into their own hands – “civilly”. These activities might include forming associations, clubs, organizations, developing networks and raising awareness on their issues of concern.

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