Illuminating New Solutions and Programmatic Innovations for Resilient Spaces

A thriving civil society is crucial for sustainable, equitable development. Since 2012, however, more than 72 countries have proposed or enacted repressive laws and other measures to curtail fundamental rights to association, peaceful assembly and expression. This ‘closing civic space’ restricts the ability of human rights advocates, development and humanitarian groups and community-based organizations to deliver much-needed health, education and nutrition services.

The Challenge

Both formal legislative measures and informal measures such as anti-civil-society rhetoric in state-run media outlets and the impunity of non-state actors can deeply undermine local civil society change agents working across health, education and nutrition. Under these increasingly difficult circumstances, there is an urgent need to deepen analysis and broaden options for concrete and practical strategies that civil society can proactively implement.

Many current best practices have been developed through a series of ad hoc responses to space suddenly closing, but research examining the effectiveness of these interventions is necessary. In addition, more rigorous testing is needed to identify interventions that can assist CSOs and other in-country actors not only in responding to civic space shocks when they occur, but also in strengthening their proactive resiliency in the face of such threat.

The Opportunity

The Illuminating New Solutions and Programmatic Innovations for REsilient Spaces (INSPIRES) project was developed through a process of co-creation with USAID to better understand drivers of closing civic and political space, and to support USAID’s DRG Center to strategically respond to this growing trend. In a first stage, INSPIRES will aim to predictively assess where, when and how changes in civic space will occur. In the second stage, INSPIRES will test strategies to protect and enhance civic space in the face of impending and occurring closure.

Together, the consortium will seek to generate evidence that should help local and international actors better understand 1) what catalyzes the expansion and closure of civic space; 2) the most effective approaches for navigating these shifts; and 3) how government strategies of closure may vary by context. With this knowledge, they will be better positioned to protect civic space and continue their life-saving work.

Our Work

A robust monitoring, evaluation, research and learning (MERL) strategy is embedded into all components of the project technical activities. R4D will be leading the design and implementation of rigorous qualitative research, consistent and rapid monitoring, and structured feedback and learning loops to adapt and improve the project design and provide guidance to civil society, local partners, and USAID missions about impending civic space closures, what form these closures may take and evidence-based strategies to address closures in diverse contexts.

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