Concept Sketch: Civil Society 3.0

Representative democracy has never been sufficient to formulate informed and legitimate legislation and policies. Elected representatives and governing institutions have always required help from civil society:

Civil Society 1.0: The town hall meeting. Everyone gets together in a room and debates directly with the elected representative. A robust and independent media is also indispensable.

Civil Society 2.0: In response to the growing complexity of society and policy issues a whole group of organizations grew up to inform policy. Think tanks, academic institutes, issue advocacy nonprofits, and industry associations, achieved power and influence by filling gaps and finding niches to influence policy through research, proposing and opposing policy, and representing core constituencies and providing issues expertise.

Civil Society 3.0:  Cross cutting persistent issues such as poverty and emerging issues such as climate change adaptation require means to build consensus and collective action that overwhelm Civil Society 2.0 actors. The the experts and institutions for 20th century policy problems lack the flexibility, creativity, and legitimacy to address 21st century challenges unaided. Blogging and social media allow for new thought leaders and influencers to grow and online forums facilitate dialogue and organization. Increasingly, ideas will be crowd sourced (e.g. MIT Climate CoLab) and cross cutting issues will be addressed, not by building wholly new organizations and expertise, but rather by reorganizing existing actors, often those active in Civil Society 2.0. Increasingly important are “systems leadership” and “collective impact” facilitated by organizations (e.g. FSG and The Intersector Project) and embedded in “backbone organizations” (such as the Greater Cincinnati Foundation).

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