The Activated Civil Society


Civil society goes through periods of heightened mobilization. One such moment was the unprecedented support of refugees in the summer and fall of 2015 when thousands of people spontaneously became active in refugee support and took to the streets to demand more solidarity. Volunteers and activists founded welcome initiatives or became active in existing associations and groups. As with previous mobilization periods, the engagement waned the following year as people withdrew and organizations returned to their core work. At the same time, many people stayed. Despite great difficulties, they continued to refugees and advocate for their rights.

What traces has the pro-refugee engagement left in German civil society since 2015? This is the question that the “AktivZivil” project seeks to answer. Much research on civil society focuses on the beginnings of mobilization periods. Fewer research deals with the lasting consequences. The “AktivZivil” project examines the network effects of this mobilization period six years later. Have new or strengthened networks emerged between initiatives, sports clubs, church congregations, political groups, welfare associations, and other organizations? How do the different civil society organizations interact six years after the mobilization period? Have networks been formalized, or have they remained more informal? How has volunteerism and activism in refugee support changed at the local level? We are conducting a comparative actor-centered network study in four medium-sized German cities to answer these questions and systematically capture the lasting effects on networks. We rely on an elaborated methodological mix of document analysis (online & offline) and interviewing experts.

Our partners, the German Center for Integration and Migration Research (DeZIM; project coordinator) and the Institute for Migration Research and Intercultural Studies at the University of Osnabrück (IMIS), are researching related questions in the project.

The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) funded the joint project as part of the program Participation and the Common Good.