General Outline of "Knowledge and Civil Society"
Civil society, and with it, the manifold non-profit and non-governmental movements and organizations have taken a crucial role in societal transition, generally, and in the creation, interpretation and dissemination of knowledge, in particular. Learning and innovation are less and less bound to universities and educational institutions. Instead, challenges at global, national and regional levels have spurred debates about the role of civil society as a change agent in a knowledge-based society and in regional development. This debate ranges from the benefits for education and science to risks and detrimental effects of civic and philanthropic engagement on democracy. Taking into account the spatiality of knowledge and civil society, this symposium explores the relation between civil society, knowledge, and regional development. Academic research has given rise to numerous perspectives and terminologies to delineate public-good orientated, non-profit and non-governmental activities and organizations. This symposium takes a broad perspective on civil society with a focus on practices, including philanthropic activities as well as corporate engagement. The symposium addresses three key relations between the civil society, knowledge and space:
1. Civil society and the creation of knowledge. Through funding activities civil society organizations and philanthropists can play crucial roles for national research and educational landscapes. Which impact does philanthropic and third sector engagement have on national funding structures and on the (higher) education systems? Apart from lending financial support, civil society itself can act as a generator of knowledge and innovation. Under which circumstances does civil society contribute to local knowledge development and distribution? How are these activities organized across different places, and how do civil society organizations adjust to local needs and challenges? What is the role of social networks in facilitating learning and innovation in local and regional contexts?
2. Civil society and sense-making. The civil society is highly involved in the formation of societal debates. Political lobbyism and the work of think tanks, among others, affect how people perceive and interpret knowledge and social developments. How do civil society organizations act as agenda-setters and producers of meaning? What effects does this have on national and global discourses? How do civil society organizations act as change agents and as institutional entrepreneurs?
3. Civil society and regional change. Civil society often has an important stake in the social and economic transformation of regional communities. Local civic organizations, foundations, associations and philanthropists as well as locally engaged corporations are in many ways involved in the development and shaping of their local environment. Grassroots activities and organizations on the local level as well as global and transnational movements foster the formation or expression of identity and political will and lead to flows and exchange of knowledge and information. How are civil society organizations, corporations and citizens locally embedded? How are they connected and what are the effects of regional networks on civil society?