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Surreptitious symbiosis: engagement between activists and NGOs

Glasius, Marlies and Ishkanian, Armine (2015) Surreptitious symbiosis: engagement between activists and NGOs. Voluntas: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, 26 (6). pp. 2620-2644. ISSN 0957-8765

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Identification Number: 10.1007/s11266-014-9531-5


Based on research conducted in Athens, Cairo, London and Yerevan the article analyses the relationship between activists engaged in street protests or direct action since 2011 and NGOs. It examines how activists relate to NGOs and whether it is possible to do sustained activism to bring about social change without becoming part of a ‘civil society industry’. The article argues that while at first glance NGOs seem disconnected from recent street activism, and activists distance themselves from NGOs, the situation is more complicated than meets the eye. It contends that the boundaries between the formal NGOs and informal groups of activists is blurred and there is much cross-over and collaboration. The article demonstrates and seeks to explain this phenomenon, which we call surreptitious symbiosis, from the micro- perspective of individual activists and NGO staff. Finally, we discuss whether this surreptitious symbiosis can be sustained and sketch three scenarios for the future.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2014 Springer
Divisions: Social Policy
Conflict and Civil Society
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Date Deposited: 11 Nov 2014 09:53
Last Modified: 12 Jun 2024 00:42

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