Civil society and crises: co-creating societal value with or without the government


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The special issue on “co-creating societal value with or without the government” seeks to understand how civil society, including voluntary, community and social enterprise organizations, community self-organizations, mutual aids, and social movements, responds to and proactively tackles societal crises. Facing severe global health crises, such as COVID-19, or more durable societal challenges, such as social exclusion, poverty, food insecurity, illegal migration or climate change, governments need collaborative efforts from a variety of actors to find sustainable solutions. The role of civil society is increasingly important, as governments seek ways to solve social problems in the face of economic and political pressures being placed on welfare states. The use of civil society to lead or support solutions to social problems can provide an alternative approach to government-led interventions, providing that such solutions are organically and collectively developed with the public (Brandsen et al, 2017). 

Through human-centered approaches, civil society can be well placed to address the needs of disadvantaged groups of citizens and help them participate in value-creation (e.g. Tuurnas et al. 2023), acting as community anchor institutions that can bridge the needs and language of disparate stakeholders to facilitate co-creation and increase democratic legitimacy (Steiner & Farmer, 2018). Civil society can also initiate and enact ecosystems of different actors from the public and private sectors that create and nurture social innovation and service co-production (Perikangas et al., 2024), as well as shape policy agendas (Mathias et al., 2024).  

Against this backdrop, there is a need to gain a stronger theoretical and empirical understanding of the role and agency of civil society in tackling emerging and durable societal crises. This special issue therefore seeks to develop understanding about the practices, motives, and conditions under which civil society contributes to tackling crises with or without government collaboration, and the ways that civil society can realize its enabling role as the social glue in times of crisis. It seeks papers that explore how civil society (re)organizes itself, initiates and adjusts social services, interacts with users and the wider public, and operates with public sector entities and policymakers, to be best employed to solve societal crises. It also seeks to explore how public management can best handle society involvement in value co-creation and provide evidence for public actors regarding how to respond to societal crises through civil society collaboration. We also seek papers on the role of civil society in enhancing democratic legitimacy in tackling societal crises, considering the diversity of actors involved in civil society activities. This is particularly pertinent when considering how disadvantaged groups are engaged (or not) in the democratic process and in the design and delivery of public services, and to what extent civil society acts as the ‘social glue’ that enables public/citizen co-creation.

This special issue therefore aims to bring together scholarly, policy and practitioner debate in this important area, as a means of shaping theoretical, political and practitioner discourse to create new knowledge.

Key references:

Brandsen, T., Trommel, W., & Verschuere, B. (2017). The state and the reconstruction of civil society. International Review of Administrative Sciences, Vol. 83 No.4, pp. 676-693.
Mathias, A.L.T.C., Souza, A.G.V.d.& Ribeiro, M.d.M.S.C. (2024). When social enterprise ecosystem shapes national public policy: examining Brazil’s national impact economy strategy. International Journal of Public Sector Management, Vol. 37 No. 3, pp. 370-387.
Perikangas, S., Kostilainen, H. & Kainulainen, S. (2024). Co-production of social innovations and enabling ecosystems for social enterprises. International Journal of Public Sector Management, Vol. 37 No. 4, pp. 351-369.
Tuurnas, S., Paananen, H. & Tynkkynen, L-K., (2023). Agile, institutionalised and dependency-driven: Multifaceted forms of collaboration agencies of third-sector organisations, Voluntas, Vol. 34 No. pp. 573–584. 

List of topic areas

  • Collaboration between civil society, community self-organizations and government in times of crisis, including challenges and opportunities for effective co-production and governance in tackling crises, responsiveness of government to civil society collaboration, and civil society's role as a social glue between government and citizens in value co-creation
  • Community self-organization and democracy (e.g. Right-to-challenge, right to cooperate, right to bid, and direct participatory democracy vs representative democracy challenges)
  • The role of civil society and community self-organizations in sustainable and resilient cities and communities (e.g. safe and green public spaces, social segregation, and grey cities)
  • The role of civil society and community self-organizations in social and health care, to enable value co-creation with disadvantaged and excluded groups of citizens or those who are disenfranchised from decision-making structures (e.g. mental wellbeing, healthy lives, and an ageing society)
  • Civil society and community self-organizations’ responses to and impact on crises (e.g. COVID-19 responses, climate change, mutual aids, food banks, etc.)

Guest Editors 

Sanna Tuurnas, Tampere University, Finland, [email protected]
Kelly Hall, University of Birmingham, UK, [email protected]
Richard Hazenberg, University of Northampton, UK, [email protected]
Edwina Zhu, University of Edinburgh, UK, [email protected]

Submissions Information

Submissions are made using ScholarOne Manuscripts. Author guidelines must be strictly followed. 

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Author Guidelines

Authors should select (from the drop-down menu) the special issue title at the appropriate step in the submission process, i.e. in response to ““Please select the issue you are submitting to”. 
Submitted articles must not have been previously published, nor should they be under consideration for publication anywhere else, while under review for this journal.

Key deadlines

Opening date for manuscripts submissions: 01/11/2024
Closing date for manuscripts submission: 31/03/2025