6th Floor, Woodrow Wilson Center

Endurance Test: Civil Society Adaptation in Uncertain Environments

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In celebration of the publication of the latest editions of its Civil Society Organization Sustainability Index (CSOSI) reports for the Central and Eastern Europe and Eurasia, sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and Middle East and North Africa regions, USAID is pleased to convene a discussion of how civil society actors are increasing agency and building sustainable movements in turbulent political and economic times.

This year’s CSOSI reports, covering the 2016 calendar year, show a wave of democratic backsliding that swept the world as states constricted civic and political space. In this shifting landscape, civil society organizations were forced to seek innovative modes of sustainability; so, too, were the donors and partners who supported them. To persist as a meaningful force in their countries’ democratic development, formal and informal civil society actors had to nimbly respond to changing political and regulatory environments, inconsistent resource streams, and the rapidly-changing needs of the citizens whom they served.

This discussion provides an opportunity to examine trends in CSOs’ adaptations, and to consider how civil society sustainability has evolved, how it is defined today, and what it may look like in future years.  This conversation will feature a keynote address from Gretchen Birkle, USAID Deputy Assistant Administrator, Europe and Eurasia Bureau, with introductory remarks by Mariam Afrasiabi, Senior Civil Society Advisor, USAID’s Center of Excellence on Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance.

A panel discussion will be moderated by Monde Muyangwa, Director of the Wilson Center’s Africa Program, featuring the following panelists:

  • Orysia Lutsevych, Manager, Ukraine Forum at Chatham House
  • Alex Sardar, Chief Innovation Officer, CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
  • Amy Hawthorne, Deputy Director for Research, POMED


*USAID, in cooperation with Management Systems International, International Center for Not-for-Profit Law, and civil society partners in 70 participating countries, has released the 2016 CSOSI for Central and Eastern Europe and Eurasia, the Middle East and North Africa, Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa. The index, now in its 20th year, assesses the sustainability of the enabling environment for civil society, focusing on key indicators in legal environment, organizational capacity, financial viability, advocacy, service provision, infrastructure, and public image.



  • Mariam Afrasiabi

    Senior Civil Society Advisor in the Civil Society and Media Division at USAID's Center of Excellence on Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance in the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance


  • Gretchen Birkle

    Deputy Assistant Administrator, USAID’s Bureau for Europe and Eurasia



  • Amy Hawthorne

    Deputy Director for Research, Project on Middle East Democracy
  • Orysia Lutsevych

    Manager, Ukraine Forum in the Russia and Eurasia Programme at Chatham House
  • Alex Sardar

    Chief Incubation Officer, CIVICUS