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Crucially for any democracy, civil society needs space – not just to survive, but to pro-actively play its democratic role as watchdog of government action, partner in political and policy reform and provider of certain services to local populations. A vibrant civil society is also crucial for democratic innovation, something that is needed more than ever given the growing disillusionment of citizens with present forms of representative democracy, both in Europe and abroad.

The Strategic Partnership Approach to Creating a Conducive Environment (SPACE) is a 3-step approach that has been developed by the European Partnership for Democracy to design programmes and projects that contribute to creating space for civil society, drawing on the unique mix of skills and expertise of 15 European organisations that support democracy in more than 100 countries worldwide.

Read and download the full approach.

SPACE starts out with a Democratic Institutions for a Conducive Environment (DICE) assessment aimed at creating a better understanding of how democratic institutions drive or hinder the development of civil society space in the country. DICE is tailored to the local context, as it uses tools for stakeholder mapping and Political Economy Analysis (PEA) to identify opportunities for influencing positive change.

Following discussions with the EU Delegation or member state(s) on the DICE assessment, SPACE organises workshops to bring together civil society with representatives of democratic institutions. Based on the DICE assessment and the multi-stakeholder discussions, EPD drafts an Action Plan for a Conducive Environment for civil society, to be reviewed and adopted by the stakeholders, thereby ensuring broad local ownership.

SPACE offers a wide range of activities to EU Delegations and member states, aimed at implementing the Action Plan Action for a Conducive Environment for civil society, by targeting one or several of four levels of intervention: 1) Citizens, 2) Civil society, 3) Democratic institutions, 4) Regional and international fora.

The Strategic Partnership Approach to creating a Conducive Environment (SPACE) promotes a conducive environment for the development of civil society. Its specific objectives will depend on the specific country context and the needs of local stakeholders while also taking into account the country priorities and operational limitations of EU Delegations or EU member states. They could include, for instance: enhancing the legitimacy of civil society in the eyes of local communities; increasing the levels of trust and cooperation between civil society, state actors and other relevant stakeholders; or strengthening the capacity of civil society and/or state actors to engage in multi-stakeholder dialogue.

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