Sharing resilience & solidarity mechanisms

We collected case studies and best practices in the so-called Solidarity Playbook to help (international) civil society organisations – (I)CSOs – respond to undue scrutiny and challenges, and to enable learning on how to act in solidarity with civil society actors, particularly local partners.

What is the Solidarity Playbook?

Solidarity and collaboration are among strongest tools we have to push back against clampdowns on civil society. The Solidarity Playbook captures 18 examples of resilience and solidarity mechanisms, developed by international civil society organisations (ICSOs) and coalitions to address civic space restrictions and changing operating conditions for civil society.

The Playbook focuses on:

  • Strategies and resilience mechanisms of ICSOs to respond to undue scrutiny and restrictions
    We outline strategies and resilience mechanisms of ICSOs that were developed to respond to undue scrutiny and attacks such as legal restrictions, bureaucratic clampdowns, financial constraints, disinformation attacks or digital threats such as internet shutdowns.
  • Coalition responses to civic space restrictions that demonstrate how solidarity can work in practice
    We show examples how civil society actors support each other, act in solidarity and respond to threats and challenges with a unified voice.

solidarity playbook illustration

Solidarity Playbook case studies

ICSO mechanism

VSO Ethiopia: Advocating for policy reform in Ethiopia

VSO Ethiopia played a key role in providing leadership and strategic guidance, and mobilising and amplifying collaborative actions for an enabling environment in Ethiopia.

ICSO mechanism

Hivos: In solidarity with content creators: The role of art in the resistance against shrinking civic space

Hivos supported art and culture programs which questioned dominant power structures in society, created alternative narratives, and imagined new realities.

Coalition response

Human Rights Defenders Coalition: Tackling corruption to defend civic space in Malawi

After election fraud in Malawi, HRDC stepped in to unite activists and citizens, mobilising calls for greater accountability, and using litigation strategies to protect the freedom of assembly.

Coalition response

Articulación Feminista de Nicaragua: The role of women’s movements in building solidarity against closing civic space in Nicaragua

Articulación brought the feminist agenda into the public debate, strengthened digital activism, protected activists, and deepened collaborations among civil society actors.

Coalition response

Bond UK: An umbrella body’s response to closing civic space

Bond engaged in coalition activities on civic space issues, carrying out convening and coordination with its members, campaigning for CSO voice and doing advocacy work.

ICSO mechanism

Transparency International Cambodia: Balancing advocacy and service delivery when the space for civil society is restricted

TI Cambodia has adapted its approach to survive and operate in a severely restricted environment and balances advocacy with service delivery.

Coalition response

UnidOSC: How research, advocacy and capacity-building have been used to defend the space for civil society in Mexico

The UnidOSC is a coalition that has provided an identity for the collective effort to defend and champion civic space in Mexico and in the region.

Coalition response

International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group (ICLMG): Working in coalition to push back against national security overreach in Canada

ICLMG developed strategies to advocate for greater accountability and transparency in Canada, and to resist the overreach of national security.

Coalition response

Civic Organisations. It Works: A coalition to boost the profile and presence of civil society organisations in Poland

Members of the It Works coalition reinvented their communications in order to improve public perceptions of civil society, and show the role and added value of the third sector in Poland.

ICSO mechanism

Plan International: Strengthening the resilience of youth-led organisations in Latin America through direct funding and mentorship

Plan International initiated a pilot project to direct-fund and mentor youth-led organisations in Latin America with core and flexible funding to enable them to adapt to risks as they arose.

Coalition response

#KeepItOn: Organising the global effort to end internet shutdowns

The #KeepItOn campaign and coalition, hosted by Access Now, unites and organises efforts to end internet shutdowns worldwide.

#keepiton PDF case study cover icon

ICSO mechanism

Helvetas: How to use selected human rights mechanisms for effective advocacy

Helvetas developed guidance for its country offices and local partners on how to advocate through the UN human rights system when national governments restrict civil society.

Helvetas case study front cover icon

ICSO mechanism

Islamic Relief Worldwide: Building a Reputational Risk Management Strategy in the face of Islamophobia-motivated attacks

IRW adopted a proactive approach and invested in developing a new strategy to manage reputational risks which helped them to move beyond reactive fire-fighting.

Coalition response

Civilisation: Coalition-building to fight back against government attacks on civil society in Hungary

Members of Civilisation share knowledge and skills to strengthen the civil society sector, and take actions against shrinking civic space in Hungary.

ICSO mechanism

Greenpeace International: Developing resilience to SLAPP suits through joint action

Greenpeace took a proactive response in relation to the threat and damage of Strategic Lawsuits against Public Participation (SLAPPs) in the US and beyond.

Coalition response

Spaces for Change: From informal networks and collaboration to the Action Group for Free Civic Space in Nigeria

Spaces for Change initiated a learning-and-sharing hub on closing civic space which led into a coalition to co-create a unified sector position and voice to defend civic space against security-induced restrictions.

Spaces for Change PDF cover image

ICSO mechanism

ActionAid and ActionAid Uganda: How to scenario-plan for attacks and the narrowing of civic space

ActionAid invested time and resources as a federation to research closing civic space, and developed ways to build resilience and resist external threats.

Coalition response

Vuka!: Building an international coalition to coordinate and enable civil society’s response to closing space

This case study focuses on Vuka’s Country Coordination Calls to draw out learning on how ICSOs can support country-level responses to closing space.

Emerging lessons on resilience and solidarity mechanisms


31 May 2021

Negotiating solidarity: #SolidarityPlaybook case studies

12 May 2020

Sharing is caring: #SolidarityPlaybook case studies


Background to Solidarity Playbook case studies

Written by Sarah Pugh and Deborah Doane, the presented case studies reflect the status of when they were written between September – October 2019 (first edition) and between September – March 2021 (second edition). Naturally, the political situation as well as the organisations’ and coalitions’ lessons and practices have since evolved and are constantly evolving.

We sincerely thank our case study partners for making their experience and lessons available to a larger readership.

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