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How to talk about civic space: A guide for progressive civil society facing smear campaigns

by Israel Butler

Published | December 2021

Building narratives Tackling mis- and disinformation


The guide looks at ways of countering smear campaigns in civic space. It is useful to promote progressive causes, especially for civil society organisations that are affected by smear campaigns and campaigners to counter such narratives.

Why read

The resource guides CSOs to counter smear campaigns and create a new narrative by interacting with a public audience.


This guide aims to help CSOs that promote progressive causes and are affected by smear campaigns that are particularly aimed to destroy public trust in CSOs. It includes sample narratives, messages and frames for campaigners to adapt a strategy against smear campaigns, examples of counter-productive arguments as well as a summary of research on public attitudes towards CSOs. Overall, the guide recommends to focus in the messaging of communications on the values of the CSO and to openly interact with the audience. Thus, it is not advised to engage directly with the lies and smear campaigns brought against you.

Beforehand, it gives a good perspective on how public attitudes towards CSOs are influenced to get more background knowledge on why and how smear campaigns come up in the first place. Next to this, the guide includes as well how not to respond to smear campaigns which can be useful.

Useful examples are mentioned of counter-productive arguments that campaigners should use when facing smear campaigns. The guide gives tips how to build support in the civic space as well as how to effectively counter narratives of smear campaigns.

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