Sub-theme 03: [SWG] When Civil Society Re-enchants the World: Changing Society by Governing the Common Good

Stefan Einarsson
Stockholm School of Economics, Sweden
Philippe Eynaud
Sorbonne Graduate Business School, France
Marta Reuter
Stockholm University, Sweden

Call for Papers

Recent EGOS sub-themes have addressed the increasing public and academic attention being afforded Civil Society Organizations (CSOs). In this sub-theme, we invite participants, in considering CSOs and the many different contexts in which they operate, to address Civil Society Governance:

  • How are CSOs faring in these contexts and what constitutes good governance within them (Phillips & Smith 2010)?

  • How are CSOs themselves governed?

  • How can CSO governance codes keep pace with the burgeoning range of organizing modes, calls for accountability and transparency as well as increased political and societal interest in their activities (Almog-Bar & Young 2016; Steen-Johnsen et al., 2011)?

  • And, shifting focus from governance of to governance by CSOs – can CSOs contribute to the governance of the common good?

  • What roles can they play in the governance of the societal systems in which they operate (Bode & Brandsen 2014; Löfler 2009)?

  • In this context, can CSOs enrich the governance of democracies (Laville et al., 2016)?

At present, both the governance of and governance by Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) are concerns that are experiencing increasing public and academic attention. Good governance standards are expected if not required of CSOs, though context and organizational capacity can play a significant role in the degree to which they are achieved (Ostrower & Stone, 2015; Lee, 2016). This line of research becomes even more important due to the substantial ongoing changes in the relationship between the state, the market and the nonprofit sector where researchers see a change from “New Public Management” to “New Governance” (Salamon & Toepler, 2015). There is increased public attention given to CSOs being transparent and accountable – and at the same time delivering impactful social innovations by using social entrepreneurial methods and business-like management approaches (Lohmann, 2007; Lee, 2016).
However, CSOs do not by definition create social cohesion and contribute to the governance of the common good. Civil society can also be seen as a hotbed for organizational diversity consisting of disruptive and particularistic organizations. Some CSOs are created to challenge societal structures and regulatory frameworks and change society, whereas other CSOs try to support or guard a particular community, a special lifestyle or certain values that either are felt threatened or perceived to be obscure or unusual by mainstream society (Einarsson, 2012; Reuter et al., 2014).
Finally, CSOs are also addressing the need for an ecological and social transition, by introducing socially innovative governance models. Many of them are shaped by the patterns of commoning. At the crossing of Ostrom’s (1990) work and CSO literature, new and promising avenues can therefore be opened to rethink the issues related to civil society governance and solidarity-based economy.
In this sub-theme, we welcome empirical and theoretical contributions examining dimensions of civil society organization governance – both of and by Civil Society Organizations, and their contribution of governance to the creation of the common good and to the sustainability of the commons. Key topics we hope to see among the contributions submitted for this sub-theme address (but are not restricted to):

  • What is good governance and under what conditions is it achieved? What factors are most influential in the creation of organizational and societal good governance systems? And what role, if any, do CSOs have in these governance systems?

  • What is the role of governance in the creation of the common good? How do governance systems take on an explicit role of doing good? And what role, if any, do CSOs play in these governance systems? What consequences does this have and what kind of politics/inclusion/exclusion might this create?

  • What is new about the New Governance? How does it influence the role of CSOs in government – CSO relations? Does it create governance opportunities for CSOs?

  • What is the role of the commons in building new models for CS governance? Is the new commons (Hess, 2008) reframing CSOs governance? Can urban commons, knowledge commons provide new insights? How can CSOs governance topic interact with open and digital culture?

  • What governance challenges arising in current contexts and what are the options for addressing them? These might include, but are not limited to, transparency, accountability, composition of boards, boundary spanning in the governance of social enterprises, voluntary regulation and self-regulation.



  • Almog-Bar, M., & Young, D.R.(eds.) (2016): “Policy towards Nonprofits in International Perspective: Current Trends and Their Implications for Theory and Practice.” Nonprofit Policy Forum, 7 (2), Special Issue, 85–93.
  • Bode, I., & Brandsen, T. (2014): “State-Third Sector Partnerships: A Short Overview of Key Issues in the Debate.” Public Management Review, 16, 1055–1066.
  • Hess, C. (2008): “Mapping the New Commons.” 12th Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of the Commons. Cheltenham, England, University of Gloucestershire, July 14–18, 2008.
  • Laville, J.-L., Young, D., & Eynaud, P. (2016): Civil Society, the Third Sector and Social Enterprise: Governance and Democracy. New York: Routledge.
  • Einarsson, S. (2012): Ideology Being Governed: Strategy Formation in Civil Society. Stockholm: Stockholm School of Economics.
  • Lee, Y.J. (2016): “What Encourages Nonprofits’ Adoption of Good Governance Policies?” Nonprofit Management and Leadership, 27 (1), 95–112.
  • Löfler, E. (2009): “Governance in a Network Society.” In: A.G. Bovaird, T. Bovaird & E. Löfler (eds.): Public Management and Governance. London: Taylor & Francis, 215–232.
  • Lohmann, R.A. (2007): “Charity, Philanthropy, Public Service, or Enterprise: What Are the Big Questions of Nonprofit Management Today?” Public Administration Review, 67, 437–444.
  • Ostrom, E. (1990): Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Ostrower, F., & Stone, M.M. (2015): “Governing boards and organizational environments: growing complexities, shifting boundaries.” In J.-L. Laville, D. Young & P. Eynaud (eds.): Civil Society, the Third Sector and Social Enterprise: Governance and Democracy. New York: Routledge, 75–90.
  • Phillips, S., & Smith, S.R. (eds.) (2010): Governance and Regulation in the Third Sector: International Perspectives. London: Routledge.
  • Reuter, M., Wijkström, F., & Meyer, M. (2014): ”Who Calls the Shots? The Real Normative Power of Civil Society.” In: M. Freise & T. Hallman (eds.): Modernizing Democracy. Associations and Associating in the 21st Century. New York: Springer, 71–82.
  • Salamon, L., & Toepler, S. (2015): “Government-Nonprofit Cooperation: Anomaly or Necessity?” Voluntas, 26 (6), 2155–2177.
  • Steen-Johnsen, K., Eynaud, P., & Wijkström, F. (2011): “On Civil Society Governance – an Emergent Research Field.” Voluntas, 22 (4), 555–565.

Stefan Einarsson is a researcher at the Stockholm Center for Civil Society Studies, Stockholm School of Economics, Sweden. His research interests concern foundations and philanthropy, nonprofit governance, co-operative governance and hybrid organizational forms.
Philippe Eynaud is a Professor at Panthéon Sorbonne University, France. He is interested in civil society organization, social innovation, democratic governance, solidarity-based management, urban commons and new forms of solidarity. He has been a steering committee member of a European consortium on Innovative platform for social services. In 2011, Philippe has coordinated as guest editor for “Voluntas” journal a special issue on ‘CSOs governance’ with Kari Steen-Johnsen and Filip Wijkström. In 2015, he has coordinated, together with Dennis R. Young and Jean Louis Laville, an international collective book published by Routledge: ‘Civil Society, the Third Sector and Social Enterprise: Governance and Democracy’.
Marta Reuter is an Assistant Senior Lecturer in Political Science at Stockholm University and a researcher at the Stockholm Center for Civil Society Studies, Stockholm School of Economics, Sweden. Her research is situated at the juncture of Political Sociology and Public Administration and revolves around Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) as political actors. Her current research projects focus on internal CSO governance, the changing relationship between civil society and the public sector in Sweden, CSOs as actors in transnational university field governance, and think-tanks as a new type of actor in Swedish civil society.