Hivos International

Citizens are central actors in public and political arenas. Their ability to hold governments to account and to participate fully in democratic processes is contingent upon their ability to associate, assemble freely and express opinions. Around the globe citizens are claiming their rights, rising up to injustices and proposing alternatives. What lessons can we draw from citizen action? How do different forms of technology contribute to raise citizens’ voices? In this dossier, we explore various forms of citizen action and their effectiveness at bringing about positive change.

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Making All Voices Count

This dossier is informed by over 40 years of Hivos practice executed with our research partners. Currently, we work closely with the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) within the programme Making All Voices Count. In 11 countries in Africa and Asia, we bring together a wide range of actors to promote transparency, fight corruption and empower citizens. Using different technologies, we aim to improve the relationship between government and citizens and to make government more effective and accountable. We do not consider technology as a silver bullet for social change, but it offers great opportunities to inform and mobilise citizens. In this dossier, you will find publications and knowledge articles on the success and limitations of technological means to trigger change.

Digital Natives

Another example of a programme that produced an extensive amount of knowledge  is the Digital Natives programme. Today, youth are perceived to show little interest in politics, but if you look closely at what many young people are advocating for online, this is very political. These so-called Digital Natives are changing our environment in unimaginable ways. This is why we have published insights from digital natives. What does it mean to be a Digital Native? What is the relationship of people growing up with new technologies and change? We have also looked at other forms of political action such as the use of arts - so-called “unruly politics”.

For these and more insights about new forms of citizen action, do browse through this dossier! 

Other Knowledge Dossiers

Gender and Sexual Rights

Hivos has a long and remarkable history in the field of Gender and Sexual Rights. We were one of the first organisations that campaigned for sexual rights, including lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders, intersexuals (LGBTIs), but also men who have sex with men (MSM) without considering themselves homosexual. In the field of women’s rights, we have been supporting women all over the world to organise and become a countervailing power in their societies. In both domains, we seek new ways to bring about change in people’s mindsets.

Methods of Change

We are constantly seeking to improve our understanding of the world's workings and our place in it. To us, social innovation is a means to an end, or better yet, a way to contribute to a free, fair and sustainable world. But what does that mean in practice? It means working with a broad range of stakeholders in multi-actor initiatives and conducting “Change Labs”. It means having a user-centered approach and co-creating solutions with the people we want to reach.


Pluralism and diversity are essential ingredients of a dynamic society. Yet, ingrained values, acquired privileges and established power structures often limit people’s acceptance of different values, identities and religions. In too many places around the world, people are faced with intolerance.

Renewable and Inclusive Energy

Climate change and sustainable energy production are high on the political agenda. Public debate generally focuses on how the use of fossil fuels can be reduced. However, less attention is given to the lack of energy access for people living in developing countries. Remarkably, the solution to both issues is the same: renewable energy. In its projects, Hivos aims to demonstrate that green and inclusive energy is not a pipe dream or an alternative, but simply the best choice. Our research informs our stance in the debate and reflects on our projects in the field.

Sustainable Food and Biodiversity

Hivos has a long history of working on issues concerning food, agriculture and biodiversity. Research has and continues to underpin many of our projects in the field, and contributes to broader debates on sustainable food. In our view, citizens should be centre-stage in a transition towards sustainable and inclusive food production and consumption. Signs of the required transformation are emerging worldwide, luckily. In local communities, small enterprises are launching sustainable food products. How do those frontrunners opt for change?

Transitions in the Middle East and North Africa

Since the outbreak of the revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) in 2011, the region is undergoing tectonic shifts. The pace, quality and quantity of political and social changes are unprecedented. In short, the MENA region is the scene of historic revolutions and counter-revolutions. In such a rapidly changing context, conventional wisdom about static societies and states in the MENA do not make sense and are out of context. There is no shortage of knowledge produced in the West about MENA.