Important changes appear to be under way in civil society across the world. Large-scale protests have flared up in scores of countries. Citizens, seemingly less tolerant of nepotism and corruption, have mobilized movements strong enough to push governments out of power in Brazil, Egypt, Thailand, Tunisia, and Ukraine. Digital technology has generated fundamental changes to how civic activism is organized and amplified—in some cases, helping engage tens of thousands of people who previously were not politically active.

At the same time, many governments are more assertively seeking to deploy a range of tactics designed to neuter civic activism’s reach and impact—from imprisonment to even killing. The very principle of autonomous and free civil society is under assault. For civic activists, it appears to be both the best and the worst of times.

Carnegie’s Civic Research Network, which brings together young scholar-activists who are studying new forms of civic activism in their countries or regions, published a new report titled Global Civic Activism in Flux exploring how civic movements are evolving in Brazil, Egypt, India, Kenya, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, and Ukraine.

On Tuesday, May 16, Carnegie’s Richard Youngs and members of the Civic Research Network participated in a Reddit Ask Us Anything (AUA) to discuss different kinds of civic activism, their impact on domestic political systems, and the future of civil society support.

This online Q&A is part of a series of AMAs with the help of the Geopolitics Subreddit.

Click here to read the Reddit AMA.

Richard Youngs

Richard Youngs is a senior fellow in the Democracy and Rule of Law Program, based at Carnegie Europe. He works on EU foreign policy and on issues of international democracy. Follow him on Twitter @YoungsRichard.

Marisa von Bülow

Marisa von Bülow is a professor at the Political Science Institute of the University of Brasília, Brazil.


Youssef Cherif is a political analyst on North Africa and the deputy director of Columbia Global Centers in Tunisia. Follow him on Twitter @Faiyla.

Vijayan MJ

Vijayan MJ is an activist and analyst based in New Delhi, India. Follow him on Twitter @mj_vijayan.


Janjira Sombatpoonsiri is an assistant professor in the Faculty of Political Science at Thammasat University in Thailand.


Özge Zihnioğlu is an assistant professor of international relations at Istanbul Kültür University in Turkey.