Kerstin Jacobsson

Professor, sociologist, Södertörn University, Sweden
Project leader

Institutional conditions and democratic implications: Civil society in Poland in comparative perspective

This work package intends to synthesize the findings from all the case-studies of the project, thus drawing on insights from the study of a variety of mobilizations and movements. In addition, it draws on Jacobsson's case-studies of animal rights and animal welfare activism in Poland, Russia and Sweden.

The work package aims to 1) study the conditions for, and the specific shaping of, civil society mobilization and activism in Poland, 2) study the content and  meaning of citizenship as it is expressed in civil society activity, i.e. in the civic engagement, and 3) to study the democratic implications of the institutional conditions. Of particular interest is the boundary between public and private, as this is negotiated and institutionalized in civil society, and the role of this boundary-drawing for the functioning of civil society in general and its democratic role and functioning in particular. Key here are the prerequisites for the development of civic identities as a base for collective action. The Polish case is put in perspective by comparisons with civil society activism in the Czech Republic, Russia and Sweden.

Jolanta Aidukaite

Associate professor, sociologist, Mykolas Romeris University, Lithuania

Jolanta Aidukaite explores urban mobilizations in the field of housing and local environment in the post-communist city of Vilnius. Specifically, she studies mobilizations at the community level, which involve environmental issues, but also strive for economic community‘s improvement and development, and mobilizations around housing management issues, especially mobilizations of apartment block owners in order to improve their housing efficiency.

Jolanta employs a qualitative approach to study urban mobilizations in Vilnius. The primarily data comes from the 29 semi-structured interviews conducted with community and housing self-management partnerships’ leaders, and with state officials and NGOs leaders involved in the housing and urban planning issues.

Renata Hryciuk & Elzbieta Korolczuk

Renata PhD, social anthropologist, Polish Academy of Sciences and Warsaw University, Poland

Elzbieta PhD, sociologist, Polish Academy of Sciences and Södertörn University, Poland/Sweden

Elżbieta Korolczuk explores different aspects of civil society and social mobilizations in contemporary Poland. Specifically, she studies specific types of grass-root social mobilizations over issues often considered private, namely concerning parenting. During the last decade several groups emerged and some took it to the streets, demanding political and social rights on the basis of their private identities as family members, namely mothers and fathers. Thus, in the present study she compares and analyzes the mobilizational strategies of parental groups in Poland, focusing on the creative imagination and the manner in which they utilize and interact with political opportunity structures. An important element of the analysis would be to scrutinize the negotiations concerning the public-private divide in both countries.

Together with Renata E. Hryciuk she looks at such initiatives as the Single Mothers for the Alimony Fund movement and the growing number of organizations and groups that focus on fighting for the fathers’ rights such as The Center for the Rights of the Father and Child in Poland. Additionally, she analyzes the mobilization of people who suffer from fertility problems, but want to become parents, and who are  active in the Association for Medical Treatment of Infertility and Supporting Adoptions “Our Stork”, which have taken an active part in public debates on medical procedures such as IVF, gamete donations etc.

The study includes the analysis of state policies and regulations concerning issues such as social provisions for parents, or access to infertility treatments, and publicly available materials on the chosen organizations, such as their websites and articles about them in the mass-media (including the internet). Moreover, a number of semi-structured interviews with the members and activists of these movements will be conducted. 

Dominika V. Polanska

PhD, sociologist, Centre for Baltic and East European Studies, Södertörn University, Sweden

Dominika V. Polanska’s research interests are social mobilizations on housing issues in Poland focusing both formal and informal forms of mobilizations and initiatives on housing and housing related issues. Mobilizations concerning issues of housing in the Polish context are interesting as they are coming from the grassroots, forming in the local settings, not following the convention of dependency on foreign support, but working often without any economic resources, drawing on the resources gathered through their members and broadly interacting with other actors in the society. A thriving field of initiatives, mobilizations and more or less established organizations working on the local level driven mainly by tenants and anarchists (in some cases with the support of the media and artists) has been observed in the last few years in several Polish cities. The ambition is to explain these moblizations’ collective strategies, their results, the role of opportunity structures and the use of institutional openings. The methodology is based on interviews with actors involved and textual analysis of webpages, printed materials and media repororts. 

Steven Saxonberg

Professor, sociologist, Mazaryk University, Czech Republic

Steven Saxonberg's part of the project deals with men's organizations in the Czech Republic. It analyzes their motivations for forming men's groups, the types of activities they engage in (for example, do they try to mobilize people, do they act in accordance with the NGO-ization hyphotesis or transactional activism hyphotesis?), the alliances they might make with other organizations, etc. It is particularly interested in the relationship that men's groups have with women's groups: do they see women's groups and feminist ideology as allies or enemies? The project also analyzes the success and failure of men's groups in their ability to influence policies. Finally, it analyzes the frames that these groups use in trying to gain support. 


Katarzyna Jezierska

PhD, political scientist, Center for European Research (CERGU), Gothenburg University, Sweden

Katarzyna Jezierska’s current research project (2012-2015) focuses on the organized civil society in the post-communist Poland. More precisely, she studies how the NGOs negotiate their sphere of possible actions with regard to the state and the broader civil society.

Civil society is here understood as a sphere that gives the possibility of (trans)forming and (con)testing democratic subjectivity, and NGOs are seen as possible vehicles for changes to and transformations of relationships of power. This study will explore whether the NGOs in Poland live up to these normative expectations. One way of approaching this postulate is to investigate the relevance of the “civil society trap” thesis in the Polish context, claiming that instead of building and supporting movements aspiring to systemic social change, NGOs focus on the covering up for the deficiencies of state activities – the more the NGOs are active, the less active the state.

The project’s main concern is the sphere of ideas and discourse production, and it will be composed of an analysis of the main Polish think tanks’ publications about the role of the NGOs as well as a series of interviews with NGO activists.