Reversing the decline of civil society as a force for transformation will be exceptionally difficult, because the processes of hollowing out and separation, of commercialization and muzzling have become so deeply embedded. Any group that bucks these trends will be isolated and undermined. Philanthropists will deny them funding, politicians will curb their rights to organize, corporations will co-opt their language and their tactics, and other, less radical groups will try to colonize their work and capture their supporters.

But since civil societies are ours to lose, they are also ours to reclaim, to refresh and re-energize against the background of a constantly shifting landscape of opportunities, tools and techniques – social media and social enterprise included.

The destruction of civil society is easy, and it’s happening around us now. Its re-creation is much more difficult, a task akin to accumulating all the ‘snow’ that eventually makes the ‘iceberg’ of everyday citizen action.

That may sound like too little, too late, or simply take too long, or be too much work in an era when instant gratification is demanded. But it will be worth it. After all, it was an iceberg that sank the Titanic.

When is civil society a force for social transformation? | openDemocracy.