Civil Society

Strengthening Civic Space

We strive to promote, protect and reinvigorate the space for civic engagement.

A man and woman wearing face masks look at a pamphlet titled 'Self-Representation in Criminal Matters.'

How it Works

We envision a society where all people can freely participate in processes to improve their communities and societies.

A smiling, celebratory group of people cheer while posing for a photo.

Protecting, expanding and enhancing the environment for civic engagement, or “civic space” as we call it, is at the core of Mott’s work to strengthen civil society. A free and open civic space allows people to actively participate in initiatives that improve and strengthen their communities and societies. But our experience has taught us that civic space cannot be taken for granted. We’ve seen it expand in some cases, only to regress as more and more restrictive laws are enacted to silence the independent voice of the philanthropic and nonprofit sector. We also have witnessed it narrowing as an unintended consequence of well-meaning policies, such as anti-terrorism regulations, in established democracies.

One way to promote positive, open civic space is to strengthen infrastructure organizations that help foundations and nonprofits improve their work, build capacity and share knowledge with each other. By building and maintaining the associations, information providers, research institutions, advocacy groups and other organizations that the sector is built upon, we ensure that everyone in the charitable community is equipped to respond to challenges and opportunities facing our communities when they arise.

Our grantmaking in the Civic Space program area is organized under two objectives:

Advocacy and Outreach

We support effective advocacy and outreach to help strengthen the policy environment for civil society.

We make grants to:

  • National and Michigan-based infrastructure organizations leading policy development and advocacy for the philanthropic and nonprofit sector.
  • Global, regional and selected national infrastructure organizations outside the United States leading advocacy efforts for their sectors.

Research and Innovation

We support research, policy analysis and innovative practices that help advance civil society development.

We make grants to:

  • Organizations carrying out research, collecting data and/or providing policy analysis and recommendations in the U.S., in selected countries and regions, and at the global level.
  • Organizations with innovative approaches to addressing the closing space challenge.
We must fight to protect civil society and democracy; they do not defend themselves.”
Lucy Bernholz headshot. LUCY BERNHOLZ


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