Civil society is fundamental to healthy and effective democracies. Civil society often steps in where governments are either incapable or unwilling to act. Civil society organizations (CSOs) and social enterprises provide outlets for different interests to express their values, priorities, and concerns. They are also often important to the delivery of community services and the building of societal capacities. Operating at the local, regional, national, and international levels, CSOs often form networks and alliances to strengthen their impact and increase their ability to influence change. Increasingly, civil society is also important to the promotion of international cooperation and global problem solving. Civil society networks have been an important aspect of transatlantic relations.
Civil society organizationsare undergoing fundamental changes in Canada, as well as across Europe. Professionals working in and with CSO’s are seeking new skills and resources to deal with the challenges and dynamics both within the sector and in society as a whole. These include key competencies in areas such as leadership and governance, partnerships and alliances, social innovation, and multi-sector collaboration. This requires more customized educational programs.
Advanced undergraduate and graduate level students from a variety of disciplines (political science, public administration, urban studies, business administration) will be recruited to participate in the transatlantic exchanges, including those seeking careers as practitioners and leaders of civil society organizations and social enterprises, policy analysts and program officers in government, community investment managers in corporations, grant officers in foundations; and, fund developers and consultants in the community. The objectives of the Civil Society Educational Network are to enhance the educational experiences and skills of these Canadian and European students seeking a variety of careers related to civil society organizations and social enterprises; to support the development of new curricula to teach civil society in a range of disciplines; to facilitate the collaboration between Canadian and European universities to expand their programs in civil society studies; and, to provide a forum for the exchange of educational materials, resources, and tools for Canadian and European faculty, students, and researchers in civil society studies.