On 3-5 February 2020, the study tour ‘Report on state of civil society: disseminating the results among local communities, advancing research’ took place in Warsaw and Prague, which was organised by the expert group on civil society research, facilitated by the Institute for Public Affairs, Warsaw and the Association for International relations, Prague.

The primary goal of the study tour was to share with the local civil society practitioners and wider public big and rich pool of empirical findings that the expert group has collected over four years when researching for and writing our annual Report on the state of civil society. Furthermore, staying faithful to the main principle that the expert group does research for and with civil society, the study tour civil society expert group participants aspired to receive some feedback, suggestions, recommendations and to collect some demands from civil society practitioners and activists about what they would like to see in the future research on civil society in the EU and Russia, what topics for research they think are worth devoting time for, expertise and resources and, importantly, how we could re-shape the Report in the future.

During two one-day workshops in Warsaw and Prague, the morning session were devoted to the presentation of the Report findings to a group of invited experts, civil society practitioners, civil society researchers and scholars; the evening session were open to the wider audience of citizens.

In Warsaw 15 representatives of Polish civil society organizations as well as scholars and experts on civil society came to the morning expert session. The panel included Ulla Pape who wrote a Report chapter on Germany, Filip Pazderski, author of the chapter on Poland, Pavel Havlicek, the author of the chapter on Czechia, Elena Belokurova who spoke about Russia and Andrey Demidov who moderated the session. The main focus of the session was on challenges that civil societies face in these contexts and practical solutions to them. Another question that turned out to be especially interesting to the participants in Warsaw was the question what civil society actors can do together to address these challenges. The participants of the morning session in Warsaw were especially active in sharing with the experts their views on and expectations from future research on civil society, an invaluable contribution to the study tour. The evening session in Warsaw, held at the premises of the Czech Institute, also proved to be a success. Approximately 35 interested citizens attended a joint presentation who at the end actively engaged in a discussion with the experts, asking many relevant and timely questions, be it about the role of civil society in the modern world and in light of contemporary governance and political challenges or about particularities of situations in the countries covered by the Report. For those who are interested, here is the video of this presentation: https://www.isp.org.pl/pl/aktualnosci/zapraszamy-na-debate-pod-presja-o-stanie-spoleczenstwa-obywatelskiego-w-unii-europejskiej-i-rosji

The study tour successfully continued in the same spirit in Prague where the morning session took place at the Prague Civil Society Center and the evening presentation was organised at the Charles University. In Prague, Natalia Freik, the author of the chapter on Russia in the latest edition of the Report 2019, joined the discussions. The study tour was a great opportunity to present the research findings on the state of Czech civil society to the invited participants, and this structured the session when the Czech case was placed in a wider comparative perspective. The evening session attracted around 40 students, interested citizens and researchers who expressed vivid interest in our research methodologies, methods of data collection and analysis yet also asked questions about the political challenges that civil society actors are facing in the ‘Report countries’.

Follow the Civil Society Expert Group: https://eu-russia-csf.org/project/state-of-civil-society/.