IDS working papers;299

The backstage of civil society : protagonisms, networks, and affinities between civil organisations in São Paulo

Published on 1 January 2008

The extraordinary attention raised by civil society in the academic world and in
national and international circuits of public policymakers has paradoxically
contributed to overshadow civil organisations, their diversity, the logics of their
actions, and the dynamics of their interaction with other actors. Thus in spite of such
success – and, to a large degree, due to it – surprisingly little is known about the
modus operandi of civil organisations. By penetrating the ‘backstage’ of civil society,
this paper intends to bring up and understand issues that are not often addressed
in literature as well as to advance in generating answers based on empirical
knowledge. More precisely, applying network analysis to relational data from a
survey conducted in the city of São Paulo, Brazil, in 2002, the following pages will
address how do civil organisations work? That is, which are the distinct logics of
action and internal interaction dynamics that organise the universe of those societal
actors? In order to allow its systematic empirical treatment, the answering of such a
question will be entirely relational and will be done through network analysis. This
paper brings at least three interesting findings: firstly, there is a remarkable diffuse
connectivity between São Paulo-based civil organisations; secondly, it is a highly
hierarchised universe of actors where popular organisations, NGOs, and coordinating
bodies occupy central positions, privileged by higher capability for action and choice,
while clearly peripheral neighbourhood associations, community associations, and
service non-profit organisations are dependent upon the former group and have
limited options for action; thirdly, preferential links were found between certain
types of organisations. Such links always follow the same direction: from peripheral
organisations towards those with more reach and capability for action or, not
surprisingly, from privileged organisations to other equally privileged ones.
Keywords: Civil society, network analysis, civil organisations, São Paulo.

Cite this publication

Gurza Lavalle, A., G. Castello & R.M. Bichir (2008) The backstage of civil society : protagonisms, networks, and affinities between civil organisations in São Paulo. Working paper series, 299. Brighton: IDS.

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