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Democracy Bottom-Up: International Congress of Civil Society Organizations in Support of Poland

Second Warsaw Summit

Tentative dates: 2-3 October 2024

Venue: Collegium Civitas, Palace of Science and Culture, Warsaw

Evolution Institute Organizers: Nina Witoszek, Vice President, and Jerry Lieberman, Co-founder and Secretary/Treasurer


The congress has a fourfold objective:

  1. Discussing strategies for building a strong a coalition of civil society organizations (CSOs) as a means for strengthening democracy in Poland;
  2. Critically reviewing ways of advancing the relationship between politicians, CSOs, and society at large;
  3. Comparing experiences of civil society organizations from various cultural contexts, with a special focus on Poland, Norway, the US, and Mondragon Corporation and University;
  4. Identifying a “codex of good practices” of efficacious NGOs, nations, and regions that have strong democratic institutions, practices, and a high quality of life.

Executive Summary

The project focuses on improving the capacity of CSOs to promote and strengthen democracy and citizens’ participation in political decision-making.  In particular, the project is designed to overcome one of the key challenges of the current modus operandi of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in most countries:  decentralized and fragmented actions carried out within one’s own “commons” and lack of a coordinating center that would make civic initiatives more collaborative and successful.

Today, most CSOs that do important work in such areas as innovative educational practice, reform of health system, improvement of citizens’ working conditions, childcare, or environmental/climate transformation, are largely acting within their own boundaries and silos.  To avoid a democratic recession, we need a “civic ecosystem,” which stems from a strong coalition of interrelated non-profit organizations that strive for the same goals – renewing democracy, counteracting misinformation, forging a more inclusive society, and building an informed public sphere. This will enable CSOs to better communicate and cooperate with one another within an interactive public sphere that is robust enough to positively influence and persuade elected and appointed public officials on matters of important public policy.


The impetus for the Congress is the current democratic recession and social polarization that increasingly bedevils the global world. According to 2024 Democracy Index, published by the Economist and measuring the quality of democracy across the world, the number of actual, fully-qualified democracies shrank to 24, flawed democracies have grown to 54, and authoritarian nations number 59.

In this depressing context, the October 2023 reclamation of democracy in Poland has been encouraging.  Crucial to the collective mobilization of prodemocratic forces has been the creative input of CSOs. It is vital that they remain fully engaged to ensure there will be a sustainable democracy and a catalyst for uniting a divided society. Before the emergence of the pro-democratic coalition government on 15 October 2023, Poland had suffered hyperpolarization and “fake news” – strongly reminiscent of today’s United States. It is a Herculean task to restore democratic institutions that have been undermined, if not dismantled, by the previous government.

The premise for the Congress is the conviction that an effective way to forge a well-functioning democracy is by strengthening the role of civil society and codifying the rules of interaction between politicians, NGOs, and society-at-large.

Learn about the 2023 Democracy Bottom-Up Warsaw Summit here.