Pogledaj Full Version : The Changing Face of Civil Society

Željko Zidarić
27th-May-2012, 11:53 PM
Download PDF (www.iftf.org/system/files/deliverables//Civil%20Society.pdf)

Boomers know their clout: they believe they will have a big impact on politics, health care, and the institutions of aging as they move through their sixties and seventies. While few of them see themselves as political activists, they are engaging in a variety of activities in what has been called “civil society,” and it is here that they are most likely to make their impact on aging and on the world at large. Their engagement with civil society will coincide with a renaissance of civil society worldwide—with new platforms for civic engagement as well as hope for new kinds of democratic processes. This intersection will likely change not only the options for aging boomers but also the role of civil society itself.

Civil Society:
The alternative road
Civil society has diverse definitions—from the narrow perspective that focuses on NGOs to broader viewpoints that include all formal and informal social organizations that are neither government agencies nor corporate institutions. Regardless of definition, however, it’s clear that civil society is an alternative to the big institutions that have shaped boomers’ lives from childhood to the present. The question is: why should we expect boomers to take this alternative route?

In the wake of the boomer activism of the late 1960s and early 1970s, two important shifts occurred. First, governments began to be dismantled in favor of market mechanisms for managing societal issues, from child welfare and health to recreation and regulation. This shift coincided with the rapid growth of the self-help movement. The result was
a proliferation of both commercial and non-profit avenues for boomers to patch together their social values and their complex consumer lives.

Global Society:
Local matters
In the absence of a strong national government, today’s boomers are bringing this bottom-up approach to the issues of aging with a distinct bias toward local solutions. Boomers who are “aging sustainably” work through local organizations like the church, local chapters of the New Roadmap Foundation, and local neighborhood groups. Those who are “still questing” have passionate projects focused on local issues such as local shelters for homeless women or teens. Boomers who are “coming home” or “forging family” likewise look to local community groups and innovations to create the kinds of lives they want as they age.

At the same time, more and more of these boomers will be networked globally over the next 20 years. More will travel abroad for health care or have friends who have relocated to other countries. Even local politics will have a global face as civic groups abroad play a larger role in local politics in the United States. Local issues will be linked to global society, and local minorities will link up with people worldwide to form global majorities.

The gateway to activism
Health is where these patterns are likely to show up first. No previous generation has had more choices about how to manage their health as they age. These choices will only proliferate in the future as genetic therapies and anti-aging drugs change the landscape of aging and disease. At the same time, no generation has faced such huge health care costs dispersed across a population with such a large gap in the ability to pay those costs. Add in health uncertainties related to global climate change, and the result is the kind of volatility that can lead to large-scale political activism.

Such activism may not play out in the familiar expressions of the past. Look instead to online platforms that bring together people to share health information and experiences as a source of targeted network attacks on specific health issues and providers. You could think of these new civic actors as “Patients-Like-Me meets Moveon. org.” For a generation that sees health as its most important resource for the future, expect health to drive innovation in the civic sphere as much as in the commercial sphere.