Research group on Civil Society and Citizenship in Development (CitDe)


As a part of her Academy of Finland Research Fellowship, Tiina Kontinen leads a research group on Civil Society and Citizenship in Development. The main aim of the group is to bring together researchers, PhD candidates and students with various disciplinary backgrounds in order to create knowledge on issues related to citizenship and civil society in the context of development research and practice. The group investigates different dynamics, manifestations and dilemmas related to conceptualizing citizenship and civil society, as well as conducts critical analysis of the practices undertaken under the banner of "strengthening citizenship and civil society".  The group builds on the concluded and ongoing research projects led by Kontinen and actively searches for new collaboration and funding opportunities in relevant fields.

Research themes

Research conducted in the group investigates contextualized processes of organizing and mobilizing in civil society,  the experienced citizenship in a variety of contexts, the intertwining of different institutional logics within civil society, and the organizational dynamics including the intervention approaches of development NGOs. Currently focus is on Eastern Africa and Finland. The current themes include:

  • Knowledge creation in development NGOs
  • Organizational learning and forgetting in civil society organizations
  • Hybridity and intertwining logics in governance and life-worlds
  • Experienced citizenship, participation and politics of belonging
  • Contextualized building of citizens' capacities and competencies

 Group activities

The group arranges internal research seminars and coordinates working groups in relevant conferences.  It seeks to conduct critical analysis and identify new approaches in the situation where there are increasing needs to understand  hybrid forms of governance, life-worlds and politics of belonging under the conditions of global political, economic and environmental changes, as well as the continuous crisis of civil society and NGOs as actors in international development and the implications of the growing role of private sector within the field. In this effort, it also actively collaborates with  civil society organizations and development policy actors.

Group members

Senior researchers and postdocs

Dr Henni Alava, University of Jyväskylä

Dr, Docent Päivi Hasu, University of Jyväskylä

Dr Ajali Nguyahambi, postdoctoral researcher in GROW-project, University of Jyväskylä

Dr Eija Ranta, postdoctoral research fellow, John Norton Center for North American Studies, University of Turku & associate researcher at development studies, University of Helsinki and Centro Latinoamericano de Ecología Social, Uruguay. 

PhD candidates

Anja Onali, Development Studies, University of Helsinki

Master Degree students

Ombeni Mwanga, Development and International Cooperation, University of Jyväskylä

Tesfaye Nigusu, Development and International Cooperation, University of Jyväskylä

Conference participation

Coordination of a working group "Civil society actors and transformative development? Possibilities, challenges, and ways forward" in Development Days 2018, Annual Conference of the Finnish Society for Development Research, Helsinki 15.-16.2.2018,  Tiina Kontinen and Auli Starck (KEPA).

Coordination of an academic panel “Cross-Sectional Organizing, Alliance-Building and Hybrid Logics” in EADI Nordic Conference, 20.-23.8.2017, Bergen, Norway. Tiina Kontinen and Marja Spierenburg, Professor, Department of Anthropology and Development Studies, Radboud University Nijmegen, Netherlands.

Coordination of a working group "Authoritarianism and civil society: Implications for organizing and mobilizing?" in Development Days 2017, Annual Conference of the Finnish Society for Development Research, Helsinki 16.-17.2.2017. Tiina Kontinen,  Anja Onali and Ajali Nguyahambi.

Research projects

 Other projects

Kansalaisyhteiskuntaselvitys. Study into the role of civil society actors in development cooperation (11/2016-3/2017), Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland.


Development Studies, University of Helsinki

Research group on Responsive Natural Resources Governance, University of Eastern Finland

Recent publications

Kontinen, T. (2018) Learning and Forgetting in Development NGOs. Insights from Organisational Theory. Oxon: Routledge. 

Kontinen, T. & Onali, A. (2017) Strengthening Institutional Isomorphism in Development NGOs? Program Mechanisms in an Organizational Intervention. SAGE Open 7 (1).

Kontinen, T. & Millstein, M. (2017) Rethinking Civil Society in Development: Scales and Situated Hegemonies.  Forum for Development Studies, 44(1), 69-89.  http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/08039410.2016.1264994?needAccess=true

Hayman, R., King, S.,  Kontinen,T. & Narayanaswamy, L. (eds.) (2016)  Negotiating Knowledge: Evidence and Experience in Development NGOs. Rugby: Practical Action.