Semi-structured interviewing as a tool for understanding informal civil society

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This article aims to present semi-structured interviewing as a pivotal tool used in research on the expressions of informal civil society, including the narratives of activists outside the third sector, but involved in grassroots initiatives. As quantitative research mostly focuses on formally registered organisations, it tends to legitimise and reproduce a narrow understanding of civil society. Semi-structured interviewing, on the other hand, is effective for gaining insight into hidden aspects of social life, problems that are not immediately perceptible. It enables the analysis of under-researched informal civil society and allows researchers to investigate the organisational challenges, practices and languages of unregistered initiatives. Nevertheless, research challenges include the ethical dilemmas related to power dynamics in research-participant relations, the positionality of the researcher and limited generalisability of the findings. Based on a literature review, including articles on civil society studies from five journals, I claim that interviewing opens the way to a more radical and broad understanding of civil society, which includes unregistered initiatives.

Abstract

This article aims to present semi-structured interviewing as a pivotal tool used in research on the expressions of informal civil society, including the narratives of activists outside the third sector, but involved in grassroots initiatives. As quantitative research mostly focuses on formally registered organisations, it tends to legitimise and reproduce a narrow understanding of civil society. Semi-structured interviewing, on the other hand, is effective for gaining insight into hidden aspects of social life, problems that are not immediately perceptible. It enables the analysis of under-researched informal civil society and allows researchers to investigate the organisational challenges, practices and languages of unregistered initiatives. Nevertheless, research challenges include the ethical dilemmas related to power dynamics in research-participant relations, the positionality of the researcher and limited generalisability of the findings. Based on a literature review, including articles on civil society studies from five journals, I claim that interviewing opens the way to a more radical and broad understanding of civil society, which includes unregistered initiatives.

Introduction

The qualitative interview methodology, the semi-structured interview in particular, is presented in this article as a pivotal tool in studying expressions of informal civil society; this includes the narratives of activists involved in grassroots initiatives who are outside the third sector. Quantitative research tends to focus on formally registered organisations, allowing the methodology to legitimise and reproduce a narrow understanding of civil society. Until recently, the literature on civil society paid limited attention to informal initiatives, making the third sector the overwhelming representative of civil society. Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have dominated in defining and identifying civil society to the extent of marginalising other forms of activism (Bunyan, 2014; Kościański, 2015). However, there is a growing recognition of informal initiatives, mostly owing to qualitative research, showing that traditionally applied indicators of institutionalised participation, such as quantitative scholarship, do not take into account informal activities that have emerged globally. Interviewing enables this under-researched civil society informality to be analysed. It also allows the researchers to investigate the organisational challenges, practices and languages of grassroots initiatives. Semi-structured interviewing assists in analysing individual stories prominent within the informal sphere of civil society. Due to its freewheeling quality, and the use of an interview guide, interviewing elicits the problematic moments and meanings in civil activists’ lives. Nevertheless, research challenges include the ethical dilemmas related to power dynamics and asymmetries in research-participant relations, the positionality of the researcher and limited generalisability of the findings. Interviewing also limits the generalisability of the study’s findings, but this may not be required for a valid understanding of informal civic engagement.

This article begins with a literature review on understanding civil society, with a special focus on its informal and unregistered forms. After this I discuss qualitative research and semi-structured interviewing. Then I highlight the advantages and limitations of the method and link it to civil society studies. The following section introduces the methodological design of the article. Next, I present the findings of the literature review. Finally, I conclude by discussing the methodological implications of using semi-structured interviewing for a deeper understanding of informal civil society.

Understanding informal civil society

One of the seminal research studies on civil society, conducted by Salamon and Anheier (1996), focuses on the formally registered organisations that constitute civil society: NGOs. This highly popular and widely cited work provides a tangible definition of civil society. It introduces an assessment of civil society based on the number and condition of NGOs in a particular country or region. But no matter how appealing and powerful the concept is, it tends to limit the perception of civil society to officially registered, easily measurable, formal organisations. It is part of a broader process of the ‘NGO-isation’ of civil society that took place in the 1980s and 1990s (and even afterwards in Central Europe) (Howell and Pearce, 2001; Jacobsson and Saxonberg, 2013; Lang, 2013). According to Kościański (2015), in recent decades NGOs have dominated in defining and identifying social participation to the extent of marginalising other forms of activism. Yet a vibrant, broadly defined civil society cannot be fully determined only by official indicators, such as state registers and metrics of NGOs.

Existing scholarship on civil society has been mainly focused on formal organisations (NGOs), which frequently leads to the thesis of weak civil society in a particular country or region based on the number of registered, formal organisations and public participation within them (Stolle and Hooghe, 2005; Jacobsson and Korolczuk, 2017). As a result, various (mainly qualitative) researchers have contested the theory of the weakness of civil society in Central and Eastern Europe (Aliyev, 2015), including Ukraine (Krasynska and Martin, 2017), Russia (Ljubownikow et al, 2013) and Poland (Ekiert and Kubik, 2014), as well as in Greece (Sotiropoulos, 2004), Armenia (Ishkanian, 2015) and Vietnam (Vu, 2017).

Whereas previous studies especially on Central and Eastern European civil society mainly focused on official and registered forms of activism, emerging qualitative research (using semi-structured interviewing) acknowledges grassroots, informal civic mobilisations as an important ‘sphere’ of broadly defined civil society. This may contribute to the establishment of alternative methodological and theoretical approaches and the creation of new civil society measurements that encompass the results of informal civic participation (see Krasynska and Martin, 2017).

As Evers (2010) and Bunyan (2014) argue, the tendency to narrow civil society down to NGOs is nowadays critically discussed as a serious impoverishment to the concept of ‘civil society’. A wide definition of civil society offers an alternative to (prior) limited attention to informal, grassroots initiatives. It encompasses the full range of formal and informal, registered and unregistered associations, as well as various informal groups and neighbourhood committees (O’Connell, 2000; DeHoog and Racanska, 2001; Buxton and Konovalova, 2013), leading to the ‘dehomogenisation of civil society’ (Gliński, 2006). Such an approach enables us ‘to think of civil society not exclusively in terms of organisational structures’ (Jacobsson and Korolczuk, 2017: 4) and to analyse the fluid boundaries between the interconnected and interdependent spheres of social life (Alexander, 2006). However, it impedes accurate analysis within quantitative research, as most metrics do not capture the wide range and richness of vibrant civic engagement. It requires qualitative research, covering in-depth case studies, to include people outside of the formal third sector: activists involved in grassroots, unregistered initiatives that remain scantly studied (Benenson, 2017; Krasynska and Martin, 2017; Spencer and Skalaban, 2018). The implementation of semi-structured interviewing supports a deep understanding of the interactions and relations between representatives of NGOs and grassroot, informal initiatives (Glasius and Ishkanian, 2015; Chewinski, 2019; Zhang et al, 2020) and acknowledges the hybrid identities that ‘occupy a space between loosely organised grassroots groups/networks and fully professionalised organisations’ (Chewinski, 2019: 358). Overall, it stresses the polyphonic character of civil society, giving voices to the various actors involved in widely defined civic engagement (Jezierska and Polanska, 2018).

Specifically, the use of semi-structured interviewing not only enables the reaching out to and analysis of under-researched informal civil society through purposive and snowball sampling, but also allows the researcher to investigate the organisational structures, repertoires of action, tactics, practices and languages of grassroots initiatives otherwise defined as ‘informal civil society groups’, as well as activists’ aspirations (Krasynska and Martin, 2017), in a ‘solidaristic sphere’ (Alexander, 2006). This technique is particularly suited for studying specific situations and using relatively small sample sizes (Merriam, 1998). Moreover, ‘since they provide access to perceptions and opinions, they are effective for gaining insight into problems that are not immediately perceptible but that nonetheless cause concern’ (Laforest et al, 2012: 1). Thus, semi-structured interviewing allows the gathering of sensitive and problematic qualitative data, which are insufficiently presented in the literature on civil society. In other words, it offers a promising research strategy for investigating the hidden aspects of civil society. Overall, it allows a qualitative in-depth understanding of informal civil society, gleaned from the ‘perspectives of those being studied’ (Merriam, 2009: 1).

The following sections of this article present the purpose, advantages and limitations of qualitative research in general and semi-structured interviewing in particular.

The purpose of qualitative research

Qualitative research aims to gain a deep comprehension of complexity. It is particularly suited when theory is underdeveloped, providing a useful tool to ‘discover and understand a phenomenon, … and worldviews of the people’ (Merriam, 1998: 11). Thus, it is relevant for the exploratory phase of investigating poorly known-about issues as it provides a foundation for future empirical and theoretical studies (Yin, 2014; Corbin and Strauss, 2015). However, as Diefenbach (2009: 888) argues, ‘there is a huge lack of critique and critical discussion … about the possibilities of qualitative empirical research’.

Fundamentally, qualitative research should be adopted when the focus is on the process (why and how things happen) rather than the outcome, as well as on the meaning that people give to their experiences (words over numbers) (Merriam, 2009; Denzin and Lincoln, 2011; Yin, 2014). In other words, it is both observational and reflective (Stake, 2010). What is crucial, given the subject of this article, is that qualitative research is a significant tool for allowing members of marginalised populations (as activists in unregistered, grassroots initiatives can be – in terms of both their limited recognition and visibility and their scarce resources) to share their experiences (Esterberg, 2002). Following an interpretive approach, it offers insights into how social actors interpret and make sense of a given phenomenon in a given context (Stake, 2010; Creswell, 2013). Moreover, the proximity of the researcher to social actors affords access to respondents’ cognitive schemata (Denzin and Lincoln, 2011), depicts a mental picture of activists and reveals the subtleties in defining processual civil society.

A positivist approach in quantitative work, on the other hand, would not be able to grasp intangible aspects of studied social experience, such as the emotions and motives of social actors. Consequently, it could not capture ‘the inside reality’ of informal civil society.

Semi-structured interviewing: aims, definitions and limitations

In qualitative research, there are various types of interviews, ranged along a continuum, including unstructured, semi-structured and structured interviews. Semi-structured interviewing provides ‘a certain degree of standardization of interview questions, and a certain degree of openness of response by the interviewer’ (Wengraf, 2001: 62). It shares more similarities with unstructured interviewing: it also generates qualitative data (Arksey and Knight, 1999), ‘has much of the freewheeling quality of unstructured interviewing, and requires all the same skills’ (Russell Bernard, 2006: 212). However, the researcher has a bigger influence in focusing the interview on issues crucial to the study (Brinkmann, 2013). In comparison to structured interviewing, the semi-structured technique gives the researcher ‘a greater chance of becoming visible as a knowledge-producing participant’ (Brinkmann, 2013: 21).

One of the key features of a semi-structured interview is an interview guide, based on a few main, open-ended questions and topics that the study is focused on (Arksey and Knight, 1999; Edwards and Holland, 2013). It helps the researcher to conduct interviews according to a previously developed catalogue of issues. At the same time, an interview guide allows the necessary flexibility for spontaneous and in-depth responses, thanks to the possibility to ask additional questions for elaboration, deliberation, clarification or detours (McCracken, 1988; Grindsted, 2005). Thus, despite a clear agenda that secures comparability, an interview guide in semi-structured interviewing also enables an exploration of unexpected issues as they emerge (Edwards and Holland, 2013). In general, semi-structured interviewing gives interviewers more agency over what (and how) they can explore things, and thus such a technique may be particularly well suited to under-researched areas and themes (see Kvale, 1996; Wengraf, 2001; Diefenbach, 2009; Creswell, 2013).

Semi-structured interviews are probably the most common and most diverse qualitative research technique (Arksey and Knight, 1999; Creswell, 2013; Edwards and Holland, 2013) and the only format carefully described in textbooks on qualitative research (Brinkmann, 2013). The growing popularity of qualitative interviews can be explained by recognition of a need for and relevance of findings from interviews with decision makers in diverse policy areas, such as welfare, health and education. The crucial advantage of qualitative interviews is that they enable researchers to explore the weave of everyday life, the (meanings of) interviewees’ experiences and the ways social processes and institutions work (Rubin and Rubin, 2005). Therefore, qualitative researchers ‘often decide to use interviews in order to elicit descriptions of the life world’ (Brinkmann, 2013: 23). However, such interviews are not concerned with checking the accuracy of the interviewees’ accounts, as happens in survey interviews and questionnaires (Arksey and Knight, 1999).

Similar to other qualitative techniques, using semi-structured interviews requires diligent and theorised preparation. This includes an articulated conceptual framework and the development of an interview guide (Wengraf, 2001; Rubin and Rubin, 2005). Moreover, the conduct of the researcher is crucial to make the entire process successful. The researcher’s social skills used throughout the interview process are equally important. They involve active and careful listening, empathy, spontaneity, the appropriate use of clarifying procedures and the ability to ask questions and interpret the interlocutor’s reactions (Borbasi et al, 2002). Establishing social rapport, providing a safe environment and taking care of the interviewee’s wellbeing (Lowes and Gill, 2006) serve as the prerequisite to capture the detailed, intimate and nuanced perspectives of informants. Nevertheless, it does not mean that interviewees’ narratives are accepted at face value – they need to be critically analysed (Wengraf, 2001).

Despite their flexibility and ability to yield rich and illuminating material (Denzin and Lincoln, 2011), semi-structured interviews cause several concerns that have to be taken into account.

The methodological problems of qualitative research mainly based on semi-structured interviews include:

  • the researcher’s positionality;

  • a lack of precise qualitative scientific methods to investigate the research question;

  • the unsystematic selection of interviewees;

  • low reliability of the sources of information (interviewees’ bias);

  • the absence of objective criteria for the selection, grouping and interpretation of the data;

  • low internal validity of the data;

  • low external validity of the findings;

  • limited application of the findings to social science (Diefenbach, 2009).

All of these limitations are related to the immanent dose of subjectivity in the qualitative research process, derived from the lack of universal, systematic models of making decisions while conducting such a study. Nevertheless, despite the absence of standardised procedures, there are several guidelines on credibility, confirmability and transferability, ensuring the methodological rigor of qualitative research. Ways of ensuring rigor include the use of thick descriptions, the triangulation of data, methodological transparency (documenting data collection and analysis methods) and reflexivity – explicitly situating the researcher (Dodge et al, 2012).

First, the role of the interviewer is ambiguous. On the one hand, the researcher plays an active part in the social interaction during the interview: a neutral interviewer is an unattainable ideal. Therefore, their responsibility is to make sufficiently explicit their own (implicit) assumptions, aims and interests as well as practical and ideological entanglement related to the study (Pyett, 2003; Diefenbach, 2009; Edwards and Holland, 2013). Fundamentally, active collaboration between the parties involved in the interview, including a certain amount of sharing worldviews and more conversation-like form, can significantly enhance valid responses (Grindsted, 2005). On the other hand, the interviewer should be conscious and wary of social desirability response bias that may influence the results of the study. This is of particular significance when the interview covers sensitive issues (Rooney et al, 2004).

Moreover, research challenges include the power dynamics and asymmetries embedded in researcher-participant relations as well as human factor’s influence on the knowledge production (Kostera, 2003; Pyett, 2003). In order to tackle this obstacle, a qualitative researcher should describe who was interviewed (the social actors’ status, interests, privileges and inequalities), the reasons behind selecting particular interviewees, and their potential relation to the research team or institution. At the same time, the researcher should follow anonymity rules that both parties mutually agreed upon before or during the interview. Lastly, the interviewer should also frequently re-evaluate assumptions about the interviewees in order to avoid confirmation bias (Benenson, 2017).

Furthermore, as there is no single way of understanding and practising qualitative interviewing, it depends heavily on the research conditions and the researcher’s aims and competencies (Brinkmann, 2013). Both the selection and analysis of data are based on the researcher’s subjective decisions rather than a simple algorithm. Data analysis is actually perceived as ‘the most demanding and least examined aspect of qualitative research’ (McCracken, 1988: 41). The emerging difficulty is not to presume ‘that an interview is an unproblematic window on psychological or social realities, and that the “information” that the interviewee gives … can be simply extracted and quoted’ (Wengraf, 2001: 1). Therefore, considerable attention must be paid to proper operationalisation, which is frequently underestimated by qualitative researchers (Wengraf, 2001).

Moreover, the process of coding (labelling and organising qualitative data in order to identify common threads) raises challenges. Thus, one of the ways to facilitate a complex coding process is to involve two or more researchers who code the material independently, then evaluate and mutually agree on the results. Nonetheless, even the most conscientious coding requires subjective decisions concerning the inclusion and exclusion of data (Diefenbach, 2009).

Additionally, since the internal validity (referring to the consistency of emerging patterns) of interview data is arguable, further checking and gaining additional information are highly recommended. Overall, most studies based on semi-structured interviewing should be supplemented by the triangulation of data. The idea behind this is to obtain data from different sources, using various methods, investigations or theories. Nevertheless, triangulation should not be a simple blending of as many methods, approaches and sources of data as possible. A study should not combine distinct, mutually exclusive methods that are founded on different ontological or epistemological assumptions (Arksey and Knight, 1999). Properly implemented triangulation, though, serves as a useful strategy for in-depth understanding, completeness and validation (Arksey and Knight, 1999; Glesne, 1999; Denzin and Lincoln, 2003). Moreover, increasing the number of interviews (expanding the sample size) may help improve the quality of gained data and expose more common patterns, adding to the generalisability of study findings. In that light, the multiple case study research technique is able to reduce the risk of the exceptional singularity of an individual case study, enhance validity and curtail bias (Small, 2009), as well as facilitate a better foundation for analytical generalisations (Yin, 2014). According to Eisenhardt and Graebner (2007), the multiple case study approach is reliable and powerful compared with a series of laboratory experiments. At the same time, increasing the number of interviews within a single case study can also be a beneficial approach.

Furthermore, while qualitative case studies reveal in-depth insights about concrete settings, it is crucial to put the findings sufficiently into historical, societal, ideological and structural context, aiming to widen and deepen their explanatory function (Wainwright, 1997; Denzin and Lincoln, 2003). Again, this relies on the researcher’s motivation and ability to conduct a systematic and comprehensive literature review (Diefenbach, 2009).

To sum up, rigorous qualitative research based on the researcher’s ethos, expertise and high social competencies can lead to an unprecedented richness and diversity of the data found (Pyett, 2003). The overwhelmingly subjective dimension of semi-structured interviewing can be perceived as both an advantage and a disadvantage. Certainly, despite all listed limitations, semi-structured interviewing represents a unique technique for confronting hidden aspects of social life (Gurtowski and Waszewski, 2009) and capturing social actors’ own interpretations.

Methodology

This article is mainly based on a thorough review of relevant literature, including major theoretical and empirical works on qualitative research and semi-structured interviewing as well as on civil society studies, with a particular focus on the existing scholarship on informal civil society. A comprehensive literature review was supplemented by an examination of peer-reviewed articles published in the period 2015–20. Five prominent, internationally recognised journals that include interdisciplinary studies on civil society were chosen: Voluntary Sector Review, Journal of Civil Society, Voluntas, Nonprofit Management and Leadership and Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly.

The review started with the selection of available articles based on the following key words: ‘semi-structured’, ‘semistructured’ and ‘interview’. That stage resulted in 306 articles. After further screening looking at relevance, seven articles were excluded as they referred to another study’s method (semi-structured interviewing), and did not use it directly themselves. Therefore, in total the sample consisted of 299 articles in which the authors used semi-structured interviewing as a methodological tool (see Table 1). A subsequent examination was aimed at selecting articles concerning informal, unregistered forms of civic engagement (informal civil society). This resulted in the creation of a base of 18 articles using semi-structured interviewing for a study on informal civil society beyond the non-governmental sector. These articles were, together with the complex literature review, the foundation of my analysis.

Table 1:

Results of the review of peer-reviewed articles published in five selected journals

Name of the journalSampleNumber of articles pre-selected by key wordsNumber of articles after screening for relevanceNumber of articles using semi-structured interviewing to study informal civil societyArticles using semi-structured interviewing to study informal civil society
Voluntary Sector ReviewPeer-reviewed articles published in 2015–20 (volumes 6–11)41412Phillimore and McCabe (2015); Jacklin-Jarvis and Cole (2019)
Voluntas: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit OrganisationsPeer-reviewed articles published in 2015–20 (volumes 26–31)1461409Glasius and Ishkanian (2015); Benenson (2017); Krasynska and Martin (2017); Vu (2017); Grazioli and Caciagli (2018); Jezierska and Polanska (2018); Spencer and Skalaban (2018); Chewinski (2019); Zhang et al (2020)
Nonprofit Management and LeadershipPeer-reviewed articles published in 2015–20 (volumes 25–30)32310
Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector QuarterlyPeer-reviewed articles published in 2015–20 (volumes 44–49)53531Harris et al (2017)
Journal of Civil SocietyPeer-reviewed articles published in 2015–20 (volumes 11–16)34346Lagerkvist (2015); Dufour (2016); Dunphy (2017); Ishkanian (2017); Simiti (2017); Theros (2019)
Total30629918

The analysis was also complemented with my personal reflections as a young researcher who has been using semi-structured interviewing as a primary methodological tool in civil society research (more than 50 interviews conducted).1

Semi-structured interviewing in civil society studies: results

The main findings of the conducted review are twofold. On the one hand, semi-structured interviewing is a relatively popular technique among the examined journals (299 works). On the other hand, studies in the selected journals are predominantly NGO-oriented. Scarce attention is given to informal expressions of civil society – only 18 articles published in Voluntary Sector Review, Journal of Civil Society, Voluntas, Nonprofit Management and Leadership and Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly between 2015 and 2020 represent qualitative studies based on semi-structured interviewing that concern informal civil society. All data are shown in Table 1. The next section includes deeper, more complex findings and methodological implications from a thorough review of the relevant literature.

In this article, I focus on the informality of broadly defined civil society. I refer to a wide range of grassroots civic engagement (for example, protests, community organising, informal citizen actions and movements), self-identified as being outside ‘civil society industry’ (Glasius and Ishkanian, 2015). Special attention is given to unregistered forms of self-organisation: various activities in which citizens mobilise energy and resources for political or social change (Lagerkvist, 2015; Theros, 2019). Moreover, the hybridity and heterogeneity of civil society are explored by demonstrating the emerging types of groups, networks and activism that include many different forms of action (formal and informal, registered and unregistered, local and mass) to pursue a common goal (Glasius and Ishkanian, 2015; Dufour, 2016; Dunphy, 2017; Ishkanian, 2017; Krasynska and Martin, 2017; Simiti, 2017; Jezierska and Polanska, 2018; Spencer and Skalaban, 2018; Chewinski, 2019; Zhang et al, 2020).

Thus, I studied informal civil society that is not simply centred on NGOs with paid workers (Vu, 2017), but frequently creates alliances (Glasius and Ishkanian, 2015; Chewinski, 2019; Zhang et al, 2020) or transforms into non-governmental entities.

Analysis of the reviewed articles showed the heterogeneity of geographical scope. On the one hand, more than half of the works (11 articles) were conducted in the Western world, among old, long-lasting democratic states (Canada, France, Great Britain, Greece, Ireland, Italy and the United States), with a big representation of studies in Great Britain (five articles). On the other, there were three examples of studies conducted in the post-Soviet states (Armenia, Russia and Ukraine) as well as two articles on Asian authoritarian regimes (China and Vietnam). The last three studied works were done in Afghanistan, Egypt and Poland. It is crucial to note that the authors of all analysed articles underlined the scarcity or inconsistency of research in the studied area.

Importantly, some of the analysed articles (10 out of 18) used a mixed-method approach, to increase understanding, completeness and validation of the findings. The characteristics of the 18 articles are shown in Table 2.

Table 2:

Characteristics of the reviewed articles that used semi-structured interviewing to study informal civil society

Articles using semi-structured interviewing to study informal civil societyArea of informal civil society studied in the articlesMethods used in the reviewed articlesThe geographical scope of the research
Phillimore and McCabe (2015)Unregistered, small-scale civil society organisationsSemi-structured interviewsEngland and Wales
Jacklin-Jarvis and Cole (2019)Voluntary and community actions that enable residents to contribute to their shaping and governanceSemi-structured interviews, focus group interviewEngland
Benenson (2017)Various civic engagement activities of low-income individuals (community organising, giving money, informal engagement, religious participation and volunteering)Semi-structured interviewsUnited States
Chewinski (2019)NGO–grassroots-group dynamics: interviews with core activists in a movement confronting Canadian resource extraction abroadSemi-structured interviewsCanada
Glasius and Ishkanian (2015)The relationship between informal groups of activists engaged in street protests or direct action and NGOsSemi-structured interviewsArmenia, Egypt, England, Greece
Grazioli and Caciagli (2018)The phenomenon of collective squatting: interviews with activists (engaged in square occupations or direct action), journalists, representatives of NGOs, trade unions and political partiesSemi-structured interviews, direct participant observationItaly
Jezierska and Polanska (2018)A tenants’ movement in Poland encompassing both registered NGOs and work in an un-institutionalised fashion, without the legal form of an association; studying the hybrid structure of the movement; interviews with Polish tenants’ activistsSemi-structured interviews, secondary research (media material)Poland
Krasynska and Martin (2017)Insight into the formal and informal dimensions of civil society: interviews with key players of Euromaidan (protesters, NGO representatives, businesses leaders and international development actors, as well as local scholars, activists and journalists)Semi-structured interviews, secondary research (social and popular media)Ukraine
Spencer and Skalaban (2018)Various ‘civic associations’ (authors’ term for both formally registered and unregistered institutions); five different types of legal forms were included in the study (religious association, NGO, neighbourhood association, civic organisation and community foundation) along with informal movements and social groupsSemi-structured interviewsRussia
Vu (2017)Civil society activism not centred on NGO actions: The Trees Movement, a broad-based citizen-led movement established to protest against the Hanoi government’s arbitrary decision to cut down treesVarious forms of interviews: ‘ranging from instant interviews …, to unstructured and semi-structured interviews, and … the form of extended conversations’Vietnam
Zhang et al (2020)NGO engagement with various grassroots environmental protests in China: collaboration and relationships between the state, NGOs and social movements (protesters)Semi-structured interviews, secondary research (media material)China
Harris et al (2017)Spontaneous volunteering (also called convergent volunteering, unaffiliated volunteering and walk-in volunteering in the literature); even though the volunteering is commonly studied in relation to non-profit management, spontaneous volunteering ‘is conceptually distinct from the activities of volunteers affiliated with, and managed by, formal non-profits; and distinct from activities by paid personnel conducted under the formal auspices of non-profit, governmental, or business organisations’ (Baxter-Tomkins and Michelle, 2009, cited in Harris (2017)Semi-structured interviewsEngland
Dufour (2016)Local social forums – heterogeneous gatherings of activists ‘characterized by a strong plasticity and … organized and used differently from place to place’ (Dufour 2016: 310)Semi-structured interviews, focus group interviews, workshopsFrance, Canada
Dunphy (2017)Three pillars of the Irish anti-austerity movement – trade unions, politicians, and community activists and grassroots groups – with a special focus on the last of theseSemi-structured interviewsIreland
Ishkanian (2017)Anti-austerity and pro-democracy movements in large metropolitan areas, with a focus on the activists working in grassroots groups, not an analysis of the groups as organisationsSemi-structured interviews, secondary research (for example, manifestos, articles and blog posts)England
Lagerkvist (2015)Non-registered groups that operate in the unofficial civic domain, with the case of the Wukan incident as a specific protestSemi-structured interviews, secondary research (both traditional and social media)China
Simiti (2017)Trends in the NGO sector as well as the rise of new informal solidarity networks that link social welfare projects to political activismSemi-structured interviews, secondary researchGreece
Theros (2019)Local understandings and practices of civil society in Afghanistan: new types of actors and activism explored; advocating for ‘broader understandings of civil society and shift away from the dominant donor focus on supporting professionalised NGOs’ (Theros, 2019: 158); interviews with five different social groups: (a) religious, community and tribal leaders; (b) NGOs and journalists; (c) professors and local teachers; (d) community-based (informal) activists and artists; and (e) youth activistsSemi-structured interviews, provincial small-group dialogues, interpersonal interaction and participant observation, larger-scale cross-community dialogues and action-oriented forms of research, as well as relevant academic and grey literatureAfghanistan

Methodological implications and conclusions

Based on the literature review and my personal research experience, I recommend incorporating semi-structured interviewing in third sector studies in the following cases:

  • when studying activists’ motivations, methods, organisational culture and collective identity in terms of grassroots, informal civic engagements;

  • when studying the collaboration between NGOs and informal, grassroots movements or protests;

  • when studying the civic sphere in transition: processes of change and identity formation, emerging NGOs from informal initiatives and the NGO-isation of civil society;

  • when studying marginalised, under-researched forms of activism in a particular region as qualitative research allows members of marginalised populations (as activists in unregistered, grassroots initiatives or unaffiliated volunteers can be – in terms of both their limited recognition and visibility and their scarce resources) to share their experiences (Esterberg, 2002).

Importantly, the above-mentioned cases are not mutually exclusive.

To conclude, I strongly argue for methodologically sound and ethical qualitative studies incorporating semi-structured interviewing in order to demonstrate how diverse and multifaceted civil society is and to offer a nuanced view on the motives, practices and languages behind under-researched informal, unregistered initiatives. The narratives of interviewees representing such initiatives can illustrate the expectations, motivations, dilemmas and conflicts related to grassroots civic engagement that are rarely depicted in quantitative studies and public discourses.

Limitations and suggestions for further research

This study has some key limitations and there are a few opportunities to extend it in the future. First, examining articles was problematic: I selected and analysed only those that directly referred to semi-structured interviewing. At times, the articles’ methodology was imprecisely described (for example, ‘interviewing’ as a method). Therefore, it is possible that more articles used semi-structured interviews as a method but did not explicitly state so.

Second, although I chose long-running, recognised international journals (Voluntary Sector Review, Journal of Civil Society, Voluntas, Nonprofit Management and Leadership and Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly), I only analysed a small part of civil society literature. In future studies, other widely known journals could also be considered (for example, Nonprofit Policy Forum and Community Development Journal) and the sample could be expanded (for example, articles published within a longer time period could be reviewed).

Third, systematic literature reviews on the use of semi-structured interviews in studies of informal civil society have not been done, to the best of my knowledge. Given the limited time, space and funding available, I decided on a selective literature review, but conducting a systematic literature review could be a promising avenue for further exploration of the subject. This might be especially crucial since this article proves that there is a scarcity of papers among the examined journals on the informality of broadly defined civil society. Thus, a systematic literature review might shed light on the occurrence of this phenomenon in civil society literature.

These shortcomings notwithstanding, this study has several key implications for future research, especially in the light of the limited critical discussion on qualitative methodology and semi-structured interviewing per se and in relation to civil society studies. It contributes to a deeper exploration of semi-structured interviewing as a tool for understanding informal civil society and supports a discussion on alternative civil society indicators that cover the outcomes of informal civic engagement. Moreover, given the scarce focus on informal civil society among reviewed qualitative studies, it (a) encourages researchers to contribute to the field by conducting methodologically sound and ethical qualitative studies to demonstrate the heterogeneous forms of civil society and (b) advocates for a wider acceptance of such works among the selected civil society journals.

Note

1

My recent research focused on conducting a qualitative analysis of the reasons behind the termination of voluntary and paid jobs done by volunteers and workers in non-profit organisations based in Warsaw. Exploring the life trajectories of the former volunteers and members of staff (through semi-structured interviewing), I found that the majority of them did not sever all ties with their social involvement. Numerous strategies aimed to channel individuals’ need to build a common good were disclosed, including involvement in grassroots initiatives. I describe such a phenomenon as ‘social activism in transition’ (Belina, 2021).

Funding

This article was written under a project financed by the Faculty of Sociology, University of Warsaw.

Acknowledgements

I am indebted to two anonymous reviewers whose suggestions helped improve and clarify this article. I would like to thank Anna Weksej for her proofreading assistance.

Conflict of interest

The author declares that there is no conflict of interest.

References

  • Alexander, J. (2006) The Civil Sphere, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Aliyev, H. (2015) Post-soviet informality: towards theory-building, International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, 35(3/4): 18298. doi: 10.1108/IJSSP-05-2014-0041

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Arksey, H. and Knight, P. (1999) Interviewing for Social Scientists, London: SAGE.

  • Belina, A. (2021) Social activism in transition: why activists resign from working and volunteering in the third sector, in A. Naumiuk (ed) Minding the Gaps and Challenging the Change in Social Work: International Research in Poland under Erasmus Mundus ADVANCES, Warsaw: Wydawnictwa Uniwersytetu Warszawskiego, pp 16992.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Benenson, J. (2017) Civic engagement and economic opportunity among low-income individuals: an asset-based approach, Voluntas: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, 28(3): 9881014. doi: 10.1007/s11266-017-9852-2

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Borbasi, S., Chapman, Y., Gassner, L., Dunn, S. and Read, K. (2002) Perceptions of the researcher: in-depth interviewing in the home, Contemporary Nurse, 14(1): 2437. doi: 10.5172/conu.14.1.24

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Brinkmann, S. (2013) Qualitative Interviewing, New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

  • Bunyan, P. (2014) Re-conceptualizing civil society: towards a radical understanding, Voluntas: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, 25(2): 53852. doi: 10.1007/s11266-013-9352-y

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Buxton, C. and Konovalova, E. (2013) Russian civil society: background, current, and future prospects, Development in Practice, 23(5/6): 77183. doi: 10.1080/09614524.2013.800838

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Chewinski, M. (2019) Coordinating action: NGOs and grassroots groups challenging Canadian resource extraction abroad, Voluntas: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, 30(2): 35668. doi: 10.1007/s11266-018-0023-x

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Corbin, J. and Strauss, A. (2015) Basics of Qualitative Research: Techniques and Procedures for Developing Grounded Theory, Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Creswell, J.W. (2013) Qualitative Inquiry and Research Design: Choosing Among Five Approaches, Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

  • DeHoog, R. and Racanska, H. (2001) Democratization, Civil Society, and Nonprofits: Comparing the Czech and Slovak Republics, Working Paper Series, Washington, DC: The Aspen Institute.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Denzin, N. and Lincoln, Y. (2003) Strategies of Qualitative Inquiry, Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

  • Denzin, N. and Lincoln, Y. (2011) The SAGE Handbook of Qualitative Research, Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

  • Diefenbach, T. (2009) Are case studies more than sophisticated storytelling? Methodological problems of qualitative empirical research mainly based on semi- structured interviews, Quality and Quantity, 43: 87594. doi: 10.1007/s11135-008- 9164-0

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Dodge, J., Ospina, S.M. and Foldy, E.G. (2012) Integrating rigor and relevance in public administration scholarship: the contribution of narrative inquiry, Public Administration Review, 65(3): 286300. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-6210.2005.00454.x

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Dufour, P. (2016) Becoming a global activist through local social forum participation, or how to learn to ‘speak global politics’, Journal of Civil Society, 12(3): 299313. doi: 10.1080/17448689.2016.1215618

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Dunphy, R. (2017) Beyond nationalism? The anti-austerity social movement in Ireland: between domestic constraints and lessons from abroad, Journal of Civil Society, 13: 26783. doi: 10.1080/17448689.2017.1355031

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Edwards, R. and Holland, J. (2013) What is Qualitative Interviewing?, London and New York, NY: Bloomsbury Academic.

  • Eisenhardt, K.M. and Graebner, M.E. (2007) Theory building from cases: opportunities and challenges, Academy of Management Journal, 50: 2532. doi: 10.5465/amj.2007.24160888

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Ekiert, G. and Kubik, J. (2014) Myths and realities of civil society, Journal of Democracy, 25(1): 4658. doi: 10.1353/jod.2014.0009

  • Esterberg, K. (2002) Qualitative Methods in Social Research, Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill.

  • Evers, A. (2010) Observations on incivility: blind spots in third sector research and policy, Voluntary Sector Review, 1(1): 11317. doi: 10.1332/204080510X497064

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Glasius, M. and Ishkanian, A. (2015) Surreptitious symbiosis: engagement between activists and NGOs, Voluntas: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, 26(6): 262044. doi: 10.1007/s11266-014-9531-5

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Glesne, C. (1999) Becoming Qualitative Researchers, New York, NY: Longman.

  • Gliński, P. (2006) Style Działań Organizacji Pozarządowych w Polsce: Grupy Interesu Czy Pożytku Publicznego, Warszaw: Wydawnictwo IFiS PAN.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Grazioli, M. and Caciagli, C. (2018) Resisting to the neoliberal urban fabric: housing rights movements and the re-appropriation of the ‘right to the city’ in Rome, Italy, Voluntas: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, 29(4): 697711. doi: 10.1007/s11266-018-9977-y

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Grindsted, A. (2005) Interactive resources used in semi-structured research interviewing, Journal of Pragmatics, 37: 101535. doi: 10.1016/j.pragma.2005.02.011

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Gurtowski, M. and Waszewski, J. (2009) Redukcja do jawności. O pomijaniu zjawisk zakulisowych w badaniach socjologicznych, in A. Bąk and Ł. Kubisz-Muła (eds) Metody, Techniki i Praktyka Badań Społecznych, Bielsko-Biała: Wydawnictwo Naukowe ATH w Bielsku-Białej, pp 16378.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Harris, M., Shaw, D., Scully, J., Smith, C.M. and Hieke, G. (2017) The involvement/exclusion paradox of spontaneous volunteering: new lessons and theory from winter flood episodes in England, Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 46(2): 35271. doi: 10.1177/0899764016654222

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Howell, J. and Pearce, J. (2001) Civil Society and Development: A Critical Exploration, Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner.

  • Ishkanian, A. (2015) Self-determined citizens? A new wave of civic activism in Armenia, Open Democracy/ISA RC-47: Open Movements, https://opendemocracy.net/armine-ishkanian/selfdetermined-citizens-newwave-of-civic-activism-in-armenia.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Ishkanian, A. (2017) From consensus to dissensus: the politics of anti-austerity activism in London and its relationship to voluntary organizations, Journal of Civil Society, 14(1): 119. doi: 10.1080/17448689.2017.1389843

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Jacklin-Jarvis, C. and Cole, M. (2019) ‘It’s just houses’: the role of community space in a new housing development in the digital era, Voluntary Sector Review, 10(1): 6979. doi: 10.1332/204080519X15478199637975

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Jacobsson, K. and Korolczuk, E. (2017) Introduction: rethinking polish civil society, in K. Jacobsson and E. Korolczuk (eds) Civil Society Revisited: Lessons from Poland, New York, NY and Oxford: Berghahn Books, pp 135.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Jacobsson, K. and Saxonberg, S. (2013) Beyond NGO-ization: The Development of Social Movements in Central and Eastern Europe, Farnham: Ashgate.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Jezierska, K. and Polanska, D.V. (2018) Social movements seen as radical political actors: the case of the Polish tenants’ movement, Voluntas: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, 29(4): 68396. doi: 10.1007/s11266-017-9917-2

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Kościański, A. (2015) Do i od obywatelskości. Charakter zaangażowania obywatelskiego w Polsce i próba jego socjologicznej interpretacji, in R. Krenz, S. Mocek and B. Skrzypczak (eds) Efekt Motyla@ Scenariusze Rozwoju Sektora Społecznościowego, Warsaw: Collegium Civitas i CAL, pp 2338.

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    • Export Citation
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    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
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    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Lagerkvist, J. (2015) The unknown terrain of social protests in China: ‘exit’, ‘voice’, ‘loyalty’, and ‘shadow’, Journal of Civil Society, 11(2): 13753. doi: 10.1080/17448689.2015.1052229

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
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    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
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    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
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    • Export Citation
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    • Export Citation
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    • Export Citation
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    • Export Citation
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  • Alexander, J. (2006) The Civil Sphere, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Aliyev, H. (2015) Post-soviet informality: towards theory-building, International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, 35(3/4): 18298. doi: 10.1108/IJSSP-05-2014-0041

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Arksey, H. and Knight, P. (1999) Interviewing for Social Scientists, London: SAGE.

  • Belina, A. (2021) Social activism in transition: why activists resign from working and volunteering in the third sector, in A. Naumiuk (ed) Minding the Gaps and Challenging the Change in Social Work: International Research in Poland under Erasmus Mundus ADVANCES, Warsaw: Wydawnictwa Uniwersytetu Warszawskiego, pp 16992.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Benenson, J. (2017) Civic engagement and economic opportunity among low-income individuals: an asset-based approach, Voluntas: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, 28(3): 9881014. doi: 10.1007/s11266-017-9852-2

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Borbasi, S., Chapman, Y., Gassner, L., Dunn, S. and Read, K. (2002) Perceptions of the researcher: in-depth interviewing in the home, Contemporary Nurse, 14(1): 2437. doi: 10.5172/conu.14.1.24

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Brinkmann, S. (2013) Qualitative Interviewing, New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

  • Bunyan, P. (2014) Re-conceptualizing civil society: towards a radical understanding, Voluntas: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, 25(2): 53852. doi: 10.1007/s11266-013-9352-y

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Buxton, C. and Konovalova, E. (2013) Russian civil society: background, current, and future prospects, Development in Practice, 23(5/6): 77183. doi: 10.1080/09614524.2013.800838

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Chewinski, M. (2019) Coordinating action: NGOs and grassroots groups challenging Canadian resource extraction abroad, Voluntas: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, 30(2): 35668. doi: 10.1007/s11266-018-0023-x

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Corbin, J. and Strauss, A. (2015) Basics of Qualitative Research: Techniques and Procedures for Developing Grounded Theory, Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Creswell, J.W. (2013) Qualitative Inquiry and Research Design: Choosing Among Five Approaches, Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

  • DeHoog, R. and Racanska, H. (2001) Democratization, Civil Society, and Nonprofits: Comparing the Czech and Slovak Republics, Working Paper Series, Washington, DC: The Aspen Institute.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Denzin, N. and Lincoln, Y. (2003) Strategies of Qualitative Inquiry, Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

  • Denzin, N. and Lincoln, Y. (2011) The SAGE Handbook of Qualitative Research, Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

  • Diefenbach, T. (2009) Are case studies more than sophisticated storytelling? Methodological problems of qualitative empirical research mainly based on semi- structured interviews, Quality and Quantity, 43: 87594. doi: 10.1007/s11135-008- 9164-0

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Dodge, J., Ospina, S.M. and Foldy, E.G. (2012) Integrating rigor and relevance in public administration scholarship: the contribution of narrative inquiry, Public Administration Review, 65(3): 286300. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-6210.2005.00454.x

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Dufour, P. (2016) Becoming a global activist through local social forum participation, or how to learn to ‘speak global politics’, Journal of Civil Society, 12(3): 299313. doi: 10.1080/17448689.2016.1215618

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Dunphy, R. (2017) Beyond nationalism? The anti-austerity social movement in Ireland: between domestic constraints and lessons from abroad, Journal of Civil Society, 13: 26783. doi: 10.1080/17448689.2017.1355031

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Edwards, R. and Holland, J. (2013) What is Qualitative Interviewing?, London and New York, NY: Bloomsbury Academic.

  • Eisenhardt, K.M. and Graebner, M.E. (2007) Theory building from cases: opportunities and challenges, Academy of Management Journal, 50: 2532. doi: 10.5465/amj.2007.24160888

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Ekiert, G. and Kubik, J. (2014) Myths and realities of civil society, Journal of Democracy, 25(1): 4658. doi: 10.1353/jod.2014.0009

  • Esterberg, K. (2002) Qualitative Methods in Social Research, Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill.

  • Evers, A. (2010) Observations on incivility: blind spots in third sector research and policy, Voluntary Sector Review, 1(1): 11317. doi: 10.1332/204080510X497064

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Glasius, M. and Ishkanian, A. (2015) Surreptitious symbiosis: engagement between activists and NGOs, Voluntas: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, 26(6): 262044. doi: 10.1007/s11266-014-9531-5

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Glesne, C. (1999) Becoming Qualitative Researchers, New York, NY: Longman.

  • Gliński, P. (2006) Style Działań Organizacji Pozarządowych w Polsce: Grupy Interesu Czy Pożytku Publicznego, Warszaw: Wydawnictwo IFiS PAN.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Grazioli, M. and Caciagli, C. (2018) Resisting to the neoliberal urban fabric: housing rights movements and the re-appropriation of the ‘right to the city’ in Rome, Italy, Voluntas: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, 29(4): 697711. doi: 10.1007/s11266-018-9977-y

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Grindsted, A. (2005) Interactive resources used in semi-structured research interviewing, Journal of Pragmatics, 37: 101535. doi: 10.1016/j.pragma.2005.02.011

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Gurtowski, M. and Waszewski, J. (2009) Redukcja do jawności. O pomijaniu zjawisk zakulisowych w badaniach socjologicznych, in A. Bąk and Ł. Kubisz-Muła (eds) Metody, Techniki i Praktyka Badań Społecznych, Bielsko-Biała: Wydawnictwo Naukowe ATH w Bielsku-Białej, pp 16378.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Harris, M., Shaw, D., Scully, J., Smith, C.M. and Hieke, G. (2017) The involvement/exclusion paradox of spontaneous volunteering: new lessons and theory from winter flood episodes in England, Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 46(2): 35271. doi: 10.1177/0899764016654222

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Howell, J. and Pearce, J. (2001) Civil Society and Development: A Critical Exploration, Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner.

  • Ishkanian, A. (2015) Self-determined citizens? A new wave of civic activism in Armenia, Open Democracy/ISA RC-47: Open Movements, https://opendemocracy.net/armine-ishkanian/selfdetermined-citizens-newwave-of-civic-activism-in-armenia.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Ishkanian, A. (2017) From consensus to dissensus: the politics of anti-austerity activism in London and its relationship to voluntary organizations, Journal of Civil Society, 14(1): 119. doi: 10.1080/17448689.2017.1389843

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Jacklin-Jarvis, C. and Cole, M. (2019) ‘It’s just houses’: the role of community space in a new housing development in the digital era, Voluntary Sector Review, 10(1): 6979. doi: 10.1332/204080519X15478199637975

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Jacobsson, K. and Korolczuk, E. (2017) Introduction: rethinking polish civil society, in K. Jacobsson and E. Korolczuk (eds) Civil Society Revisited: Lessons from Poland, New York, NY and Oxford: Berghahn Books, pp 135.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Jacobsson, K. and Saxonberg, S. (2013) Beyond NGO-ization: The Development of Social Movements in Central and Eastern Europe, Farnham: Ashgate.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Jezierska, K. and Polanska, D.V. (2018) Social movements seen as radical political actors: the case of the Polish tenants’ movement, Voluntas: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, 29(4): 68396. doi: 10.1007/s11266-017-9917-2

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Kościański, A. (2015) Do i od obywatelskości. Charakter zaangażowania obywatelskiego w Polsce i próba jego socjologicznej interpretacji, in R. Krenz, S. Mocek and B. Skrzypczak (eds) Efekt Motyla@ Scenariusze Rozwoju Sektora Społecznościowego, Warsaw: Collegium Civitas i CAL, pp 2338.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Kostera, M. (2003) Antropologia Organizacji: Metodologia Badań Terenowych, Warsaw: Wydawnictwo Naukowe PWN.

  • Krasynska, S. and Martin, E. (2017) The formality of informal civil society: Ukraine’s Euromaidan, Voluntas: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, 28(1): 42049. doi: 10.1007/s11266-016-9819-8

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Kvale, S. (1996) Interviews: An Introduction to Qualitative Research Interviewing, London: SAGE.

  • Laforest, J., Bouchard, L.M. and Maurice, P. (2012) Safety Diagnosis Tool Kit for Local Communities – Guide to Organizing Semi-structured Interviews With Key Informants, Quebec: Institut national de santé publique du Québec.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Lagerkvist, J. (2015) The unknown terrain of social protests in China: ‘exit’, ‘voice’, ‘loyalty’, and ‘shadow’, Journal of Civil Society, 11(2): 13753. doi: 10.1080/17448689.2015.1052229

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Lang, S. (2013) NGOs, Civil Society, and the Public Sphere, New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

  • Ljubownikow, S., Crotty, J. and Rodgers, P. (2013) The state and civil society in post-soviet Russia: the development of a Russian-style civil society, Progress in Development Studies, 13(2): 15366. doi: 10.1177/1464993412466507

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Lowes, L. and Gill, P. (2006) Participants’ experiences of being interviewed about an emotive topic, Journal of Advanced Nursing, 55(5): 58795. doi: 10.1111/ j.1365-2648.2006.03950.x

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • McCracken, G. (1988) The Long Interview, Newbury Park: SAGE.

  • Merriam, S.B. (1998) Qualitative Research and Case Study Applications in Education, San Francisco, CA and Oxford: Jossey-Bass Publishers and Routledge.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Merriam, S.B. (2009) Qualitative Research: A Guide to Design and Implementation, San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

  • O’Connell, B. (2000) Civil society: definitions and descriptions, Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 29(3): 4718.

  • Phillimore, J. and McCabe, A. (2015) Small-scale civil society and social policy: the importance of experiential learning, insider knowledge and diverse motivations in shaping community action, Voluntary Sector Review, 6(2): 13551. doi: 10.1332/204080515X14321326224573

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Pyett, P.M. (2003) Validation of qualitative research in the ‘real world’, Qualitative Health Research, 13(8): 11709. doi: 10.1177/1049732303255686

    • Search Google Scholar
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  • 1 University of Warsaw, , Poland

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