Network Dynamics in the Transition to Democracy: Mapping Global Networks of Contemporary Indonesian Civil Society

by Yanuar Nugroho and Gindo Tampubolon
University of Manchester

Sociological Research Online, Volume 13, Issue 5,

To cite articles published in Sociological Research Online, please reference the above information and include paragraph numbers if necessary.

Received: 17/4/2008 Accepted: 19/8/2008 Published: 30/9/2008


This paper seeks to make transparent the mutually reinforcing relationships between global civil society, democracy and network society, which are often implicit in extant theories. The concept of a 'global civil society' cannot be separated from the promotion of democracy. Global civil society itself is one of the most explicit instances of the emergence of network society in the modern age and democracy lies at the very heart of what constitutes a network society. However, very little has been said about how these apparent mutually reinforcing relationships arise. Focusing on the case of Indonesia during the fraught regime change from authoritarianism to democracy, we investigate the role of transnational and national civil society organisation during the periods of pre-reform, reform and post-reform. Using multi-methods, including social network analysis and interviews with civil society activists and networkers, we discover a less encouraging picture of these relationships and conclude that the forging of this virtuous circle has some obvious gaps. We attempt to account for these apparent gaps in this mutually reinforcing relationship in terms of different modes of political participation. We suggest that some forms of 'chequebook activism' characterised the global civil society role during an abrupt and bloody regime change.

Keywords: Global Civil Society, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), Network Society, Social Networks, Democracy, Reform, Social Movement, Chequebook Activism, Indonesia


1.1 Civil society is often perceived as one of the cornerstones of a vibrant society providing voices for the disenfranchised and creating centres of influence outside the state and the economy (Anheier et al. 2002; Anheier et al. 2001b; Deakin 2001; Keane 1998). The advancement of information technology, particularly the Internet, has given new impetus for the birth, or more precisely the reinvention, of global civil society (Hajnal 2002). Global civil society is a global network of organisations, groups, and movement within civil society aiming at achieving civic agendas like democratisation (Anheier et al. 2001b; Bartelson 2006; Kaldor 2003). It is important not only because global civil society operates beyond the confines of national societies, polities, and economies; and offers transnational opportunity for debates, but it also influences framework of global governance (Anheier et al. 2001a. 11; Kaldor et al. 2004: 2). It can be argued, therefore, that there is a virtuous relationship between global civil society, democracy, and network society.

1.2 Yet scholars have noted some potential problems that might be embedded within such relationships. First, Edwards and Hulme (1995), for example, argue that accountability is the most notable problem regarding the performance of civil society organisations in relation to their donors and beneficiaries. This problem emerges as a result of a dilemma between the nature of the work civil society organisations (CSOs) undertake and the context in which they operate. Most CSOs operate in a world where standard criteria for qualitative achievement and organisational achievement are lacking. Both need to be obtained through negotiation with legitimate stakeholders (Edwards & Hulme 1995; Edwards and Hulme 1997). Second, substantive democracy as a way of organising the state has been narrowly identified with aspects of procedural democracy such as elections for legislative and executive offices (Fung & Wright 2001). This causes ineffectiveness in accomplishing the central ideals of democratic politics, that is facilitating political involvement of the citizen, forging political consensus through dialogue, devising and implementing public policies that '… ground a productive economy and healthy society, and … ensuring that all citizen benefit from the nation's wealth' (p.5). Lastly, the emergence of the network society is associated with various acute tensions (Silverstone 1996). The realisation of network society has significantly increased our social mobility in everyday life, yet it is not without its problems. The network society has contributed to undermining a sense of home and place; creating a new kind of rootlessness because of its capacity to unlock and disconnect individuals from their dependence on place, increasing social isolation and cultural fragmentation. However, it will continue to liberate our domesticity from its dependence on physical location and enhance social and cultural freedoms by enabling us to create our own distinct and meaningful identities (Silverstone 1996: 223). This debate goes to the heart of the essential tensions that lie at the centre of the network society: tension between security and insecurity, participation and isolation, freedom and control.

1.3 Despite these concerns, one can see that there is a virtuous relationship between global civil society, democracy and network society. Global civil societies can be conducive to democracy (e.g. Anheier et al. 2005). Studies also illustrate that global civil society also go hand in hand with global network society. This compatibility is achieved not only through facilitation of communication and participation via the Internet but the very ideas at the core of civil society (a society that is open and participatory) is very much in tune with network society (a society that is less hierarchical, less bureaucratic, open and inclusive) (e.g. Warkentin 2001). Likewise, democracy and network society are supportive of each other or perhaps even reinforcing of one another. Democratic participation can be facilitated through multiple connections which ensure informed and interactive politics (Sey & Castells 2004: 363). Wainwright, moreover, suggests that a new relationship between civil society and democracy is being forged at the international level, where there is a new impetus to build organisations of civil society as a force for achieving and deepening democracy or rebuilding it in a radically new context (Wainwright 2005).

1.4 In summary, an understanding of the mutually reinforcing links between global civil society, network society and democracy can be presented in Scheme 1 below.


1.4 But how did this mutually reinforcing relationship evolve historically? What conjunctive circumstances led to the establishment of these relationships? These are empirical questions that need addressing and, as Sey and Castell (2004:364) warned, the answers to these kinds of questions have ‘to be established by observation, not proclaimed as fate’. This injunction resonates with Wainwright who states that to study civil society;

“…is not to defend some abstract or universal connection between civil society and democracy. Rather … an analysis of democracy which points to civil society as a potential source of power for democracy … through several examplessome positive, some negative– the condition under which, and the ways in which, this potential is realised.” (Wainwright 2005:94-95, our emphasis)
We try to answer this question by looking at an instance of an abrupt and bloody regime change from authoritarianism to democracy in Indonesia and examining the roles of global and local civil society, which are embedded in a network society.

1.5 In regard to the Scheme 1 illustration, the purpose of this paper is to answer questions such as: Were there differentiated roles for global civil society during the different periods of democratic change? More specifically, what was the role of global civil society during the period of transition itself? The focus of our investigation will, however, be limited to the periods of the heightened transition to democracy in Indonesia.

1.6 To preview the results our research confirms that there is marked expansion of the network between Indonesian CSOs and their international counterparts after the regime change in 1998. However this expansion cannot be directly and solely taken for granted as a reflection of the increasing participation of global civil society in the democratisation process. In fact, rather worryingly, this may indicate a period during which global civil society may have missed an opportunity to play an active role in the democratic transition in the country.

1.7 We take Indonesia as a case study for two main reasons. Not only has Indonesia experienced a heightened and bloody transition to democracy in 1998 (Bird 1999), but also various CSOs in Indonesia had started networking with their international partners and thus were already embedded in a network society when the political upheaval took place (Uhlin 2000)[1]. Some scholars have employed the network perspective to determine how it can be used to portray projects undertaken by civil society, amongst which the promotion of democracy seems to be the major agenda item. This is done through coalition building (Diani 1990; Lim 2002; 2003; Rucht 1989) and building opposition, e.g. through establishing collaboration, publishing and campaigning, mobilization and observation like watchdog activities (Camacho 2001; Surman & Reilly 2003; Warkentin 2001). We also note the importance of the network perspective to foster social movements as networks link a multiplicity of actors, which is necessary for, amongst other things, facilitating democratisation (Anheier 2003; Uhlin 2000).

1.8 We consider it important to study the dynamics of civil society from the social network method. This method provides a more global point of view when the democratic change is taking place. It also accentuates the complexities involved in the actual processes and mechanisms of democratic change from the network perspective. By comparison, an ethnographic account of actors directly engaged in such a change would also be able to answer the questions but would not be able to give a global overview of international CSOs participation in the democratic change. We believe that our contextual approach (social network accompanied by in-depth interviews) will provide a balance between a deep account and a global overview.

1.9 After briefly examining the focus of this study here, in the next section we elaborate the links between global civil society, network society and democracy and present the political context in Indonesia. Then, we present the triangulation of methods we use in this study consisting of a survey, social network analyses (SNA) and in-depth interviews with activists and networkers. In section 4 we elaborate the findings of the study and we discuss them in more depth in section 5. Section 6 concludes the study.

Global civil society, democracy and network society

Mutually reinforcing links?

2.1 Recalling Scheme 1, despite problems and tensions embedded in the links between global civil society, network society and democracy, they are perceived in the literature as mutually reinforcing. We consider each of these links or relationships in turn. Firstly, the link between global civil society and democracy: global civil society is conducive to democracy, that is, the links between them are mutually reinforcing. Kaldor et al. (2004) provide an example.
‘The last two decades have witnessed the fall of Communist regimes and the spread of democracy… This phenomenon, it can be argued, is linked to globalisation and, indeed, to global civil society… Pressure for democratisation has been partly a result of pressures from above; international financial institutions, outside governments, and international donors have demanded political reform alongside market reform. More importantly, pressure for democratisation has come from below, from civil society groups that have been able to expand the space for their activities through links with the outside world.’ (p. 13)

2.2 This argument echoes Wainwright’s idea (2005) that civil society is not simply a ‘sphere’, but a source of power for democratic change in new, more international forms. She notes particularly that the relationship between civil society and democracy is being formed at the global level, thus the momentum to establish organisations of civil society to achieve democracy has an entirely new context (Wainwright 2005:100-101). In this case the aim of global civil society organisations is the achievement of democracy.

2.3 Secondly, on the relationship between global civil society and network society: studies suggest that the emergence of global civil society is inseparable from network society. First, it is because the idea at the core of civil society is much in tune with network society (e.g. Warkentin 2001). Based on the study of the social movements network in relation to global justice, Juris (2004) for example, argues that networks are increasingly associated with values related to grassroots participatory democracy and thus have become a powerful cultural ideal. Particularly among civil society groups, networks have become a guiding logic that provides both a model of and a model for emerging forms of direct democratic politics on local to global scales (p.342). Secondly, this idea has become possible because of the facilitation of new information and communication technology (ICT)[2]. ICT has strengthened the link between civil society and network society while network society contributes to the technology’s growth and helps shape the direction of its development in particular ways. ICT provides both opportunities and constraints for actors participating in global civil society – in some ways expanding and in other ways contracting available means for interacting (Warkentin 2001).

2.4 Thirdly, the link between democracy and network society: scholars have long argued that democracy and network society are seen to be reinforcing one another. Historically, democracy meant having selected an élite of political representatives in political discussions (Barber 1984; Coleman 1999; Hague & Loader 1999). Then, having ‘direct’ democracy by involving the citizen in the decision making process became the ideal. With the help of information technology this ideal has become possible today although it is still considered to be problematic (Coleman 1999). The rise of the network society characterised by the appropriation of information technology has provided renewed support for this vision, as Richard (1999) puts:

‘The vision of leaders and their governments actively working in collaboration with citizens and interest groups towards measurable goals is prominent in Internet related discourse. This ideal may come from the fact that the Internet blends tools for public participation and representation in a unique way’ (p.71)

2.5 It is clear that democratic participation can manifest via manifold relations within network society and thus ensure informed and interactive politics. Sey and Castells (2004) observe the process of political representation in the new form of networked public space constituted by the Internet. They warn that ‘it is only under the conditions of an autonomous citizenship and an open, participatory, formal political channel that the Internet may innovate the practice of politics’ (p.370).

We now look more closely at the connection between civil society and democracy.

Civil society and democracy: Universal or particular connection?

2.6 Being a relatively new concept, loosely yet operationally defined (as in, for example, Anheier et al. 2005), civil society is understood as a sphere of ideas, values, different kinds of groups with some degree of autonomy in relation to the state, economic entities and the family. Groups in this sphere develop identities, articulate interests and try to promote a specific political agenda. It is no surprise that much research on civil society and democratisation have used civil society as an important factor explaining the democratisation of formal political institutions. The literatures are rich in hypotheses and more or less well grounded in empirical findings about the relationship between civil society and democracy. Wainwright, for instance, notes the contingent nature of links between civil society and democracy, which implies the possibility of links between civil society and democracy to be severed (Wainwright 2005):

‘In western and eastern Europe, the last 30 years have seen both the high point of this connection and, more recently, its almost complete severance. The high point of connection between civil society and democracy included the emergence in the 1970s in western Europe of sustained social movements rooted in civil society, and in the 1980s in the east the dissident networks building up to the “Velvet Revolution” of Wenceslas Square in Prague and the fall of the Berlin Wall. A common feature of both these contexts was a conception of civil society not simply as a ‘sphere’ but as a source of power for democratic change.’ (p.96)

2.7 Acknowledging the Tocquevillean view about civil society as a protection against abuses of state power, she finds that the thinking and the activity of the 1980s networks in central and eastern Europe already went beyond classical understandings of the relationship between civil society and democracy. This reinforces the idea of a spillover from democratic initiatives in civil society to the democratisation of political power (Wainwright 2005)[3]. But is this relationship universal? If developments within civil society are related to processes of democratisation, we may suggest that global civil society has important implications for theories of democratisation too. Democracy has been closely related to the nation state in most conventional analysis. However, global civil society offers a new political sphere for efforts at democratisation and raises the question of possible forms of democracy on a global level.

2.8 We propose two alternative roles of the global civil society during the period of democratisation: as initiator and as a responsive participant. We try to characterise our expectation in terms of network density and network correlation to give a more precise handle on the empirical evidence. In the initiator role, global civil society tends to be involved in networks which are dense during both the pre-transformation and the transformation period. During the post transformation period, it matters less whether the network is dense. Furthermore, we expect that the shape of networks during the first two periods to be quite similar; we expect a high degree of network correlation between pre-transformation and transformation periods and perhaps less network correlation between the transformation and post-transformation period. Global civil society as the responsive participant would be consistent with a network that is relatively sparse during pre-transformation and significantly denser during transformation. The latter is the result of being responsive to the change that is taking place. Furthermore we expect a low degree of network correlation between the two periods and perhaps a higher degree of correlation during transformation and post-transformation periods.

2.9 We limit the discussion to the important aspects of the role of civil society, more particularly the relation between local and global civil society under an authoritarian regime and in the transition to democracy in the Indonesian context. We follow on from Wainwright’s suggestion by elaborating on different periods where these links are severed or strengthened.

Transition to democracy in Indonesia: Periods and context

2.10 There are four significant, distinct periods relevant to the transition to democracy in Indonesia.

Pre 1995: Authoritarian period

2.11 From 1965 until May 1998, General Soeharto led Indonesia in a highly authoritarian regime and called his leadership period the ‘New Order’, to distinguish from the ‘Old Order’ led by the former President Soekarno. The New Order regime was dominated by the military and was able to resist pressure for democratisation. There were conflicts in the political élites and the military, but these were fractional and easily controlled and manipulated by Soeharto. The regime was extremely powerful and became relatively autonomous in relation to society (Uhlin 2000). Due to its position in the global capitalist system and anti-Communist ideology, the regime received substantial economic, military and political support from the West. Until the mid 1990s, the world saw Indonesia as a politically stable state with an impressive record of economic growth, which qualified it as one of the ‘tiger economies’ in Asia. As a result, this is the first period where civil society was weak, depoliticised and fragmented (Hill 2000).

1995 – 1998: Bloody transformation

2.12 Long before the Asian economic crisis, which began in Thailand in 1997, hit Indonesia, civil society started expressing its discontent more openly. A new generation of advocacy groups, mainly pro-democracy and human rights groups, were formed and became increasingly active in anti-government protests. These groups were characterised by their attempts to unite all forms of pro-democracy movements and increase pressure against the government, including establishing alliances with farmers and labours (Uhlin 1997:110-114). Using the economic crisis as a momentum, women’s movements became more prominent and efficient in organising themselves and expressing their concern. They brought domestic issues (like milk and food scarcity) to national political economic debates; and raised women’s awareness more widely in order to contribute to the process of democratisation (Kalibonso 1999). Many developmentalist and professional civil society groups also started organising themselves. Professional workers, often portrayed by the media as ‘ignorant’ and ‘opportunistic’, were also directly involved in the street protests (Prasetyantoko 2000).

2.13 As a result a wide spectrum of civilians, academics, civil servants and street vendors, joined hand-in-hand with farmers, labours and women groups expressing concern and protesting to the government. There was sustained political pressure on the regime. Students pioneered and led mass demonstrations and demanded Soeharto’s resignation. Scores of CSOs joined in with the students—whose activism has always played an important role in Indonesian politics (Aspinall 1995)—giving support to the movement. This resulted in a short and bloody period which cost civil society movement heavily: many protesting students lost their lives, reports of activists protesting the government’s policies going missing, thousands of deaths among mass rioters, hundreds of reports of women raped and vast material destruction (see Bird 1999 or Uhlin 2000). Soeharto, was eventually abandoned by the military, was forced to step down on 21 May 1998. His 36 years of administration had come to an end and 1998 saw a historical moment when Indonesia entered a period from authoritarian rule to transition to democracy. This was the end of the second period.

1999 – 2002: Fraught euphoria

2.14 His successor Prof. Dr. B.J. Habbibie, under both international and national pressure, instituted some political reforms and revived political activities that had been stifled for more than three decades: some political prisoners were released, free elections were promised and a referendum took place in East Timor, which led to East Timor’s independence. Almost at a stroke political space in Indonesia was considerably widened. Because it was sudden and massive, the effect was euphoric for most of the people in the country. Farmer organisations and trade unions became radicalised, underground organisations came to the surface and joined hands with the newly formed civil society groups and organisations (Hadiz 1998; Silvey 2003). Hundreds of new political organisations and political parties were formed and more media became much more independent and critical of the government. But the transition was not entirely painless. In 1999 Habibie called for a parliamentary election after widespread social unrest. Massive student-led protests for greater democracy in the capital Jakarta turned violent after a harsh military crackdown on demonstrators killed at least five students and two others. Rioting spread as demonstrators burned shops and cars across the capital city. At least 16 were killed over a period of several days (Ito 1999).

2.15 After the free election in 1999, which was surprisingly peaceful, Dr. Abdurrahman Wahid was elected by the People’s Assembly to become the 4th president of Indonesia. During his two-year presidency many new liberating policies were introduced, some of which were regarded as controversial. These policies overturned old discriminative policies which had been in place under Soeharto and continued under the Habbibie regimes. After further political turmoil in 2001, which led to the impeachment of Abdurrahman Wahid, the vice president Megawati Soekarnoputri became President. She remained in power until the 2004 election which was won by ex-general SB Yudhoyono. This third period (1999-2002) was obviously marked with a relatively chaotic political change due to the euphoric reaction after the displacement of the authoritarian leader.

2003 and after: Towards stability

2.16 The political situation seemed to have settled down from 2003 onwards. During 2003 and 2004 the reform process was further extended by increasing the range of publicly elected positions. For the first time voters directly elected the President and Vice-president. They also elected representatives to the newly established House of Regional Representatives. These elections were the first in the history of Indonesia in which there was no government appointed Member of Parliament. In addition, the election system itself had been reformed: voters were able to identify their preferred candidate from the party lists, the electoral districts had been reduced in the hope of fostering more direct linkages between members of the Parliament and their respective constituents (UNDP 2004). Despite worries from pro-democracy civil groups about the military past of SB Yudhoyono, Indonesia began to show an evolving political maturity.

2.17 This period marked a new era in the democratisation process in Indonesia. Civil society groups, who have been important actors throughout the previous two periods, now have a wider sphere to act as a ‘check-and-balance’ for both government and business. They actively address various concerns and issues in order to advocate people’s rights, to protect their environment, to develop their livelihoods and thus bring about social change in many aspects. Some groups try to do so by influencing governmental policies, promoting ethics and accountability, building public opinion and providing alternative medias. In terms of concerns and issues, civil society is more diverse than during the authoritarian regime.

2.18 During the four periods, actors within civil society have undoubtedly played a very important role as Indonesian transitioned to democracy. This is despite a claim that civil society in itself is neither strong nor pluralistic (Uhlin 2000). An Indonesian scholar (Hadiwinata 2003:36) notes that the extent to which these civil society groups succeed or fail in achieving their missions and goals depends not only on their own capacity to organise but also on the social and political context in which they operate.


3.1 In this section, we map the international network of CSOs in Indonesia during the heightened periods of the transition to democracy. We use triangulation methods or combined quantitative and qualitative approaches (Gilbert 1992) involving a complex research design, usually with multiple stages and reiteration (Danermark et al. 2002). Triangulation enables better measurement and may also reveal differences of interpretation and meaning (Olsen 2003). In particular, survey and social network analyses (SNA) were performed to provide a broad picture of the Indonesian CSOs and their networks. In-depth interviews were then carried out to gain more detailed and specific information. By combining the methods, we expect to reach a more comprehensive understanding of the relationships between civil society and its international network in Indonesia’s transition to democracy.


3.2 The survey was designed mainly for two purposes. First, to capture the nature of Indonesian CSOs with regards to their typology, i.e. size, nature of organisation, main issues and concerns and activities. And second, to identify the social networks of the respondents by asking with which organisations or networks they had links with over a period of time.

3.3 In the main section of the survey with respect to networks, we asked: ‘With which international organisations listed below has your organisation established a link?’[4] Respondents were asked to pick from a list of 34 international organisations (both donors and active organisations) known to have worked with Indonesian CSOs together with the period they established the link. As noted above, some CSOs from the West have always been active in Indonesia due to its standing as one of the successful Asian tigers. On the questionnaire there was also space for respondents to name organisations they have linked with but which were not listed. The meaning of ‘link’ will be discussed later in Section 4.2. because it has a specific meaning uncovered through the interviews among Indonesian CSOs.

3.4 Both the survey and interview used Indonesian as the command language. Most of the questions were closed or semi-closed and also allowed CSOs leave a ‘no response’ if they found the questions were too sensitive or felt insecure in providing such information. The survey was targeted at the whole country and undertaken in two different modes, i.e. electronic and postal. The electronic survey included an automated form sent as an email attachment and an online survey application that enabled respondents with reasonably high-speed internet access to participate in real time[5]. The target population were the CSOs listed in the four publicly available CSO directories (i.e. SMERU, TIFA, LP3ES and CRS). In total, the survey was sent to 957 CSOs (552 electronically and 405 by postal)[6] and achieved a 28 percent response with 268 organisations responding between 15 November 2005 and 15 January 2006. What we lack in breadth in this survey, we make up for in depth with the interviews[7].

Social Network Analysis

3.5 We analysed network data using Pajek (Batagelj & Mrvar 2003) version 1.10. A particular section of the survey has been designed to capture the temporal network of the respondent organisations with their international partners. The inputs provided by respondents were then converted into nodes and edges and then fed into Pajek. We generated a visual representation of how networks of Indonesian CSOs with their international partners have grown over time and put this into the socio-political context, i.e. periodisation of political change as above. We have a sequence of temporal networks in four different periods which reflect the dynamics of the links between Indonesian CSOs and their international partners.

Network dynamics

3.6 There are methods known to understand when networks and temporality are linked: agent-based modelling (Axelrod 1997; Epstein & Axtell 1996) and sequence analysis of network positions (Abbott 1990). While the former is an in-silico laboratory (Epstein & Axtell 1996) to identify stylized dynamics of collaboration network, the later offers a completely different perspective: inter-organisational networks observed at a particular time register for each node a particular position in network. For instance, at the beginning of the observation an individual organisation is not connected to any other organisation, i.e. its position is an isolate (this is in contrast with other organisations which connect with many others). Over time this organisation may make a connection with other organisations and by virtue of its recent connection it may find itself positioned as peripheral, or near the centre of the network (core). Later, the network position of the same organisation may change due to different reasons. What we have here is a sequence of network positions for an organisation. It is not difficult to extend this exercise to all organisations in the original network and collect sequences of positions. We then have a collection of views of how the network unfolds in the eyes of the organisation over time. Equivalently we have network careers of each organisation over time. One can apply sequence analysis to this collection of sequences and conduct a kind of historiography to uncover typical or dominant careers. The prevalence of dominant careers or their absence could then be related to wider events affecting the networks.

3.7 We have chosen these choice methods of analysing temporality and networks to make the network sequence visual and to highlight changes in terms of increasing numbers of organisations and increasing intensity of involvement over time. As additional evidence we present statistics on network density.


3.8 Interviews are used to acquire in-depth insights about the different roles of networks in different periods and also to validate and provide additional support. Interviews were arranged with 31 Indonesian CSO leaders or senior activists purposively sampled as a result of their nature of activities (advocacy v. developmentalists) and organisational structure (formal/centralised v. informal/networked). Interviews were mostly carried out over the telephone for about 90 minutes on average (ranging from 45 minutes to 120 minutes), recorded and transcribed for analysis.

3.9 Interviews were done in Indonesian and as with the survey, it was designed to use simple language, common concepts and manageable tasks as cues in order to help informants to provide as detailed information as possible for the study (Converse & Presser 1986). In addition to the interview design, permission was requested for the interviews to be recorded. Being aware of the complex nature of CSOs we allowed the interviewees to exclude certain parts of the interview from the recording, especially when it concerned parts that they regarded as ‘sensitive’.

3.10 The analysis of the interviews was aided by the use of Atlas.Ti™, which helped us in organising, coding, tagging the transcripts, and mining the texts. This analysis helped us to understand not only the way organisations define links and relationship within their network but also how they identify the change in and experience the network dynamics.


Indonesian CSOs engaging with network society

4.1 Indonesian CSOs have become more in-tune with and embraced global ideas. Issues including democratisation, good governance, human rights, gender equality and women’s rights, amongst others are blended together with the more general and localised concerns of empowerment, education, environment, development, poverty eradication, justice and peace. These are issues similarly embraced and fought for by CSOs all over the world (Anheier et al. 2005). We also find that in terms of activities, Indonesian CSOs are building their capacity to undertake training, are conducting research including consultancy works and publishing to disseminate ideas. They are also involved in advocating victims’ rights, mass mobilisation and lobbying, all in relatively equal proportions. These have all been made possible thanks to ICT, particularly the Internet[8].

4.2 Based on the survey, we also identify several strategic areas for Indonesian CSOs to benefit from their engagement with the network society. The five most strategic areas we find are: public opinion building, alternative media, coalition building with other organisations, advocacy and social empowerment. The others are the promotion of global justice, poverty eradication, promotion of pluralism and diversity, promotion of environment sustainability, mass mobilisation, building political opposition, and improving livelihood.

Kerja bersama: understanding links between Indonesian CSOs

4.3 To accurately picture the network of Indonesian CSOs, we asked our respondents whether they ‘link’ with other organisations (see Section 3.1). But, what do these links mean? Traditional network studies usually employ a single meaning for a link in a network, whether it is an arc or an edge. Such a meaning be an email exchange between nodes or actors, a visit, or a telephone call. However, imposing such notions would be impossible in our study due to the complexity of CSO activities. For example, knowing another CSO does not necessarily mean having a link. In addition when a link is present, it need not have only a single meaning, Rather, it may have multiple meanings and may include working together on a campaign, joining the same mailing list, undertaking a project together, engaging in collaboration, receiving money or exchanging activities amongst other things. A respondent in our study put it thus,

‘It is not easy to say [whom] we have networked with. We may know each other, meet or even to be together in an event, but it does not [obviously] mean we have a network with each other. We consider other organisations as our network if we have engaged in a work-together (‘kerja bersama’). And usually it is intensive. And long enough. And they are various [in terms of form]. [But] clearly [a network is] not only knowing or contacting each other.’ (Interview 6/1/06: male activist, Jakarta-based political CSO, core position in network)

4.4 We follow Mohr’s suggestion on allowing the subjects to speak as closely as possible to their own practice or everyday use (Mohr 1998) and only then we capture this as a node or a link. We consequently avoid the early imposition of network ideas and concepts. In our networks here, links are understood as ‘kerja bersama’. This notion of ‘kerja bersama’, can be translated as ‘joint action’ is widely and commonly understood by CSOs who participated in our study. We focus our question by asking with what other organisations what other CSOs (in this study: international CSOs) they have engaged in ‘kerja bersama’ over the different periods. These links and CSOs make up our networks.

Network maps: Dynamics over periods

4.5 Using Pajek, we generate the map of the international network of Indonesian CSOs, which identifies the links with their international partners.

4.6 As tabulated in Table 2, the international network of Indonesian CSOs grew during the four periods. We characterise the network in terms of number of organisations, density (or average connection/link within the network) and k-core. The latter gives an idea of cohesiveness, or more accurately clique-ishness, of the network. For a network of size n, the maximum k-core is n-1, which means everyone is connected to everyone else or a clique. The higher maximum k-core means the more cliqueish the network is (or more cohesive).

4.7 We can see that the international networks of Indonesian CSOs are becoming more cohesive over time (indicated by the increasing k-core). We can also see that the density of networks increases over the identified periods with a significant rise in the dynamics after the bloody transformation: the first two periods are similarly less active and the last two periods are similarly more active. In other words, there was a marked increase of global civil society activity between the periods of bloody transformation to fraught euphoria.

Discussion: Decomposing network dynamics and clarifying the links between global civil society and democracy

5.1 As is widely known, global civil society involvement can be classified as donor (providing direct financial support) and direct activism (involvement in coordinating meeting, planning, sending people, etc.) (Anheier 2003; Edwards & Hulme 1997). In the context of this study, we took the term of ‘kerja bersama’ to capture the latter. To one of our informants,
Kerja-bersama can be from funding, campaigning, into concrete/real work in the field. Usually [if we receive] money is also included. It is also kerja bersama. But we also do a lot of kerja bersama with other organisations, both local/national and international. That is what we call networking. If [there is] kerja bersama then [there is] a network. Otherwise, there is no network. That is why we can engage in different kerja bersama with different organisations from time to time.’ (Interview 6/1/06: male activist, Jakarta-based political CSO, core position in network)

5.2 ‘Kerja bersama’ thus includes all activities implying real action including campaigning, coordination, collaboration, fund raising, other exchange activities, capacity building, etc. Consequently these links exclude activities without real action such as attending the same event, knowing each other, being in the same mailing list but without any real output. We adopt this analysis to ensure that we understand what this involvement looks like in more detail.

5.3 Table 2 shows that during the authoritarian period, some local, active CSOs had started building their international networks. Again this may have been due to the relative economic success of Indonesia in the late 80s and before mid 90s. However, during the bloody transformation period, the network does not seem to have grown significantly. This surprises us and is contrary to our expectation as we anticipated the network would grow, reflecting greater participation of global civil society, especially during the turmoil in Indonesia at that time. After the bloody transformation period, the network grows very significantly. The end of authoritarian regime may have given new impetus for more involvement of the global CSO with Indonesian politics. Various global CSOs from mostly developed countries paid close attention to the Indonesian situation and were willing to establish networks with Indonesian counterparts. From 2003 up to the present time, the international networks appear to be more stable. Visually, we can see that the first two periods are distinct from the last two. This is confirmed by the increase in the density metric. There is clearly a significant change in the network dynamics from the bloody transformation period (1995-1998) to fraught euphoria (1999-2002).

5.4 What we have here is an indication of significant network expansion before and after the regime change. We examine how real this effect is by breaking down network dynamics in terms of the involvement of donor CSOs vs. active participant CSOs. We disaggregate the networks into (i) networks with international donors (in which Indonesian CSOs mainly or mostly receive financial support only) and (ii) networks with international active civil society groups (in which Indonesian CSOs mainly work together on certain issues or concerns, as well as receiving some financial support in some cases). This attempt resonates to the empirical experience of many Indonesian CSOs as reflected by one of our respondents,

‘Donors are donors. Maybe once in six months or once a year they come and visit you to ask for reports. They check whether your report makes sense and matches the expenditure plans and your proposal. If they find it satisfactory, that’s it. They won’t care the rest [about actual achievement in the movement]. Many donor organisations merely function as monitoring, evaluating and auditing bodies. That’s very different to international partners [who are actively engaged in our movement]’. (Interview 22/2/06: male activist, Jakarta-based research NGO, core position in network, our emphasis)

So, firstly, we depict the networks between Indonesian CSOs and international donors.

5.5 The donor links during the first two periods are similar and again similar in the last two periods (see Table 3). Yet we notice a significant increase in the network growth that takes place between the second (bloody transformation) and the third (fraught euphoria) period. The density measures suggest that the change is quite significant, i.e. 0.0053 to 0.0136. This observed change in the network dynamics above is very much confirmed by our informants during the interview. To quote an instance,

‘Since the fall of Soeharto, the biggest challenge for CSOs is consolidation. Why? Because the number of international donors coming to this country is unbelievably high. And this is not always good – they can make us lost! Being pragmatic is just not enough. If we are naïve, we are selling ourselves, our idealism – all for money. It won’t be our agenda but theirs which will determine the fate of the civil society movement in our country.’ (Interview 19/12/05: female activist, Bandung-based research NGO, peripheral position in network)
Then, we map the networks of Indonesian CSOs with their international active counterparts.

5.6 We see can observe clearly the marked increase (see Table 4) in the networks with active counterparts: there is a real involvement but with a distinctly different intensity in the different periods. In the first two periods, the networks are sparse and after the bloody transformation period, they grow significantly. Yet, the density measures indicate a less sharp increase.

To have an overall picture, we depict the density of all sets of networks over all four periods below.

5.7 The graph shows that the increase in the density of the networks after the period 1995-1998 is mostly to do with the increase in the links with donors rather than the links with active global civil society. In other words, the increasing activity of Indonesian CSOs after regime change is much more a result of the increase in their relationships with international donors rather than real participation with global CSOs. This evidence strongly suggests that some forms of chequebook activism (i.e. activism that is mainly based on the provision of money/funding) explain the observed involvement of the global CSOs during the various periods. This evidence suggests that global civil society has missed an opportunity to actively foster democratisation in Indonesia during the important transition, particularly in the turbulent years[9].

5.8 To understand the role taken by international CSOs, we recall the roles we proposed earlier (Section 2.2.), i.e. initiator or responsive participants. However, this study does not confirm such roles of global civil society in Indonesia during the transition period. Instead, we observe a political transition period during which global civil society has missed an opportunity to play an active role. Scholars have argued that the involvement of global civil society in Indonesia had started in the 1970s. The support from global civil society for democratic change in Indonesia is nothing new and has a considerable impact on the ideas and actions of the pro-democracy movement (Uhlin 2000). Uhlin however, does not clarify the sense in which the impacts are felt or taken up by the local civil society. We show here, that the impact or the networks are different depending on the period. Recalling Scheme 1, the link between global civil society, network society and democracy in Indonesia in the political upheaval cannot just be taken for granted. We learn here that the link between network society (in this case Indonesian CSOs) and democracy is more important (than other links in the scheme) to explain and to bring about the change.


6.1 We demonstrate that the global civil society during the period under study displayed modes of activism that could be characterised as chequebook activism. Global CSOs did not recognise the incipient democratic change and failed to take the opportunity and play its role in fostering democratisation in Indonesia. The case presented here resonates with other examples of a problematic relationship of global civil society and democracy (in the case of Guatemala, see Wainwright, 2005). We, of course, recognise the possibility of organisations that do not fit this role and that have stood by their Indonesian counterparts through the difficult years. However, our evidence indicates that on the whole global CSOs missed a great opportunity to be part of the democratisation process in the country.

6.2 One limitation of the study arises from its reliance on the perceptions and activities of CSOs in Indonesia. One can argue that the picture and the argument may be very different had the international CSOs also been consulted. Their role and mode of activism may be interpreted quite differently. However, we disagree with this position. Fundamentally, even if it were to be the case that international CSOs were active throughout the period of this study, the international CSOs activism obviously was not recognised as such by those Indonesian activists on the streets during the turbulent years. Further, on reflection many years later, the participants still fail to recognise this alternative position. Therefore, if we accept this alternative position of more activism on the part of international CSOs, the evidence points to their failure to translate more activisms into real actions that are understood by their Indonesian counterparts.

6.3 The triangulation methods we apply here are essential in systematically probing and understanding the links and the dynamics between global civil society, network society and democracy. Our argument about the complex role of international CSOs would not have been as clear if it were not for the rich meaning attached by our respondents to each link in the network. The meaning of each link can only be captured using complementary methods and is hence different from traditional social network methods. Likewise, the limited and different kind of material gathered during the interviews is significantly enriched by the application of social network methods. It is in the combination and conversation across methods, in short triangulation, that have allowed us to probe the issues deeper and wider. This triangulation could potentially be a practical tool in understanding other incidences.

6.4 Having demonstrated the fruitfulness of our scheme in this case, we point out the potential of applying this scheme to look at the relationship between global civil society, network society and other global issues in more detail. It may be used to look at the dynamics of networks and emerging issues within civil society today such as environmental justice, ethical consumption, corporate ethics and responsibility[10]. This scheme is also flexible enough to allow for the possibility of other actors and factors to be included. For instance, the state could also be included, say in the analysis of issues such as free trade or intellectual property rights. Another example might be the inclusion of exogenous shock such as financial crises which precipitates deep-seated change. The case studied here can of course be enriched by inclusion of this latter factor, however this is the subject of another paper.


1 Indeed, there has been debate among scholars on the issue as to which actors significantly drove the political change in Indonesia. Mietzner (1999) argues that it was the political élite and the military, whereas Bourchier (1999) argues that the civil society was the significant actor. Both agree, however, that the political circumstances during the transition period to democracy were abrupt and intense. Obviously, an interaction between civil society (in the forms of public protests organised by many civil society groups and organisations) and the political élite and military (who then split and led to the resignation of President Soeharto) led to the fateful change. We agree with Uhlin (2000:11) that the split between the élite and the military would have never happened if there had not been such strong pressure from civil society. Such pressure would also not have been effective had the civil society, involved in promoting democracy, not been well embedded and networked. Naturally there were many other factors operating, but we believe that one of the most important is the network, which enabled them to put pressure towards, and thus promoted, changes in society (Diani 2003).

2 Warkentin (2001:33) points out that it is through the facilitation in communication and participation via ICT that a network society is formed and thus strengthens global civil society.

3 Wainwright reveals that dissident networks composed of civil society had moved from a defensive role to something more proactive, that is an agency for change with an emphasis on self organisation, mutual support and autonomy, which became a de facto challenge to authority (2005).

4 Originally, in Indonesian, ‘Dengan jaringan/organisasi internasional mana saja di bawah ini organisasi Anda menjalin hubungan?

5 The online survey is mirrored at; <>

6 There were 946 CSOs whose email addresses were listed in the four directories and they were all invited to the electronic survey, of which, 394 email invitations were bounced back due to unreachable addresses. Of all CSOs listed without email addresses, 50% (790) were invited to undertake the postal survey and only 384 postal invitations were returned due to unreachable addressee.

7 The response rate of 28% seems disheartening at first but we are encouraged by three facts. First, given that the concept of civil society is still very much debated, it is understandable that CSOs are still elusive. Therefore a census of CSOs or a register of CSOs in both developed and developing countries is practically non-existent (for and attempt, see “Global Civil Society” series (Anheier et al. 2005)). A census or register is of course a major factor in a successful, high response survey. We used the best available registers to hand and are satisfied with the nominal response of 268. Second, very few existing figures are available on response rate and nominal response for on-line surveys in developing countries. This low response rate could be the result of inadequate infrastructure (compared to developed countries) combined with the relative novelty of the online survey among CSOs (even in developed countries). We are not aware of many high response on-line surveys due to, for instance, the use of broadcast surveys. We believe the nominal response we have is respectable in this regard. Third, we applied mixed-methods in this study including interviews with activists from the respondent CSOs. In effect, what we lack in breadth, we more than make up for in depth. We conducted extensive interviews with 31 respondents, ranging from 45 minutes to 120 minutes and averaging 75 minutes. They are located in different positions in the networks in order for us to capture the depth of meaning these networks hold for them.

8 How do the Indonesian CSOs engage in the network society? Thanks to the Internet available to them (97.83%), Indonesian CSOs found that their networks with their partner organisations are growing significantly, both nationally and internationally. Although most of the CSOs only use basic CMC like email (and mailing lists) due to poor communication infrastructure (43.48% connect through dial-up, 15% through tele-centre or other organisation and the rest through low-speed broadband), they are able to organise activities including networking, coalition coordination, public opinion building and even collective campaigning and in some cases influencing state’s policies. Engaging with the network society has also particularly been helpful for the Indonesian CSOs so that their aims and activities have become more focused and their perspective towards issues widened. Most of them believe that having been part of the network society has enabled them to widen their own perspective to the global level (88.37%) and expand their network (80.00%), both with other national CSOs and global CSO partners. Overall, taking part actively in the networked society has facilitated achievement of their mission and goals and thus fostered a further democratisation. Yet these organisations are also aware of the negative impact of this new communication technology affecting their organisational performances, from threats like virus and ‘spam’ massages to apparent time wasting because of these distractions. For fuller account see Nugroho (2007).

9 We also analysed graph correlations between adjacent periods using quadratic assignment procedure (QAP), a variant of a permutation test for networks (Krackhardt 1987) to deal with dependency inherent in network data. The results reinforce our conclusion.

10 Wainwright (ibid.), for example recognises the increasing salience of global issues. However, it is not obvious in her exposition how an issue becomes global or how the local attach or reinforces the global. There is a sense in which her exposition assumes a trickle down effect of global issues; they seep down to dominate or to invite participation of local CSOs. It is entirely plausible however, that local issues were picked up by actors connected to the global CSOs and amplify them. In this case, the local issues become the source of global conscience or global understanding. It is quite possible to capture this process using the scheme above where local issues enter the scheme by first linking with local CSOs.


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