Radical civic engagement: Motivations, strategies and outcomes

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Context Globally we are witnessing radical forms of civic engagement that bypass traditional democratic processes. In relation to Europe these forms are associated with right wing groups eager to challenge the European consensus and revert to a more nationalist orientation. This is true in countries such as Hungary, Poland and Austria as it is in the post-Brexit United Kingdom. A similar phenomenon is evident in Trump’s reengineering of the social and political landscape in the United States. The globalization of communications technologies ensures that we receive never ending ‘updates’ about these global social movements. Yet little is known about grassroots engagement. This paper, therefore, will: explore the phenomenon of grassroots activists in Hong Kong striving against both the Central and local governments for greater democratic participation; highlight the motivations and strategies of these activists as well as their expected outcomes; and provide a ‘bottom up’ theoretical framework in which social movements based on radical forms of civic engagement can be better understood. Theory & Methodology The study to be reported here assumes that individual motivations for involvement in social movements will differ and that the coming together does not reflect a single ideological purpose but is more about achieving personal goals. Within this framework individual interviews were conducted with twenty-two self-identified activists. A narrative analysis of individual interviews was conducted to produce ‘portraits’ of each activist. Results & Conclusions There were four main themes emerging from the analysis: Disillusion with democratic processes that were seen to be associated with an older generation; Socioeconomic disadvantage especially for young people; Anti –China feelings that were both political (against the Chinese Communist Party) and social (against Mainland Chinese tourists in Hong Kong). Violence was not ruled out as a tool for social and political change. Copyright © 2018 CiCe Association Conference.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - May 2018


Kerry, K., & Ng, H. Y. (2018, May). Radical civic engagement: Motivations, strategies and outcomes. Paper presented at The 20th Annual Children’s Identity and Citizenship European Association and 2nd Joint CitizED Association Conference Citizenship & Identity in a ‘Post-Truth’ World, IBIS Old Town Hotel, Warsaw, Poland.


  • Civic engagement
  • Youth
  • Social movements
  • Civic values


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