Theory and Practice of Learning in Civil Society


CS-LEARN is a consortium project between the University of Oulu and the University of Jyväskylä. The consortium connects two groups: Civil Society and Citizenship in Development led by Tiina Kontinen at the University of Jyväskylä (JYU), and the Theory and Philosophy of Education Research Group led by the leader of the sub-project, Prof. Katariina Holma at the University of Oulu.


Project information

Project duration


Funded by

Academy of Finland - Academy Project

Project coordinator

University of Oulu

Contact information

Contact person


Project description

CS-LEARN is a consortium project between the University of Oulu and the University of Jyväskylä. The consortium connects two groups: the research group on Civil Society and Citizenship in Development (CitDe) led by PI, Academy of Finland Research Fellow Tiina Kontinen at the University of Jyväskylä (JYU), and the Theory and Philosophy of Education Research Group (TheorEd) led by the leader of the sub-project, Prof. Katariina Holma at the University of Oulu. It expands the team’s ongoing research project Growth into Citizenship in Civil Society Encounters (GROW) (AoF 2015-2019), which explores ideas of citizenships in NGO-interventions and among community members in Tanzania and Uganda in connection with a notion of learning as growth based on philosophical pragmatism and especially the work of John Dewey.

While it is widely agreed that transformative development require competent citizens able to organize in civil society spaces, less is known about the complexities related to learning to be a citizen. The development research literature has indicated gaps between development ideals and contextual lives experiences, and thus, has motivated the team to explore both the localized conceptions and theoretical conceptualizations. The project scrutinizes the theories, practices and experiences of learning to be a citizen in civil society with case studies in Tanzania and Uganda. CS-LEARN combines research groups with complementary expertise in development research and educational philosophy from the Universities of Oulu and Jyväskylä, and partners with  adult education in Makerere University, Uganda and development studies at the University of Dodoma, Tanzania.

To reach the overall objective of developing a theory of learning to be a citizen in civil society the project aims to: 1) identify and compare definitions, conceptualizations and manifestations of a “good citizen” in theories, CSO practices and experiences; 2) identify and compare conceptualizations, descriptions, and experiences of processes of learning to be a citizen in theories, CSO agendas and participation processes. The consortium applies a combination of three methodologies: a) rational reconstruction of philosophical and educational theories; b) ethnography of CSO-interventions and everyday participation in Uganda and Tanzania with specific focus on self-help and religious groups; and c) critical action research among women groups in marginalized areas. Research material will comprise of selected theories of education and related philosophical literature, observations, documents, interviews and participatory exercises with community members and CSOs.

The project is funded by the Academy of Finland's span Programme for Development Research, and it includes capacity-building of African partner universities through joint research seminars and methodology courses with practice period in communities. The project pays special attention to building of research capacity by enabling working periods for African postdocs in Finnish Universities.

The academic outcomes contribute to contemporary theory of citizens’ education and to literatures of contextualized citizenship and civil society in development research. Societal impact will be enabled by the creation of theoretical tools for designing civil society interventions for reaching the transformative development outlined in Agenda2030.

Project results

Coming soon: Katariina Holma & Tiina Kontinen (eds). 2022. Learning, Philosophy, and African Citizenship. Palgrave MacMillan. Open access.

Dr. Twine Bananuka from Makerere University starts a two-year postdoctoral research in the University of Oulu, March 2020

The First International Conference in Development Studies at the University of Dodoma, 11.-12.3. 2020, supported by CS-LEARN capacity building.

CS-LEARN capacity-building workshop in educational theories and philosophies, Makerere University, 7th-9th January 2020

CS-LEARN research seminar in the University of Oulu 4.12.2019.

Practices of Citizenship in East Africa. Perspectives from Philosophical Pragmatism (2020) published by Routledge. The book presents a variety of articles written under the project GROW (2015-2019), the predecessor of CS-LEARN.

Doctoral candidate Karembe Ahimbisibwe from Makerere University starts his PhD in the University of Jyväskylä, October 2019.

GROW- and CS-Learn Writing Retreat in Entebbe, Uganda: The GROW-articles were progressed by all participants of the project in a week-long shared writing retreat in Entebbe, Uganda. Contracts have been signed with the publisher and the book is taking shape as planned. 6.-11.1.2019

First capacity-building event in the University of Dodoma: Workshop on qualitative research methods facilitated by Tiina Kontinen and Katariina Holma  4.-5.12.2018.

Kick-off seminar in the University of Oulu 3.-4.9.2018.

Postdoctoral researchers' mobilities: Dr Bananuka Twine from the Makere University is in the University of Oulu and Dr Benta Matunga from the University of Dodoma in the University of Jyväskylä 1.-30.9.2018.


Project leader, Consortium: Tiina Kontinen, Academy of Finland Research Fellow, University of Jyväskylä

Project leader, University of Oulu: Katariina Holma, Professor of Education, University of Oulu

Postdoctoral researcher Henni Alava, University of Jyväskylä, Finland

Postdoctoral researcher Twine Bananuka, Makerere University, Uganda

Postdoctoral researcher Lenka Hanovská, University of Oulu

Postdoctoral researcher Benta Matunga, University of Dodoma, Tanzania

Doctoral researcher Karembe Ahimbisibwe, University of Jyväskylä, Finland

Doctoral researcher Veli-Mikko Kauppi, University of Oulu, Finland