Drawing attention to the wider literature on the linkages between civic engagement and democracy, this paper starts off by asking the question whether civic engagement beyond formal politics actually serves to strengthen democracy in Indonesia. Noting a contradiction between the literature that proposes that high associational density fosters democracy and recent analysis that highlights that political opportunity structures in Indonesia are unfavourable to popular representation and participation, the paper draws attention to a largely underexplored field within Indonesian democracy studies, namely that of mobilisation and participation by marginalised groups. The paper discusses and analyses strategies for bottom-up mobilisation, specifically the development planning programmes of Musrenbang, the Kecamatan Development Program (KDP), and Indonesian labour organising. The analysis focuses on the democratising aspects of these sectors, arguing that participation and mobilisation lacks the necessary popular foundations as well as organisational capacities that are necessary for participatory institutions to effectively enhance democracy. The paper thereby hints that associational density in and of itself is a poor indicator for democracy, especially in relation to democratic consolidation in new democracies.