The CIVICUS Civil Society Index (CSI) is a participatory needs assessment and action planning tool for civil society around the world, with the aim of creating a knowledge base and momentum for civil society strengthening initiatives. The CSI is initiated and implemented by, and for, civil society organizations at the country level, and actively involves, and disseminates its findings, to a broad range of stakeholders including: government, donors, academics and the public at large.
The two primary goals of the CSI are: to enhance the strength and sustainability of civil society, and to strengthen civil society’s contribution to positive social change.
Some or all of the following primary research tools are applied, depending on the extent of available secondary data: Reegional stakeholders consultations are held in different locations in the country. Participants respond to individual questionnaires and subsequently participate in a one-day group discussion. Community surveys are conducted to investigate the value dispositions of community members, their activities within civil society and attitudes towards, and engagement with, community-level CSOs. A review of appropriate media is conducted to gather information on civil society activities, attitudes and values expressed by civil society and other public actors as well as to establish the media image of civil society. Additionally, fact-finding is carried out to assemble information about civil society that already exists but that is not necessarily published or publicly disseminated.
The CSI has four main dimensions covering;
Structure – How large civil society is in economic, social and organisational terms;
Environment – What legal and political “space” civil society occupies within the regulatory environment it operates;
Values – What values, norms and cultural expectations civil society represents and advocates;
Impact – What the contributions of civil society are.
The CSI’s structure dimension covers both aspects of individual civic engagement (for example, membership in CSOs, volunteering, charitable giving, collective community action) and the key features of the civil society sector, such as its resources, infrastructure, and modes of interaction. In terms of environment there are three sub-dimensions: political context, socio economic context and socio cultural context: The political context in any given country defines the overall backdrop and establishes important parameters for civil society’s activities. This sub-dimension explores various aspects of the political situation in the country and its impact on civil society. Individual indicators include: citizen’s political rights, the extent of political competition (single v. multi-party systems), rule of law, corruption, state effectiveness and decentralisation. The socio-economic context assesses the socio-economic situation in the country and its impact on civil society. It does this by determining how many of a range of conditions considered seriously disabling to civil society (e.g. widespread poverty, civil war or conflict, severe economic or social crisis, severe socio-economic inequity, pervasive adult illiteracy) are present in a country context. In terms of the socio-cultural context, while civic norms (such as trust) are often regarded as a key component of social capital and sometimes as a component of civil society, the CSI considers these norms as an important socialresource for civil society to draw on and, therefore, as part of civil society’s external environment. This sub-dimension looks at levels of trust, tolerance and public spiritedness among members of society in order to assess to what extent socio-cultural norms and attitudes are conducive to civil society. The values dimension postulates a list of key values and norms (democracy, transparency, non-violence, tolerance, gender equity, poverty eradication, environmental sustainability) and examines the extent to which civil society practices these values internally and promotes them within society at large. Civil society stakeholders
make use of participatory and other research methods to create an assessment of the state of civil society. This assessment is then used to collectively set goals and create an agenda for strengthening civil society in the future.
In the dimension 'structure', in the sub-dimension 'breadth of citizen participation' example indicators include:
How widespread is citizen involvement in civil society? What proportion of citizens engages in civil society activities?
What percentage of people donate to charity on a regular basis?
What percentage of people belong to at least one CSO?
percentage of people undertake volunteer work on a regular basis (at least once a year)?
What percentage of people have participated in a collective community action within the last year (e.g. attended a community meeting, participated in a community-organised event or a collective effort to solve a community problem)?
The civil society index aims to be very actionable, and includes outcomes such as:
A body of relevant and useful knowledge on the state of civil society and civil society strengthening practices at the national and international levels.
Increased participation among a broad range of civil society stakeholders in assessing civil society.
Improved dialogue among civil society stakeholders on the state of civil society.
The promotion of networking among civil society stakeholders.
Common understanding of the state of civil society among a broad range of stakeholders.
Increased self-awareness of civil society actors.
Agreement among civil society stakeholders on strategies for strengthening civil society.
Increased capacities of civil society stakeholders in action-research.
Methodological contribution to the field of action-research and civil society studies.
in producing an action plan to improve
Very complementarity, and includes looking de facto indicators, as how well civil society is actually working, as well as legal frameworks.