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The CIVICUS Civil Society Index
Civil society plays an increasingly important role in governance and development around the world. In most countries, however, knowledge about the basic contours and state of civil society is limited. Additionally, there are few opportunities for civil society actors to come together to discuss and reflect on the current state of civil society and the challenges it faces. The CIVICUS Civil Society Index (CSI) is an action-research project that aims to assess the state of civil society in countries around the world, with a view to creating a knowledge base and an impetus for civil society strengthening initiatives. The CSI is initiated and implemented by, and for, civil society organisations. However, it also actively involves, and disseminates its findings to a broad range of stakeholders including governments, donors, academics and the public at large.
The Civil Society Index has the following specific objectives:
To increase knowledge and raise awareness of the state of civil society; and
To empower stakeholders through the promotion of dialogue, collective learning and network-building.
The CSI ultimately aims to enhance the strength and sustainability of civil society, and strengthen civil societys contribution to positive social change.
The CSI assesses four different dimensions of civil society:
Structure: What is the internal make-up of civil society? How large, vibrant and representative is civil society in terms of individuals and organisations?
Environment: What is the political, socio-economic, cultural and legal environment in which civil society exists? Are these factors enabling or disabling to civil society?
Values: Does civil society practise and promote positive social values?
Impact: What is the impact of civil society? Is it effective in resolving social, economic, and political problems, and in serving the common good?
Linking research and action
The CSI activities are conducted by National Index Teams at a country level, with support from CIVICUS. The findings of the CSIs research component, based on the four dimensions outlined above, are debated and validated at a national workshop involving a broad range of civil society stakeholders. Here, appropriate strategies and actions to address emerging issues are also discussed. A final country report, including research findings, dimension scores and recommendations for action, is published for national and international readership.
Over 2003-4, the CSI will be implemented in at least 35 countries, with results expected in late 2004.