CIVICUS Civil Society Index

An international action-research project by and for civil society

Project Overview

What is the CSI?


The CSI is an action-research project that aims to assess the state of civil society in countries around the world. Between 2003 and 2006 the CSI was implemented in over 50 countries worldwide, and during 2007-2008 an intermediary phase, focusing in particular on African countries was implemented. In early 2008 the project’s methodology was revised, based on the results of various evaluations and comments of stakeholders and experts. This short concept note presents the revised methodological and structural setup of the CSI.


The CSI Methodology: An Overview


In general, the revised CSI methodology is designed to measure the following core dimensions:


1.      Civic Engagement: The extent to which individuals engage in social and policy-related initiatives

2.      Level of Organisation: The degree of institutionalisation that characterises civil society (measured through an analysis of civil society organisations)

3.      Practice of Values: The extent to which civil society practices some core values

4.      Perceived Impact: The extent to which civil society is able to impact the social and policy arena, according to internal and external perceptions.

5.      External environment: The above four dimensions are analysed in the context of a fifth dimension that the CSI calls the ‘external environment’, which includes the conditions (e.g. socio-economic, political and cultural variables) within which civil society operates.



The Civil Society Diamond combines indicators to provide a visual display of different dimensions and their respective values in a common space, using the same or comparable metrics. The Diamond’s size seeks to portray an empirical picture of the state of civil society, covering structural and normative manifestations, but also encompassing the conditions that support or inhibit civil society’s development as well as the consequences of civil society’s activities for society at large.




In terms of understanding what these dimensions will now measure and describe, please see Box I.1 below for a summary of the dimensions and sub-dimensions in the revised methodology.


Box I.1: Dimensions and Sub-dimensions

Civic Engagement

Level of Organisation

Practice of Values

Perception of Impact

·         Extent of socially-based engagement

·         Depth of socially-based engagement

·         Diversity of socially-based engagement

·         Extent of political engagement

·         Depth of political engagement

·         Diversity of socially-based engagement


·         Internal governance

·         Infrastructure

·         Sectoral communication

·         Human resources

·         Financial and technological resources

·         International linkages


·         Democratic decision-making governance

·         Labour regulations

·         Code of conduct and transparency

·         Environmental standards

·         Perception of values in civil society as a whole


·         Responsiveness (internal perception)

·         Social impact (internal perception)

·         Policy impact (internal perception)

·         Responsiveness (external perception)

·         Social impact (external perception)

·         Policy impact (external perception)

·         Impact of CS on attitudes



Socio-economic context/ Socio-political context/ Socio-cultural context





The revised methodology also requires the use of case studies, (i.e., systematic, in-depth analyses of selected topics, for each dimension). These case studies are important because they will allow the identification of key factors affecting the overall state of civil society in a country and pinpoint areas where some form of action should be promoted.


The process through which the research is conducted and the analysis carried out is extremely important in its own right: implementing the CSI is an opportunity for civil society actors to network, raise awareness around critical issues, promote participation and reflection and, last but not least, build capacity for civil society.


CSI Implementation Cycle

CSI Implementation Cycle


8 Responses to “Project Overview”

  1. Racel Patterson said

    Can you share the questionnaire raw data and results? I too am interested in learning how you obtain this data. I understand the dimensions, but what exact, standardized questions should I ask? I can ask someone how many hours (s)he spends at home, but does that measure recreation time, or misrepresent a small-business owner who spends 12 hours working outside of the home? More examples of questions please – less discussion on these diamonds.

  2. joeldenis said


    Would it be possible for you to share the metrics you use to measure civic engagement?



  3. Anna said


    I was wondering what the sources of the data you use in the CSI are? And is it possible to see an outline of how you have obtained your data, changed your methodology and where you have published your hard data, not just the findings?



  4. Inta said

    What’s the difference between CSI and The Civil Society Diamond described by Anheier?

    Thanks a lot,

    • civilsocietyindex said

      Hi Inta

      Thanks for your comment. The Civil Society Index is the name of the research-action project as a whole. The diamond is one of the main and best-known research outputs of the project – it pulls together the quantitative research that our partners do on five dimensions (civic engagement, level of organisation, practice of values, perception of impact, environment), and puts it into one visual representation. But the project also supplements this quantitative data / statistics with more in-depth analysis from case studies, from focus groups and consultations, and from the input of Advisory Committee experts. So the diamond is just one component of the overall analysis which appears in the final country reports at the end of each phase.

      I hope this helps and thanks again for your interest!
      CSI Programme Officer

  5. Xavier said

    Very interesting ! But could it be possible to have a cleaner version of the “The Civil Society Diamond” and the “CSI Implementation Cycle” ? They are far to tiny to be really helpful to understand the concept.



    • civilsocietyindex said

      Hi Xavier

      Thanks for your comment – yes, sorry, they are a little small at the moment! We’ll try to put bigger versions up on this page, but in the mean time you can also find them on our webpage at

      I hope this helps and thanks again for your interest!

      CSI Programme Officer

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