The CIVICUS Civil Society Index (CSI) was developed in response to frequent requests from international civil society stakeholders for reliable information about the different aspects of civil society in countries across the globe. At the end of 2009, for the first time, the CSI project’s results were collected in the Civil Society Index Indicator Database.
The online database showcases the data gathered during the 2003-06 phase of implementation, which involved more than 50 countries and 7,000 stakeholders. Findings from the current 2008-10 phase are expected to be made available online early next year.
Since it was first conceived in 1999, the project has helped to create a knowledge base and momentum for civil society-strengthening initiatives. In implementing the CSI, national civil society organizations and stakeholders make use of qualitative and quantitative research methods to assess the state of civil society in their country along five dimensions: civic engagement, level of organization, practice of values, perception of impact and external environment. This assessment is then used to set goals and create an agenda for strengthening civil society in the future.
The online database, available free to all users and searchable by country, dimension and individual indicator, was developed in order to ensure that this data could be shared with a global audience. Although CSI findings are beginning to be used to influence approaches taken by donors, governments and civil society organizations, it remains unclear how the online availability of empirical data about civil society – a concept which in the past has been notoriously fuzzy – will shape perceptions of civil society.