Measuring the Enabling Environment of Civil Society: A Global Capability Index

Voluntas JournalMeasuring the Enabling Environment of Civil Society: A Global Capability Index
VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations
April 2015, Volume 26, Issue 2, pp 466-487

  • Lorenzo Fioramonti, Centre for the Study of Governance Innovation, Department of Political Sciences, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
  • Olga Kononykhina, Hertie School of Governance, Berlin, Germany



During the last two decades, there have been various attempts at measuring and assessing the health of civil society. Some have focused almost exclusively on ‘counting’ the nonprofit, while others have assessed the strength of nongovernmental organizations. Yet, these sectors are just a small part of a much larger environment. Moreover, they are the result of Western conceptualizations of civil society, thus not very helpful for one to understand civic participation in non-Western settings. Taking stock of these fundamental issues, this article presents the conceptual framework and methodology of a new global index to measure the ‘enabling environment’ of civil society, rather than its forms and institutional contours.

Given the inherent diversity of civil societies worldwide, which defies any attempt at developing predetermined definitions, understanding the conditions that support civic participation becomes the most important objective for those interested in promoting a strong civil society arena.

The index was launched by CIVICUS in late 2013 with the name of enabling environment index and covers over 200 countries and territories, making it the most ambitious attempt ever made at measuring civil society worldwide.

Contexualising the tool development process through a knowledge brokering approach: The case of climate change adaptation and agriculture

Camilla Adelle has published an article in Environmental Science and Policy that tests various knowledge brokerage approaches in a ‘real life’ policy context.

Abstract: This article applies a ‘knowledge brokering’ approach to contextualise the development of an integrated computer modelling tool into the real world policy context of adaptation of agriculture to climate change at the EU level. In particular, the article tests a number of knowledge brokering strategies described and theorised in the literature, but seldom empirically tested. The article finds that while the policy context can be used to identify a theoretically informed knowledge brokering strategy, in practice a strategy’s ‘success’ is more informed by practical considerations, such as whether the tool development process is knowledge or demand driven. In addition, in practice the knowledge brokering process is found to be dynamic and messy, which is not always apparent in the literature. The article goes on to question the perception that there is always a need (or a desire) to bridge the gap between researchers and policy makers in the tool development process. Rather than a problem of design and communication, the science policy interface may be characterised more by a high level of competition between researchers and research organisations to have their tool legitimised by its use in the policy making process.

Read the full article in Environmental Science and Policy

Policy Coherence for Development in the European Union: Do New Procedures Unblock or Simply Reproduce Old Disagreements?

Camilla Adelle has written an article with Andrew Jordan of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Research on how the EU is struggling to coordinate its policies so that they do not undermine its own international development objectives.

Title: Policy Coherence for Development in the European Union: Do New Procedures Unblock or Simply Reproduce Old Disagreements?


Abstract: Policy coherence for development (PCD) — the integration of the needs of developing countries into all policy areas — is now an EU policy goal. This article focuses on how far this ambitious goal has been addressed in a policy procedure — impact assessment (IA) — established to support such cross-cutting goals. Drawing on an analysis of the 2006 and 2013 reforms of the EU’s sugar policy, it finds that while IA offered a new venue in which to debate PCD, in practice it reproduced the same disagreements that previously frustrated agricultural reform. The article shows how IA was shaped during its implementation, so instead of functioning as a bureau- cratic procedure to pursue policy coherence, it simply buttressed the power of domi- nant groups. Advocates of policy coherence in general and PCD in particular should therefore be mindful that the toolbox of implementing instruments in the EU may be more limited than sometimes assumed.

Read the full paper in the Journal of European Integration

The Will to Integrate: South Africa’s Responses to Regional Migration from the SADC Region

The African Development Review published a new paper by GovInn Chris Nshimbi and Lorenzo Fioramonti on how South Africa is responding to regional migration.


This paper surveys frameworks of labour migration in southern Africa and determines South Africa’s policy responses to inflows of migrants from seven neighbouring countries. Legislations, policy reports and scientific publications on migration were thoroughly reviewed and interviews and correspondence with key policymakers were conducted. Statistical analyses of data on foreign worker recruitments and permits issued by South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs were also performed. The absence of a migration protocol in southern Africa suggests SADC Members have not implemented the African Union’s migration policy basic guidelines. Two systems coexist in southern Africa that complicate migration governance: a South Africa-managed bilateral migration policy, and aspirations for a formal SADC-managed migration policy. Bilateral agreements between South Africa and neighbours have established a labour migration system that dims prospects for a regional migration policy. SACU Members could establish a two-tier policy to achieve free movement while maintaining managed migration policy outside SACU. An official multilateral migration governance mechanism would serve SADC better than the current ad-hoc measures.

Read the full paper on the African Development Review

“Framing Environmental Problems” by Magalie Bourblanc

“Framing Environmental Problems: Problem Entrepreneurs and the Issue of Water Pollution from Agriculture in Brittany, 1970–2005” by GovInn researcher Magalie Bourblanc was included in the special selection that the Journal of Environmental Policy & Planning on the occasion of the The 9th International Conference on Interpretive Policy Analysis.
The papers included in the selection are described as “excellent examples of the deployment of interpretive and critical approaches in the field of environmental policy and planning”.

Abstract: The claim that public problems are constructs is now widely recognized as justified and was first established in social problem theory. The high instability of problem definition activities in the case of water pollution coming from agriculture in Brittany demonstrates this particularly well. The objective of this article is to describe ways by which an environmental movement organization (EMO) conceives its activities of public problem construction. Inspired by social movement theory, but aiming at overcoming its weaknesses, the paper seeks to highlight the influence of EMO endogenous meaning production in problem construction processes, a dimension often overlooked even by framing theory. In a bid to support that claim, the paper shows the influence of the affective dimension over the strategic one within the problematization process. Forging a conceptual distinction characterized by a perceived problem and strategic definitions, the paper underlines the fundamental interrelated nature of these two components and consequently emphasizes the reciprocal dependence of the perceived problem over the strategic (either material or cognitive) definitions. Finally, the paper evokes the benefit and impact of this conceptual distinction on the policy-making process. Read the full paper here

High Ambitions and High Risks: Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA)

Infrastructure_Development_in_AfricaHigh Ambitions and High Risks: Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA) (GovInn and HBS, 24 April 2014) Author: Mzukisi Qobo

Dr. Mzukisi Qobo describes PIDA’s plan to double levels of investment in energy, water, and transportation mega-projects in Africa and the opportunities and risks these projects present for infrastructure investors and, especially, for Africans.  He cites six categories of risk (political; social and environmental; fiscal; security; institutional; and technical) and asks the big question: will PIDA accelerate the colonial patterns of resource extraction or foster the economic diversification required for Africa to prosper and expand job opportunities.

Read the full paper here

On the BRICS of Collapse? Why Emerging Economies Need a Different Development Model

On the BRICS of Collapse? Why Emerging Economies Need a Different Development Model (DEMOS/Rockefeller Foundation, December 2013) Author: Centre for the Study of Governance Innovation Picture_1 Since the turn of the millennium, the world’s attention has focused on the role of emerging economies and their impact on the global economy. Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, the so-called BRICS, have been described as a source of profound change. In particular, the 2008 financial collapse, which left the BRICS largely unscathed, seemed to confirm that a new phase was beginning. Yet, when one analyzes key social, economic and environmental trends in these countries, it becomes clear that the development model adopted by the BRICS is not sustainable. These emerging economies have pursued economic growth with little or no investment in human, social and natural capital. This has created profound imbalances and instabilities, which are further exacerbated by the current decline in GDP growth. For more info see:

A Region Without Borders? Policy Frameworks for Regional Labour Migration Towards South Africa

2013_Regions_Without_BordersA Region Without Borders? Policy Frameworks for Regional Labour Migration Towards South Africa
(University of the Witwatersrand, July 2013)

Author: C. Nshimbi and L. Fioramonti

Nshimbi, C.C. & Fioramonti, L. (2013) A region without borders? Policy frameworks for regional labour migration towards South Africa. Johannesburg: African Centre for Migration & Society, University of the Witwatersrand.