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.