There are quite a number of sister organizations supporting research and education for the renewal of civil society. While it would be a conceit to expect that other organizations would understand civil society in just the way that we do, there are two conceptions from which we seek some distance. The one type conceptualizes the role of civil sector organizations as prodding the state to take action; these groups often identify as "non-governmental organizations", where government is the primitive. The other type conceptualizes the role as one of pushing back the state to make room for the market, often referred to as "free market institutes". However, neither of these types conceptualizes a genuinely independent sphere of action for civil society, distinct from both the state and the market.
We define civil society organizations, with the John Hopkins Center for Civil Society, as entities that are (1) institutionalized to some extent, (2) private and institutionally separate from government, (3) non-profit distributing to owners or directors, (4) self-governing and able to control their own activities, and (5) involving some meaningful degree of voluntary participation (Salamon et al., The State of Global Civil Society and Volunteering. Baltimore: CCSS Working Paper No. 49; 2012). Among the many organizations which do satisfy these criteria, there are a small number which are involved in research and education about civil society as an independent sphere of action. Below, we identify some of the most important of these.
John Hopkins Center for Civil Society
"The Johns Hopkins CCSS is a leading source of ground-breaking research and knowledge about the nonprofit sector, social investing, and the tools of government. The Center conducts research and educational programs that seek to improve current understanding, analyze emerging trends, and promote promising innovations in the ways that government, civil society, and business can collaborate to address social and environmental challenges."
"Cardus (root: cardo) is a think tank dedicated to the renewal of North American social architecture. Drawing on more than 2000 years of Christian social thought, we work to enrich and challenge public debate through research, events, and publications, for the common good."
Hauser Institute for Civil Society
"The Hauser Institute seeks to expand understanding and accelerate critical thinking about civil society, its leaders and institutions among scholars, practitioners, policy makers and the general public by encouraging scholarship, developing curriculum, fostering mutual learning between academics and practitioners, and shaping policies that enhance the sector and its role in society."
West Africa Civil Society Institute
"WACSI is a not-for-profit organisation that seeks to strengthen the institutional and operational capacities of civil society organisations through capacity strengthening programmes for increased and effective policy engagement, and the promotion of development, good governance and democratic values in West Africa."
The Carold Institute
"We have a passionate commitment to use our resources to promote civil society, creative voluntary action and inspired leadership for social change. Our highest priorities are creating spaces for conversations that advance democratic participation in Canada; supporting leaders in the voluntary sector to reflect on, refine and share their practices and knowledge; and fostering innovative partnerships with likeminded organizations and individuals."
Institute for Civil Society
"The Institute for Civil Society seeks to promote recognition and respect for the institutions of civil society that exist between individuals and government, uphold traditional rights and liberties, including the freedoms of association, expression, conscience and religion, and promote a sensible and civil discussion about how to balance competing rights and freedoms in Australian society."
Prague Civil Society Centre
"The Prague Civil Society Centre has been set up to empower civil societies across Eastern Europe and Central Asia in their quest for open society and respect for the rule of law, human rights and dignity. Using both innovative and traditional approaches, the Centre seeks to promote cooperation, trust and solidarity both within countries’ civil societies and across the borders as we believe this is key to the region’s better future."
Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society
"The Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society (Stanford PACS) develops and shares knowledge to improve philanthropy, strengthen civil society and effect social change. Stanford PACS connects students, scholars and practitioners and publishes the preeminent journal, Stanford Social Innovation Review."
The International Center for Not-for-Profit Law
"We come from virtually every continent, and we share a vision in which individuals are empowered to improve their everyday lives. We seek a legal environment that strengthens civil society, advances the freedoms of association and assembly, fosters philanthropy, and enables public participation around the world."
International Society for Third Sector Research
"ISTR is an organization committed to building a growing global community of scholars and interested others dedicated to the creation, discussion, and advancement of the highest quality of knowledge pertaining to the Third Sector and its impact on human and planetary well being and development internationally."