Civil Societies Portal

What is Civil Society?

Civil society is the third "sector" along with business and government.  It is often said that civil society organizations elevate the individual's interests to the State.

It has been a valuable part of the human experience for hundreds of years all over the world. Civil Society is the interconnected network of semi-autonomous groups of people who have come together in response to shared concerns, beliefs, or interests. In reality, each individual group came together within the context of a specific series of events, conditions, dialogues, socio-economic forces, cultural practices or familial relationships. These groups may monitor government programs, educate constituents or lobby for changes in the laws. Many operate at the grassroots level, while some are sophisticated non profit corporations.

A village and neighborhood group may recruit residents to help support activities for seniors or youth. Other special interest non profits whose mission is access to health care or energy efficiency may use paid staff to organize campaigns to promote new legislation. Together they comprise a cadre of quality of life services that neither government, nor business is able or willing to provide. Out of necessity, Civil Society is constantly interacting with government and business. Organizers claim that both government and business are generally hard of listening and make many promises that are frequently unfullfilled. But through these groups, people get organized, put on events and lobby for additional products and services. But over the last 50 years, the increase in contractual relationships between civil society and government has led to conflicts of interest as to who and how services are provided. At the same time, many NPO's have ramped up financial development strategies so they are dominated by high end celebrity auction fundraisers who get kudos for doing this "charity" work.

Civil Society must remain true and responsive to the peoples needs.


Towards a Dynamic Theory of Civil Society: The Politics of Forward and Backward Infiltration Steven Klein1 and Cheol-Sung Lee2,3