The Centre for Civil Society (CCS) is a leading, international organisation for research, analysis, debate and learning about civil society. It is based within the Department of Social Policy at the London School of Economics. Established initially as the Centre for Voluntary Organisation, the Centre has for over 20 years pioneered the study of the voluntary sector in the UK, development NGOs and civil society organisations throughout the world. The CCS is distinguished by its interdisciplinary and reflective approach to understanding whether and how civil society contributes to processes of social, political and policy change and continuity. Its core staff, research associates and visiting fellows cover a range of disciplines, including social policy, anthropology, political science, development studies, law, sociology, international relations and economics.

Definition of civil society
There has been a resurgence of interest in the idea of civil society, both in the UK and globally, from the late 1980s onwards. The concept of civil society is contested historically and in contemporary debates. There are many definitions of civil society. The Centre operates with a definition that captures the multi-faceted nature of the concept, whilst also being empirically and analytically useful.

Civil society refers to the arena of uncoerced collective action around shared interests, purposes and values. In theory, its institutional forms are distinct from those of the state, family and market, though in practice, the boundaries between state, civil society, family and market are often complex, blurred and negotiated. Civil society commonly embraces a diversity of spaces, actors and institutional forms, varying in their degree of formality, autonomy and power. Civil societies are often populated by organisations such as registered charities, development non-governmental organisations, community groups, women's organisations, faith-based organisations, professional associations, trades unions, self-help groups, social movements, business associations, coalitions and advocacy groups.



The Centre for Civil Society carries out innovative, interdisciplinary and comparative research on the study of civil society at global, national and local levels. The Centre seek not only to push theoretical frontiers but also to investigate the structure and dynamics of actually existing civil societies in diverse contexts, including their benign and less benign dimensions. Researchers at the Centre engage critically with conceptual debates around the normative and empirical content of civil society and of other similar terms such as social capital, the voluntary sector, non-profit sector, the third sector and community organisation. Researchers undertake grant-based research, commissioned research, and research consultancy work. The Centre is currently directing a major ESRC programme on Non-Governmental Public Action.

Research at the Centre has a strong applied focus. The Centre seeks to generate thinking and debate amongst policy-makers, practitioners, academics and activists in national, local and international institutions on the role of civil society organisations in service delivery, advocacy and policy-making processes. Through academic publications, public lectures, seminars, roundtables and conferences, the CCS brings together academics, policy-makers, practitioners and activists. This enables the Centre to forge links, build bridges and cultivate interactions with different actors who are engaged in the study and development of civil society.

Further information is available at CCS Projects and Consultancy Projects

CCS Projects

The research projects below only list some of the major projects and do not exhaust the range of research activities going on at CCS, as the individual members of the Centre are encouraged to pursue their own interests. The various research projects typically lead to publications in refereed journals, books and as chapters in edited volumes. The list of current projects below will updated in the new year.

Current projects
" Evaluation of the BME Fundraising Training Project
" Tempus Project - Social Work: Better Government
" Third Sector European Policy
" Voluntary Sector Working Papers
Recently completed
" Grants impact project
" Social Capital and the Cultural Sector
" Social Capital and the Voluntary Sector
" Organisational Forms and Learning Outcomes
" Understanding local civil society: analysing change in membership organisations
" Visions and roles of foundations in Europe
Long term projects
" Global civil society yearbook
Completed projects
A number of CCS projects have been completed. A list of such completed projects will be kept on the CCS website for a limited period in case of interest, although the individual pages are no longer being maintained.

Consultancy Projects

From time to time, the Centre undertakes relevant consultancy work on request.
Examples of some of our ongoing work include:

Ford Foundation on workshop on Civil Society.

An evaluation for Shine (Support and Help in Education of the educational, social and personal impacts of private grants on disaffected children and youth from deprived Greater and Inner London areas who participate in Shine funded projects.

An analyis of the role of Social Capital and the voluntary and community sector in the United Kingdom for the NCVO (National Council of Voluntary Organisations).

Assisting the LSDA (Learning and Skills Development Agency) to develop thinking about the potential role of different organisational forms in the promotion of learning opportunities.

A project on Human Rights and Governance in Bangladesh on behalf of Care International.

Postgraduate study programmes

PhD students supervised within CCS join the MPhil/PhD programmes of the Department of Social Policy. Research proposals on certain specific civil society themes are particularly welcome at CCS.

MSc in Management of Non-Governmental Organisations
The MSc is intended for people who are making, or who have the potential to make, a significant contribution to the non-governmental sector in the developing world as analysts, policy-makers, researchers or practitioners. Applicants will be expected to be well-qualified graduates with some experience of work within NGOs and/ or relevant government departments or donor agencies working with NGOs. Applications to the MSc from prospective students from developing and transition countries are particularly welcomed.

MSc in Voluntary Sector Organisation
The MSc is for those working in or with the voluntary or non profit sector in the UK and other industrialised countries. The programme offers opportunities for students to relate their experience to the advanced study of voluntary sector organisations within the context of social policy. Applicants are expected to be well-qualified graduates with around 2 years experience of working within the voluntary sector and community organisations. Those without degrees but with substantial experience and professional qualifications are also considered.


The most recent Centre publications can be downloaded using Adobe Acrobat Reader. Such material has been designed to be easy to photocopy and we invite you to disseminate it as widely as possible. All we ask is that you acknowledge the source.

CCS Reports

Civil Society Working Paper Series

International Working Paper Series


The third sector and the development of european public policy: frameworks for analysis?
Jeremy Kendall
Civil Society Working Paper 19

Civil society in transition: The East German third sector ten years after unification
Helmut K. Anheier, Eckhard Priller and Annette Zimmer
Civil Society Working Paper 15

The third sector and welfare state modernisation: Inputs, activities and comparative performance
Jeremy Kendall and Martin Knapp
Civil Society Working Paper 14

Civil society in non-Western contexts: Reflections on the "usefulness" of a concept
David Lewis
Civil Society Working Paper 13

The third sector in Europe: Five theses
Helmut K Anheier
Civil Society Working Paper 12

The mainstreaming of third sector into public policy in England and Wales in the late 1990s: Whys and wherefores
Jeremy Kendall
Civil Society Working Paper 2

Managing non-profit organisations: Towards a new approach
Helmut K Anheier
Civil Society Working Paper 1

Bridging the gap?: the parallel universes of the non-profit and non-governmental organisation research traditions and the changing context of voluntary action
David Lewis
International Working Paper 2

NGOs and participatory management styles: a case study of CONCERN Worldwide, Mozambique
James Sheehan
International Working Paper 2

Are expatriate staff necessary in international development NGOs? A case study of an international NGO in Uganda
Sarah Mukasa
International Working Paper 4

Power in partnership? an analysis of an NGO's relationships with its partners
Sarah Lister
International Working Paper 5

Exploring the concept of community: implications for NGO management
Jo de Berry
International Working Paper 8

Who will bear the torch tomorrow? Charismatic leadership and second-line leaders in development NGOs
M. Shameem Siddiqi
International Working Paper 9

Reading Freire's words: Are Freire's ideas applicable to Southern NGOs?
Monica M. Barroso
(NB This working paper is only published on the website. Printed copies are not available from the Centre)
International Working Paper 11

The Limitations of NGOs: a preliminary study of non-governmental social welfare organisations in China
Yiyi Lu
(NB This working paper is only published on the website. Printed copies are not available from the Centre)
International Working Paper 13


Professor Jude Howell

Centre for Civil Society
London School of Economics
Houghton Street
London WC2A 2AE
Tel: +44 (020) 7955 7205/6527/7375
Fax: +44 (020) 7955 6039

CCS Office Manager
Jane Schiemann
Tel: 020 7955 7205

Maria Schlegel: NGO programme administrator
Sue Roebuck: VSO programme administrator and CCS webeditor