New study from the Maecenata Institute: “Understanding Civil Society in Europe”

Maecenata Stiftung, the German TGE partner, published a new study about civil society in Europe through its Research Institute, in collaboration with the Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen (ifa).

Publication date: 15 Dec 2020

About civil society

Despite the striking differences with regard to the functions, parameters, relationship to the State and the market, and the current trends, neither the existence of a European civil society nor its sustainable positioning in the public sector can be denied.

Civil society is not a short-lived fad. It is part of Europe’s cultural tradition; it has a well-developed structure and legitimacy; and it will continue to be a major factor and, wherever possible, a motor for European development.

Currently, the potential of a dynamic civil society in the defence and further development of an open, cosmopolitan, and democratic society appears to be of particular importance.

About the study

The study is a very concise description of European civil society as researchers had to focus on certain areas of this very broad subject. They divided Europe into a number of geographical areas and chose one country of each to explore further. For instance, out of the three German-speaking countries discussed in the paper, Switzerland was chosen as a case-study to look at in details. 

One of the main conclusions of this research project is that there certainly is a common European definition of civil society these days, despite the debates animating academic circles on this issue. Civil society actors themselves (activists, researchers in the area, etc.) agree that there is a common definition and highlight this sector as one of the three big arenas in the public world beside the market and the State.  However, as Maecenata Institute’s study points out, each country has its own approach when it comes to the details of such a definition. Depending on the view taken, civil society can be active in service-provision, advocacy, watchdog function or in community building, etc. A methodology is to be found in the study regarding these salient features. 

About the Maecenata Institute

The Maecenata Institute is an independent think-tank and center for academic research, teaching, policy, and public information related to philanthropy and civil society. It is affiliated to Humboldt University, Berlin.

Its main focus areas include philanthropy & foundations, civil society policy, civil society & other areas of public activities, and European & International exchanges. 


The study’s details

Authors: Siri Hummel, Laura Pfirter, Johannes Roth & Rupert Graf Strachwitz

Title: Understanding Civil Society in Europe – A Foundation for International Cooperation

Editor: ifa Edition Culture and Foreign Policy

Read the study here: