Civil society has been defined in many ways:
- as the associational life that brings people together and allows civic values and skills to develop
- as a set of values associated with the ‘good society’ which aims for social, economic and political progress
- as a space where debate and deliberation allows the negotiation of the common interest
In the Almanac, the term civil society is used to refer to all organisations that exist between government, individuals, and businesses. There is an estimated number of 390,000 civil society organisations. However, this number excludes estimates for unincorporated organisations ranging between 600,000 – 900,000.
The visual below, which is based upon work by Adalbert Evers and Jean-Louis Lavelle, positions groups of organisations according to their distance from the state, the market, and communities. Organisations at or near the boundaries with the public and private sector are ‘hybrids’, sharing the characteristics of different sectors. In the rest of this Almanac we use a “general charities” definition to define the voluntary sector. The voluntary sector is at the core of civil society, placed at the heart of the diagram.