Placing Civil Society on the Economic Map

Civil Society

Complementing the state and the market, civil society organisations perform a wide range of tasks. They highlight problems even before they are identified by politicians. They serve as an advocate for social issues and organise cooperation in our communities. They stand for democratic diversity and strengthen cohesion and the self-reliance of the individual. They support us on our journey through life from our early years into old age. 

Lacking data

Despite the undisputed importance of civil society and its organisations in Germany, empirical data mapping this field in its entirety has been almost entirely lacking to date. A comprehensive statistical survey was last conducted as part of the Johns Hopkins project in the mid-1990s. Although regular analyses have since been carried out in various subareas, this data is not enough to convey an overall and current picture of Germany's third sector. As a result, many questions relating to organised civil society have so far remained unanswered.

Sustainable database

Through the project Placing Civil Society on the Economic Map (ZiviZ – Zivilgesellschaft in Zahlen), Stifterverband, the Fritz Thyssen Foundation (Fritz Thyssen Stiftung) and the Bertelsmann Foundation (Bertelsmann Stiftung) joined forces to establish a solid database for the description of organized civil society. In this way, the numerous characteristics of civil society have been explored and presented on a stand-alone basis. For the first time in over 15 years, then, the goal to obtain reliable data on civil society in Germany could be reached.


Processing the data 

The primary focus of the first project phase was on researching the available data and statistics on civil society. The findings indicated what we already know and areas where data was lacking. The results were collated in two publications. 

Analysing the Business Register

The Statistical Business Register (URS – Statistisches Unternehmensregister) is a regularly updated database containing all commercially active enterprises in Germany that have employees subject to mandatory social insurance contributions and a taxable minimum turnover of €17,500. This register also includes numerous third sector organisations. For a Long time, however, it has not been possible to report the third sector organisations separately. In the context of ZiviZ, those businesses that satisfy the criteria of third sector organisations have for the first time been flagged. This also means that, for the very first time, data is available for Germany from official statistics that addresses the economic importance  of the third sector. 

Civil society survey

Building on the results of the first phase, an organisational survey of civil society has been conducted in the second project phase (2010 to 2014). The Goal was to develop a tool for continuous reporting. The data is available and already used in various Projects. Meanwhile the ZiviZ Team is preparing the next round of this unique an representative Survey on organized civil Society in Germany.

Further information

For further information please contact Dr. Holger Krimmer, Project director of ZiviZ. 

 +49 (0)30-322 982 513 

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