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CSO Sustainability Index

Measuring the strength and overall viability of civil society 

For twelve years, we produced the annual monitoring and assessment USAID-funded report on the sustainability of the civil society sector, known as the Civil Society Organization Sustainability Index (previously entitled the Non-Governmental Organization Sustainability Index).

Civil society organization (CSO) sectors’ sustainability was measured in each country along seven dimensions: legal environment, organizational capacity, financial viability, advocacy, service provision, infrastructure, and public image.

Our local partners in each country led the process of organizing and convening a diverse and representative panel of CSO experts who discussed the seven dimensions and reached consensus on the scores for each dimension. With the information provided by the expert panels along with desk research, the local partners then developed narrative reports that were further reviewed by an editorial committee comprised of representatives of USAID, MSI, International Center for Not-for-Profit Law, and experts in the regions.

Annual issues of the USAID-funded CSO report were highly publicized in each country and the United States, and discussed extensively among international donors, researchers, and local CSO leaders and policymakers. The index report was widely used to bring stakeholder and public attention to the sector, and to guide designing technical assistance programs by USAID and other donors. Additionally, domestic CSOs used the index to formulate national agendas in promoting and strengthening the sector.

In addition to country-level impacts, the Civil Society Organization Sustainability Index allowed for comparisons across countries, given the consistency in the methodology used.