Similar Initiatives (A Comparison)

Note that there already exists a huge global civil society network in the form of (1) the United Nations integrated Civil Society Organizations (iCSO) System that was developed by the UN's Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) and that is certainly worth taking a closer look at. While we have also included organizations from that UN network, the GCSN differs from it in several and as we think positive ways.


  • First and largely due to the application of our selection criteria, our GCSN is a lot less less confusing than the iCSO since we have so far only included less than 100 organizations in total (national branches are not counted separately) compared to the several tens of thousands of organizations that are listed in the iCSO.
  • Secondly, the GCSN also sports a far more sophisticated regional ordering of organizations than the iCSO which in this respect only orders by continent, to the effect that the GCSN once again provides users with far better oversight and structure.
  • Thirdly, the GCSN can furthermore pride itself on having a much more sophisticated ordering of (global) civil society fields of activity via its clusters and lists of key concepts in the respective introductions.
  • Fourthly, the GCSN also features (or is going to feature) atypical but fundamentally necessary (global) civil society fields of activity (e.g. (5) Alternative Media) that are utterly missing in the iSCO.
  • Fifthly and compared to the entire bureaucratic and top-down UN, the GCSN also has the advantage of being entirely unbureaucratic and bottom-up insofar as we for the most parts simply help to shine the spotlight on movements that were created by members of the global civil society, on those individuals themselves and on their publications.


In other words: While we appreciate the existence of the UN's iCSO, we think that we can do better than that at least in several respects, if not generally, in the long run. We consequently also identify ourselves more closely with more like-minded bottom-up movements such as Building Global Democracy or, as far as outstanding 'one man shows' are concerned, with the project of James Robertson ("working for a sane alternative").


The project that is closest to the GCSN at least in name is (2) the London School of Economics (LSE) supported Global Civil Society Knowledgebase. We, however, think that we can also outdo that quite useful knowledge base for reasons mentioned above (see especially the fourth point) but also since the GCSN is more practically-minded by providing people with points of entry into GCS-movements as opposed to boring them to death with academic and oftentimes far too theoretical discussions that are of little to no concern or even relevance for most people (and that is coming from someone who is active in academia). A third noteworthy network is (3) CIVICUS ("World Alliance for Citizen Participation") which represents the opposite extreme to the LSE project insofar as CIVICUS is essentially all activism and no knowledge base. We at the GCSN, however, prefer to maintain a balance between those two opposing ends of the spectrum since we offer information that is of theoretical and of practical importance.


In terms of support and optimization initiatives, there is also (4) the International Civil Society Centre ("helps the world’s leading international civil society organisations (ICSOs) maximise their impact for a sustainable and more equitable world") and its annual Global Perspectives October conferences or (5) the Funders’ Initiative for Civil Society (FICS) which "aims to help private funders align their efforts in this field, to provide information to civil society organisations about the different forms of support available, to being to build cross-sector networks with humanitarian, environmental and development funders and to start work on creating better channels of communication with state actors and international institutions."