Assessment of the Enabling Environment for CSDev – Categorization/Coding System

The Monitoring Matrix on Enabling Environment for Civil Society Development is a detailed theoretical framework based on international human rights and freedoms and regulatory practices of European countries and the EU. The framework is built around three core areas: Basic Legal Guarantees of Freedoms; Framework for CSOs’ Financial Viability and Sustainability; Government – CSO Relationship, each divided in sub-areas. The areas are elaborated by standards, which are further specified through legal and practice indicators.

The legal indicators are measured by coding the presence or absence of rules, costs, procedures and obligations enshrined in legal regulation (primary and secondary) and policy frameworks enacted in the respective countries. To assure standardization and comparability of the data gathering process regarding the practice indicators, country researchers follow a methodology plan in which each of the 80 indicators are further operationalized in concrete mandatory and additional data types. The mandatory data types tap into the core building blocks of a practice indicator as described in the Monitoring Matrix Toolkit. They mandate the reporting of optimal information without which one could not be able to evaluate the respective indicator. The additional data specified for each practice indicator are reported if country researchers want to deepen and further illustrate specific practice indicator.

The data gathering strategy for the practice indicators is tailored to match the mandatory data types specified in the methodology plan. For each indicator there is a clear guidance on the data gathering strategy (instruments and sources) which should be utilized by country researchers. The specified data gathering instruments and sources follow an implicit hierarchy, in which publicly available factual data (e.g. official statistics) are the most important source of data for assessing practice indicators, followed by survey data from civil society organizations, which in turn is followed by relevant secondary sources (e.g. from CSOs reports, Ombudsman and media). Finally, at the end of the hierarchy are interview data, being subjective type of data, which covers smaller groups of respondents.

Data gathering

The data gathering strategy for the practice indicators is tailored to match the mandatory data types specified in the methodology plan. For each indicator there is a clear guidance on the data gathering strategy (instruments and sources) which should be utilized by country researchers. The primary factual data and secondary data are gathered through desktop research. Following the data gathering strategy, country researchers utilize three core data gathering instruments: Freedom of Information requests (FoI), survey questionnaire and interview topic guides. The Freedom of Information requests (FoI requests) are used by researchers when public information and statistics on the state of civil society and their environment are not readily and publicly available. The survey questionnaire collects information on civil society organisations’ experiences and perceptions on the key aspects of the enabling environment for civil society for the period reported. The same questionnaire is implemented across all countries, and only the formulation of few items is slightly adapted to the concrete country context to assure questions are understood by respondents. The four interview topic guides are used in semi-structured interviews with the following groups of respondents: representatives of associations of journalists and media professionals; representatives of organisations of volunteers; representatives of the institution or mechanism for CSO cooperation and representatives of informal civil society groups (e.g. citizen initiatives, social movements and online initiatives).

Data analysis and interpretation

To analyse and interpret the data, country researchers use a unified data collection template which provides the indicators description (including the mandatory and additional data types for the practice indicators) and five category descriptions ranging from fully enabling to fully disabling environment provided under each indicator. The five category descriptions are specified for each legal and practice indicator in the Monitoring Matrix Toolkit, to enable researchers – based on the reported data – to choose one code (score) which most accurately summarizes the state of enabling environment concerning the respective indicator. In a first step, the researcher reports the required data types collected through different sources in the template box. For example, they report factual data from primary sources complemented with descriptive statistics or cross tabulations based on survey data. In a second step, they choose one of five category descriptions specified for the respective indicator which best illustrates the reported data. The categories enable unified comparison of findings on the level of indicators across all country reports.

The assessment of the enabling environment through the categorization system was created in order to address the need for ‘compressed’ and effective visual communication of findings and systematic presentation of changes in the enabling environment for CSDev on the level of standards across countries and years. Moreover, the categorization system enables standardization of quality of the country and regional reports and contributes to more effective evaluation of indicators with the Monitoring Matrix Tool-kit. These are the categories/codes for assessing each indicator under the standards with the following explanations for legislation and practice:

Category/code Legislation Practice Score
Fully disabling environment (1) Legislation is fully restrictive and against MM standards1. It is restrictive to the operation of CSOs and their representatives and seriously obstructs or hampers their work. In practice, MM standards are severely restricted or violated and the operation of CSOs and the work of their representatives are hampered. Malpractices and restrictions are common, threats to CSOs/their representatives exist and are heavily affecting their work. 1
Disabling environment
Legislation is restrictive and not in line with MM standards. It is hampering, making difficult the operation of CSOs and the work of their representatives, but still allow some space for operation of CSOs and work of their representatives. In practice, MM standards are not met/not satisfied. CSOs are hampered; face substantial challenges and obstacles in their operation, but despite serious difficulties CSOs and their representatives can still operate. 2
Partially enabling environment
Legislation partially meets/satisfies MM standards, and there are still some minor legal restrictions or issues which are not regulated. In practice, MM standards are partially met / satisfied. Severe violations are not common but minor restrictions and difficulties in the work of CSO/representatives are reported. 3
Enabling environment
Legislation is in line with MM standards. In practice, MM standards are respected/satisfied. No or very few cases of smaller breaches, restrictions or hampering of the operation of CSOs/their representatives have been reported. 4
Fully enabling environment
Legislation is fully in line with MM standards. There can even be cases of legislation surpassing standards and principles enshrined MM. In practice, MM standards are fully respected/satisfied, and implementation of the legislation is a routine process from all parties involved. There are cases of best practices which surpass the standards and principles enshrined in MM standards. 5

(1) Monitoring Matrix standards are developed with consideration of internationally guaranteed freedoms and rights as enshrined in international law and best regulatory practices at the regional level.