CIVIC HEALTH INDEX

           

Background

Thе Civic Health Index (CHI) is a sociological survey developed by Sofia Platform Foundation as part of the Civic Europe program, funded by the German organization Stiftung Mercator. The application of the Index is the work of Global Metrics – an agency for marketing and sociological research and analysis. The Index will be published in the beginning of 2022.

For the purposes of the Index, the term ‘civic health’ is defined as the momentary set of components of civic participation and the conditions that enable or impede it. Civic participation itself is understood as one of the two fundamental principles of democracy, along with representation.

Why is a Civic Health Index necessary?

In times of an ongoing pandemic, but also long before, at least two current trends give civic health (participation) a particular new relevance. These are the growing frustration of citizens with the way liberal democracies deal with the problems of our time, and their growing support for leaders with a ‘firm hand’.

Both trends put democracy in a state of erosion and make civic participation particularly important. For this purpose, the processes and conditions that enable civic participation deserves a closer look. Therefore, under collective term ‘civic health’, this Index aims to create a mechanism for measuring participation in Bulgaria, but not only.

How is the Index different from existing indices and studies?

In recent years, both in Bulgaria and in a comparative context, numerous studies related to civic participation have been conducted using different approaches. Each of them expands the understanding of current processes and problems and allows for making recommendations for future work in respective fields.

However, at the core of the development of the Index is the need to look at civic participation in a holistic manner. On the one hand, this will provide a comprehensive snapshot of the current state of civic participation and will serve as an early warning mechanism for potential democratic erosion. On the other hand, a systematic approach will allow us to capture the different degree of impact of various processes related to civic participation. Third, this will help to define effective civic initiatives and policies to support civic participation.

The following section gives information on the components, target groups and methodology of the CHI as an overview of our understand of a holistic approach to civic participation.

Components

The indicators that compose the Civic Health Index are grouped into 5 (five) main modules (components) and each module has a few subcomponents:
  • Citizenship:
    • Civic literacy;
    • Civic participation;
    • Political participation;
    • Community life.
  • Institutions:
    • Legal framework and scope of civic participation;
    • Institutional approach to civic participation;
    • Access to information;
    • E-participation;
    • Assessment of institutions.
  • Civic Infrastructure:
    • Civil society sector;
    • Civic spaces.
  • Vulnerable groups and children:
    • Civic participation of vulnerable groups;
    • Children participation.
  • Impact assessment:
    • Impact of civic participation.
  • Additional module: COVID-19.

Target groups

The Index takes into account the interactions between 5 (five)  groups of social actors:
  • Citizens at large;
  • Representatives of institutions;
  • Children (age 12 to 18);
  • Vulnerable groups;
  • NGOs, pressure groups, informal groups.

Methodology

The following methods and tools for data collection and analysis are used for the Index:
  • Legal analysis and an analysis of the institutional framework of participation;
  • Analysis of court practice;
  • Desk research – documentation analysis;
  • Analysis of statistical data and other statistical information;
  • Sociological research through qualitative methods;
  • Representative quantitative research.
The Index works both as a holistic instrument, combining all modules and target groups, but can also be used as assessment of the individual modules and target groups. Each indicator has a weight proportional to its impact on the overall assessment of civic participation.

Scope and timeframe

The Index will measure different aspects of civic health through various indicators both at the national and local level. It can be used in different ways and for different purposes. Individual components can be measured, as well as all components of the Index as a whole. For example – one can measure only the civic participation of a certain profile of a vulnerable group in relation to the decision-making processes of a particular institution or policy. The Index can also be applied at different territorial units.

The pilot of the Index in 2021 is done on two levels: national and municipal. The municipal Index is done in Vratsa municipality due to its specific character – it is based in the poorest region in the country and at the same time in recent years the local authorities have demonstrated higher levels of activity and engagement, which are likely to affect the state of civic participation.