Centre for Civil Society

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Centre for Civil Society
MottoSocial change through public policy
FounderParth J Shah
TypeLibertarian think tank
WebsiteOfficial website

Centre for Civil Society (CCS) is a non-profit think tank based in New Delhi. The Centre was founded in 1997 by Parth Shah, former Professor of Economics at the University of Michigan. It operates as an independent research and educational organisation.

According to the 2014 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report (Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program, University of Pennsylvania), CCS is rated number 5 (of 100) in the "Top Think Tanks Worldwide (non-U.S.)", number 50 (of 150) of "Top Think Tanks Worldwide (U.S. and non-U.S.)" and number 14 (of 50) in the "Top Think Tanks in China, India, Japan, and the Republic of Korea".[1]


Parth Shah taught economics at the University of Michigan in Dearborn for seven years before returning to India to advocate for what he calls a ‘Second Freedom Movement’ for economic, social and political independence.[2] He arrived at the conclusion that the statist model of governance was the reason for India’s lack of development and decided to provide an alternative view through the Centre. According to T N Ninan, CCS is "devoted to what one might call market liberalism, and inspired by such think-tanks in the US as the libertarian Cato Institute".[3]


CCS is an independent think tank focused on decentralisation, freedom and individual rights and policy reform for inclusive and sustainable development.


The organisation’s self-stated mission is "to promote choice, competition and community based policy reforms. Through research, advocacy and outreach, the Centre is reinvigorating civil society and rightsizing political society".[4]

CCS undertakes reviews and analyses of policies and on the basis of these, makes suggestions to the government on policymaking. It has adopted five streams of work: research, advocacy, campaigns, pilots, and policymaking. It has worked in six sectors in the past, i.e. education, economic freedom, governance, institution of community property rights for environment conservation, and promotion of globalisation and trade.[5] Today, the Centre runs two main issue-specific campaigns, the School Choice Campaign and Jeevika Livelihoods Campaign.[6] It publishes policy reviews and legislative analyses on different issues, organises public policy seminars for journalists, young leaders, development professionals and public officials, and hosts the annual Asia Livelihood Documentary Festival.


CCS has 28 full-time staff, 30 interns, and many volunteers annually. The team includes researchers and campaign specialists from multi-disciplinary backgrounds.[7]


The Centre is funded through non-government sources, contributions from individuals, and grants and awards from Indian and international foundations. Various institutional donors and individuals have supported the Centre’s work, including the following:


The University of Pennsylvania Go-To-Think-Tank study ranked it amongst the top 100 think tanks in the world and one of the top think tanks in India.[8][9][10]

CCS has also received four international Templeton Freedom Awards for market-based solutions to poverty alleviation, initiatives in public relations, and institutional excellence.[11][12][13]

A number of notable people have supported CCS’ work, including Gurcharan Das, Swaminathan Aiyar and Milton Friedman, who was the inspiration for the founding of the Centre as well as the School Choice Campaign. Friedman praised the Centre for "serving a vital role in facilitating India’s movement from a centralised economy to a free-market, private-enterprise economy."

Some of the accomplishments of the Centre’s advocacy campaigns are:


  • Elimination of the essentiality certificate required to start a school in Delhi.[14]
  • Inclusion in RTE of a quasi-voucher model through 25% reservation in private schools for children from economically weaker sections.
  • Adoption of the voucher idea in 3 big states [15]


  • Drafting of National Street Vendor policy [16]
  • Passing of street vendor legislation in Rajasthan [17]
  • Declaration of bamboo as a grass by the Union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh in 2011


  • Inclusion in Right to Information Act of ‘Duty to Publish’.

Areas of Work[edit]

School Choice Campaign[edit]

The Centre works in the arena of education reforms, running an advocacy and research initiative, School Choice Campaign. The Campaign focuses on bringing about reforms in the system of school education in India through Education Vouchers, Regulatory Reforms, and Encouraging Edupreneurs [18]

Education Vouchers[edit]

Through pilot projects, CCS has tested the applicability of school vouchers and other reform ideas and identified implementation strategies. They have worked with governments that have announced voucher schemes, like Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh, to design, implement and evaluate these schemes.

Delhi Voucher Pilot[edit]

School Choice Campaign has test run philanthropically funded pilot projects in Delhi since 2007. They designed and ran India’s first voucher pilot, Delhi Voucher Project.[19][20][21]

School Vouchers for Girls[edit]

The School Vouchers for Girls (SVG) pilot in North East Delhi is financing 400 girls from disadvantaged backgrounds[22][23] to attend a school of their choice. The pilot is in its third year of implementation and has observed positive changes in learning outcomes among voucher children.[24][25] Over the years, School Choice has been supported by corporate leaders like Narayan Murthy, Anu Aga, Gurcharan Das and Nandan Nilekani and political leaders like Ajay Maken, Deepender Singh Hooda, Baijayant Panda, Sheila Dikshit, and Arvinder Singh Lovely. Civil society organisations like Deepalaya and Pratham also have voiced their support for School Choice.

Regulatory Reform[edit]

For regulatory reform, CCS is working towards increasing choice and competition in education through school vouchers and voucher-type tools that "fund students, not schools."

The School Choice Campaign’s research and advocacy with respect to the Right to Education Act is focusing on:

  • Evaluating the process and impact of 25% reservation for children from economically weaker sections in private schools.
  • Auditing the Right to Education Act (RTE) using community score cards.
  • Identifying the difference in learning outcomes between public and private schools.

The School Choice Campaign has built a Right to Education coalition and portal[26] that provides a space for the exchange of experiences, ideas, and grievance redressal. There is also a helpline, set up in collaboration with municipal corporations to provide parents of economically weak sections information about the Act.[27][28]

Encouraging Edupreneurs[edit]

CCS has catalysed the creation of the National Independent Schools Alliance, a platform the education service providers, school owners and associations who are advocating for the rights of budget private schools. These schools face closure in the face of the RTE that sets forward norms and standards for obtaining a certificate of recognition.

Jeevika Campaign[edit]

Jeevika is a campaign to develop public policy measures that lead to deregulation of exit and entry barriers. Jeevika is currently active in Jaipur and Patna, working to get the Street Vendor Policy/Bill implemented. Their efforts have had success in both states. Rajasthan passed the Street Vendor Law and Bihar is continuing discussions on the Bill.

Documentary Festival[edit]

Under Jeevika, CCS organised the first Asia Livelihood Documentary Festival in August 2004. The objective was to create awareness about the livelihood space and to promote filmmakers who work on livelihood issues. The Centre concluded the 11th Asia Livelihood Documentary Festival in December 2014. The festival has provided a platform to filmmakers, activists and artists from various fields from across South Asia and disseminated information about livelihood trials and tribulations. Students are also invited to participate and send in entries to the festival.[29][30][31][32]

The Centre’s ‘Bamboo is not a tree’ campaign had its beginnings in a documentary screened at the Jeevika festival in 2009. Bamboo was classified as a grass by the Ministry of Environment and Forests in 2011. This is expected to provide relief to those relying on bamboo-based products for their living. The Jeevika festival is entering its 12th year. Guests in the past have included actors like Shabana Azmi, Nandita Das, and Rahul Bose as well as dignitaries like the former Minister of Home Affairs, P. Chidambaram.

CCS Academy[edit]

The Centre runs public policy training programs through CCS Academy, an initiative to spread liberal philosophy through workshops, colloquia and student programmes such as internships.


A series of certificate courses in public policy for young leaders, journalists, public officials, and corporate executives. The Centre hosts 3-4 of these courses a year.


iJustice is a public interest legal advocacy forum initiative of the Centre. It aims at promoting laws in personal, economic and social liberties through advocacy and litigation.


The Centre receives over 300 applications to its internship programmes and hosts over 20 interns every year in winter and summer internships. The interns receive training in the field of research and policy analysis.


The Centre also regularly holds colloquia on different themes, such as history of liberal thought in India, and property rights.

Over 7000 young people have passed through the courses that CCS offers. Alumni have gone on to pursue careers in public policy, working as economists, social scientists, and public officials around the globe.

RTE Portal[edit]

The Centre launched a Right to Education portal, an online resource centre for information regarding the Right to Education Act, 2009.


Within the Academy, CCS publishes and markets liberal resources, such as primers, monographs and handbooks on various issues. Amongst its periodicals are CCS Impact, the organisation’s quarterly newsletter and ‘Student First! News’, a weekly compilation of the developments in the education sector. It also publishes the Liberty & Society Series, a compilation of lectures from various talks and policy trainings. CCS has also published and publicised Public Choice – A Primer by Eamonn Butler, The Morality of Capitalism by Gurcharan Das and State of Governance: Delhi Citizen Handbook 2009 amongst other titles.[33][34]


The Centre has created a portal in Hindi called Azadi.me which is a joint venture between Cato and CCS under the Atlas Foundation’s Global initiative[35] to set up a libertarian website in Hindi. This is a platform for providing content, launching new initiatives, and managing campaigns. The website serves as a medium for information distribution and insights into a range of liberal issues to people whose first language is Hindi.


In collaboration with the Atlas Foundation, CCS has set up the Asia Centre for Enterprise. ACE is a "mentor and angel investor", offering training and guidance to liberal intellectual entrepreneurs to build and scale their organizations.[36] It is also a platform for these organisations to come together and share learnings and best practices.

Other Undertakings[edit]


The Centre maintains a library of over 5000 books on philosophy, economics, sociology, anthropology and politics. It also receives publications (books, journals, and newsletters) of think tanks from around the world.

Websites and Blogs[edit]

In addition to CCS websites like CCS.in, SchoolChoice.in, and Jeevika.org, the Centre also manages the websites and groups listed below. The School Choice website has a blog that discusses the daily developments in the field of education in India.

  • Swaminomics.org: CCS maintains this website where Swaminathan Aiyer, a veteran in the field of economy and finance writes on various issues of public importance.
  • Gurcharandas.org: Columnist, novelist, playwright, and management consultant, Gurcharan Das comments on the current Indian social cultural and economic scenario on this website. This site is also maintained by CCS.
  • Spontaneous Order eGroup: This is the CCS discussion group on ideas, principles, and policies that help create a civil society.
  • NisaIndia.org: Website for the National Independent Schools Alliance, managed by CCS.
  • Acenetwork.asia: Website for the Asia Centre for Enterprise, a collaboration between Atlas Economic Research Foundation and CCS that works on recruitment and training of think tank leaders. The website is amongst CCS’ online properties.


Present: [37][38][39]


  • Luis Miranda, Chairman of the Board.
  • Ashish Dhawan, Founder and CEO, Central Square Foundation, Winner of Forbes’ ‘Nextgen leader in philanthropy award’ [40][41]
  • Gurcharan Das, Author and Columnist, former CEO Procter & Gamble India.[42]
  • Iris Madeira, COO, Madhav Desai Consulting.
  • Parth J Shah, President and Founding Trustee, Centre for Civil Society.
  • Premila Nazareth, Independent governance and research consultant.




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External links[edit]