Project Summary

The Activated Civil Society (aktivzivil)

The civic engagement that has emerged in connection with the so-called “long summer of migration” in 2015 is considered a „great moment for civil society“ in Germany. Studies emphasize the importance of civil society in coping with the immediate challenges posed by the arrival of large numbers of refugees. This strong activation of civil engagement forms the starting point of the project. The activation surge is located within the context of two further developments that shape civil society in Germany: a change in its structures and forms of action and its increasing politicization. It can be assumed that the long-term effects of civil society activation are decisively influenced by these changing framework conditions. However, systematic empirical studies on these topics are still lacking.

The joint project addresses this research gap and analyses:

  1. … whether the activation of civic engagement observed in the course of the so-called refugee crisis has led to the formation of new social networks (of individuals and organizations) or to a strengthening of existing social networks;
  2. … whether the opportunities for participation of individuals and groups, in particular of persons with a history of migration, have been sustainably increased and if their access to public resources has improved; and
  3. … whether new networks and forms of engagement have contributed to a consolidation of social cohesion.

To this end, focusing on six medium-sized cities, the effects of civil society activation will be examined on three levels (subprojects):

  1. The level of individual commitment
    (Subproject 2: Involvement – The micro-level of engagement)
    To what extent and how does the initial commitment turn into permanent forms of participation?
  2. The level of organizations
    (Subproject 1: Connection – The meso-level of engagement)
    To what extent and how did the activation surge of 2015 change the organizational landscape of civil society?
  3. The level of social consequences
    (Subproject 3: Connection – The macro-level of engagement)
    To what extent and how does this produce common good?

The research project is a cooperation of the German Centre for Integration and Migration Research (DeZIM), the Center for Civil Society Research at the Berlin Social Science Center (WZB) and the Institute for Migration Research and Intercultural Studies at the University of Osnabrück (IMIS).

In a transdisciplinary approach, the joint project cooperates with seven civil society organizations involved in the coordination of civil society engagement and the production of common good: Arbeit und Leben e.V.; Bundesarbeitsgemeinschaft der Freiwilligenagenturen e.V., Bundesnetzwerk Bürgerschaftliches Engagement e.V.; Bundesverband Netzwerke von Migrantenorganisationen e.V.; Diakonie Deutschland/ Evangelisches Werk für Diakonie und Entwicklung e.V.; Katholische Frauengemeinschaft Deutschlands e.V.; and PHINEO gemeinnützige AG.

Project Information


The project aktivzivil is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).


January 1st, 2020 – December 31st, 2022


The joint research project aktivzivil is coordinated by the German Centre for Integration and Migration Redsearch (DeZIM) in Berlin, Germany.
Contact: Prof. Dr. Sabrina Zajak, zajak[at]