The Maecenata Institute for Philanthropy and Civil Society was founded in 1997. Initially it was organised as a non-commercial limited company. In 2010, it was integrated into the Maecenata Foundation. The Institute was affiliated with the Humboldt-University of Berlin from 2004 to 2013. Today it is a recognised independent research centre. The institute’s aim is to promote knowledge about civil society (the so-called third sector), through academic research, teaching, and publications.


Focal points of research include:

  • Civil society and the state,
  • Civil society and civic engagement,
  • Civil society in other research contexts and in practice,
  • Civil society in an international framework,
  • Philanthropy and foundations.


The institute values international cooperation and networking. It cultivates close relationships with colleagues at home and abroad. Cooperation with other institutions is a regular feature of the research process. The institute actively supports and contributes to international research projects.


The institute conceptualises it’s own research proposals and applies for the necessary funds. It also does research on commission and develops studies, evaluational reports, and critical commentaries. Internal and external research results are discussed in open colloquia.


Over 60 individual research projects, resulting in over 300 publications have taken place to date. These include:


  • Religious communities and civil society in Europe,
  • Civil society and refugees in German communes,
  • Inter-religious dialogue and civil society,
  • Urban development, civic engagement, and civil society,
  • Reform of institutional and non-commercial law,
  • The German section of the Civicus Civil Society Index project,
  • The German section of Roles and Visions of Foundations in Europe project,
  • Case studies for the Philanthropication through Privatization project,
  • etc.


The projects are run and supervised by full-time and voluntary researchers, associated scholars and colleagues as well as assistants.


Members of the institute teach in various courses of study at five Universities in Germany. Beyond their responsibilities within academic institutions, they offer academic advice, give papers and supervise theses in Germany and internationally.


The institute includes the Forschungscollegium (est. 2000), an interdisciplinary forum of research and exchange for young academics from German-speaking countries. Members include, but are not limited to doctoral candidates in the fields of sociology, political science, European anthropology, history, business management, and geography.


Publications of the institute include:


The series are open to outsiders for their publications. Members of the institute are also regularly published in books and journals at home and abroad.


The institute is almost entirely funded by other foundations and both private and public sponsors like the “Förderverein Zivilgesellschaftsforschung e.V.” (FVZF). It is also dependent upon donations.


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