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Difference Between Civil Society and NGO


Explore the intricate web of society to learn about the subtle distinctions between Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and civil society. Discover their goals, roles, and cooperative effects on society’s advancement. Learn how important NGOs are to civil society as its operational arm and how both groups work together to promote safety and justice while prioritising human rights and well-being.

Society can be pictured as a big, densely woven quilt made up of several organizations and groups that all contribute to the advancement and management of our community. Though sometimes interchangeable, civil society and non-governmental organisations have different roles, goals, and purposes in improving society, as explained in this blog.

Think about how civil society gave rise to modern political parties. Civil society is not just states or families; it is a group that actively engages in economic, social, and cultural activities, overcoming hurdles to make a positive impact. NGOs are a major force in this complex web, supporting the organisations in charge of civil society with essential assistance. They serve as spark plugs, concentrating people’s energy and determination on advancing society. 

Comprehending the Role of Civil Society and NGOs

Civil society comprises a collection of individuals engaged in a range of activities; it is not limited to the political and familial domains. Conversely, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are volunteer-run, nonprofit institutions that function locally, regionally, or globally with the main goal of promoting societal well-being. Governments, being civil states, endeavour to maintain justice and equity; nonetheless, civil society is vital in moulding and impacting governance and acts as a watchful ombudsman to guarantee governmental adherence. On the other hand, when governments face challenges or are unable to effectively meet the demands of their citizens, NGOs step in as crucial players. The prominence of non-governmental organisations often indicates areas in which government efforts may be inadequate. NGOs are characterised by their commitment to public rights, responsiveness, and accountability, and they actively seek to effect positive changes in society.

Objectives of Civil Society and NGOs

The primary aim of civil society is to convert the rights, obligations, and values outlined in the Indian Constitution into tangible actions. NGOs are crucial when governmental barriers impede citizens from engaging in society effectively due to a range of issues. The protection of human rights, aiding the underprivileged, and enhancing society at large are the common objectives of NGOs and civil society. Civil society has an important role in addressing societal issues and proactively developing solutions for topics like poverty and inequality. To achieve these objectives and encourage positive social change, NGOs—the organisational arm of civil society—are essential.

All About NGOs

NGOs are voluntary, non-profit organisations that work locally, regionally, and globally without interference from the government. Known as ‘non-state, non-profit-oriented institutions that promote public interest,’ these groups concentrate on human rights, development, and social justice concerns. NGOs keep their non-governmental status by excluding government officials from joining, even though they frequently receive funds from the government. NGOs are essential to a nation’s social development because they create opportunities for the underprivileged. They represent a dedication to constructive change and provide an essential institutional framework while acting as catalysts for independent and sustainable development.

Various Aspects of Civil Society

The World Health Organization makes a distinction between businesses that make money and civil societies. It lists a number of these groups, including advocacy groups, trade unions, non-profits, coalitions, women’s organisations, neighbourhood groups, and faith-based and professional associations.

Collaborative Role of Civil Society and NGOs in India

Progressive interpretations of the Indian Constitution, laws, and policies increase development potential by giving equal importance to social justice, gender parity, inclusivity, citizen awareness, empowerment, and improved quality of life, in addition to economic advancement. Taking an active part in projects and programs that the state initiates is an essential way that civil society may help realise the development vision. NGOs play an important role in development and civil society on a local, national, and worldwide scale.

Table of representation of comparison between Civil Society and NGOs across various criteria, 

Criteria Civil Society NGOs
Definition A group of individuals involved in various activities for societal advancement. Volunteer-run, nonprofit institutions working to promote societal well-being.
Scope Encompasses a broad range of societal activities, including economic, social, and cultural domains. Focuses on specific issues, operating locally, regionally, or globally.
Formation Arises organically from individuals engaging in societal activities. Established as voluntary organizations with specific missions.
Relationship with Government Acts as a watchful ombudsman, influencing governance but not directly involved in policy-making. Independent from the government but may collaborate or receive funding.
Objectives Converts constitutional rights into tangible actions and addresses societal issues proactively. Primarily focuses on human rights, development, and social justice concerns.
Role in Development Integral to societal development, addressing issues like poverty and inequality. Essential institutional framework, catalysts for independent and sustainable development


In conclusion, NGOs and civil society have different missions yet aim to protect human rights. Both organisations actively advance societal growth and safety by fighting for people’s rights, safety, and well-being. Collectively, they constitute fundamental cornerstones in the continuous quest to protect and maintain human rights for a fair and safe community.

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