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Definitional game-playing: civil society, non-commercial, non-profit, non- governmental, third sector, etc

The key question with regard to any .org strategy -- or with regard to any democratic structure to manage the .org registry and associated enabling services -- is not what is explicitly included, but what is implicitly or inadvertently excluded.

Common TermEffectively Excludes
(in common usage - indicative only)
civil society organizations (CSOs)scientific, technical, trade associations, sport bodies, for-profit membership bodies
voluntary associationspaid staff bodies, professional membership, corporate membership, obligatory membership
citizens movements institutionalized bodies, collective membership
non-profit organizationsself-financing bodies, for- profit membership
non-governmental bodies (NGOs)technical groups of government officials, government-established/funded bodies, hybrid bodies
third sector bodiestrade associations, hybrid bodies between government/business/nonprofit, and notably international nonprofits
independent sector bodiesgovernment or business "front" organizations
development organizations bodies other than humanitarian or field-level development bodies
humanitarian / relief bodiesbodies with longer-term functions: scientific, professional, interest- group, etc
political organizations, liberation movements, exile associations non-political bodies
kinship, family, tribal and ethnic associations 
non-commercial bodiestrade associations, chambers of commerce, for-profit membership bodies
advocacy and pressure groups, and lobbying groupsinterest groups without any advocacy role
peer group networks, secret societiesopen membership bodies
scholarly societies non -academic bodies
professional associations open membership bodies
virtual communities, usenet groups, user groupsface-to-face organizations, bodies beyond the digital divide
societal networkscenters
intentional communities, sectsnon-residential communities
appreciation groups, fan (celebrity) clubs 
trade associations, business associations, chambers of commercenot-for-profit membership bodies
activity groups, performance groups, sports bodies, outdoor associationsnon-physical groups

See also: NGOs and Civil Society - Some Realities and Distortions: the challenge of "Necessary-to-Governance Organizations" (NGOs) (1994); Interacting Fruitfully with Un-Civil Society: the dilemma for non-civil society organizations (1996); International institutions: diversity, borderline cases, functional substitutes and possible alternatives

The challenge taken up by many in "civil society" is to seek to coordinate the actions of nonprofit organizations in some way. There is a wide range of coordinating bodies at the international level (see NGO Coordination: Varieties of bodies coordinating nongovernmental action). Such coordination may also be sought through temporary coalitions on short-term issues and campaigns. The challenge remains however that whilst some civil society bodies may be succesfully coordinated for a long-period of time, and it might be possible to coordinate all civil society bodies to some degree for a short period of time, it is highly questionable whether all civil society bodies could be successfully coordinated for a long-period of time on any particular issue -- and it is highly questionable whether this is a desirable strategy.

Discussion of "civil society" is further confused, whether deliberately or inadvertently, by some interpretations of the term. For some it might be restricted to bodies acting a "civilized" manner, namely the "good guys" -- thus implicitly excluding those with contrary positions who "protest". For some it might be usefully restricted to those who represent people, through citizens movements and volunary associations -- thus impliclty excluding the many other kinds of nonprofit bodies that provide an organizational framework for professions, religions, skills, etc. For some it necessarily excludes illegal or criminal bodies as having defined themselves out of civilized society --and yet many protest movements (especially trade unions) have passed through periods of being declared "illegal". If there is an "un- civil society", how is it to be served by the internet?