This paper outlines the project design of the CIVICUS Civil Society Index, initiated in 1999 by the international civil society alliance CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation. Over the past five years, a large number of individuals and organisations have contributed to the project's development. CIVICUS Secretary General and Chief Executive Officer, Kumi Naidoo, came up with the initial idea of a Civil Society Index in 1999 and has, since then, constantly provided strategic guidance and advice to the CSI project as well as to me personally, for which I owe him much. Professor Helmut Anheier developed the initial research framework, known as the Civil Society Diamond, which is still at the heart of today's CSI. Then, in 2000/2001, during the CSI's pilot phase, the national partners brought the project to life in their countries and provided useful input to the subsequent evaluation phase. During the re-design phase, Carmen Malena worked with me on revising the CSI's methodology and approach and significantly shaped its design. The results of this truly collaborative and highly enjoyable effort on the CSI re-design, which took the form of three week-long face-to-face sessions and countless phone calls between a small German town and a village near Quebec City, Canada, are presented in this paper. Since 2002, the CIVICUS CSI Team, together with our national partners in 61 countries, have turned the abstract letters and numbers of the CSI documents into an engaging hands-on initiative. The immense drive of the CSI Team and the national partners bodes well in making the project a groundbreaking initiative on participatory civil society assessment and the strengthening of civil society.