CSI – about us

Centre for Social Investment (CSI)
Max-Weber-Institute for Sociology

Heidelberg University
Bergheimer Str. 58
69115 Heidelberg

+49 6221 5411950


The Centre for Social Investment (CSI) is a research centre at the Max-Weber-Institute for Sociology in the Faculty of Economics and Social Sciences of Heidelberg University. It sees itself as an interdisciplinary centre in research, education and training as well as a transdisciplinary partner for the third sector.

The central research topics of the CSI are, in addition to the eponymous social investments and innovations, foundations, civil society and the social economy. Special attention is paid to innovative cross-border research - be it between sectors or between forms of organizations. From a comparative or often exploratory perspective, research projects are carried out at national, European and international levels. The CSI's research contributes to fundamental theoretical understanding, applied knowledge and political and strategic debates in civil society and the third sector, thus defining this area alongside the market and the state.

CSI research aims to contribute to the shaping of self-perceptions of the third sector, to analyze its legal, economic and social framework conditions, and to contribute to increasing the effectiveness of social enterprises. Our research results are communicated to the public not only through teaching and professional qualification mechanisms and publications, but also put into practice through cross-sector transdiciplinary formats of cooperation on social innovation formats, e.g. in innovation laboratories.


Prof. Dr. Kathia Serrano Velarde, Academic Director

Dr. Georg Mildenberger, Head of Research

Dr. Volker Then, Executive Director 2006-2021

Prof. Dr. Helmut K. Anheier, Academic Director 2006-2019


For more detailed information:

Research_agenda CSI 2017-2026


Interdisciplinary, international approach

At the present time, the solution of complex tasks of foundations, social enterprises or nonprofit organizations can only be achieved through a consistent cooperation of social sciences (civil society, policy analysis), law (charitable law, foundation law), economics (management), and theology and ethics (normative foundations ). The CSI therefore implements a cooperation of the socio-economic, economic, legal and theological faculties of the University of Heidelberg. In addition to this interdisciplinary approach, the CSI's work emphasizes an international approach and works with centres in Europe, the US and other regions.


Transdisciplinary cooperation with the practice

In communicating its research results, the CSI and its team members not only follow the path of the usual formats of communication and transfer. The Centre also collaborates in innovation formats with other actors in science, policy and practice from the very beginning, linking social research with social innovation impulses for practice. Such formats of cooperation are e.g. Real-World Laboratories, System Innovation Labs, or Intralabs for the entrepreneurial, strategic development of individual organizations.

Partnerships and cooperations

As part of the Max-Weber-Institute for Sociology, the CSI is part of the Faculty of Economics and Social Sciences. In addition, there are cooperative relationships with the Faculty of Law and the The Institute for the Study of Christian Social Service of the University of Heidelberg as well as other individual institutes and professors.

Since 2016, the Max-Weber-Institute has received basic funding from the university for the CSI. The core funding of the CSI in its development phase as a Central Research Institution at the University (until 2015) was based on funds of the Manfred Lautenschläger Foundation, the Robert Bosch Foundation, the Fritz Thyssen Foundation, the Deutsche Bank Foundation, the Gemeinnützige  Hertie Stiftung, the Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft and only to a small extent from the University of Heidelberg. In addition, a number of other foundations and partners sponsored individual research and application projects, including but not limited to: the Generali Future Fund, the Mercator Foundation, the Bertelsmann Foundation, the Gulbenkian Foundation, the Compagnia di San Paolo, the Fondazione Cariplo, and the Rijksbanken Jubileumsfonds.

The CSI research projects are mostly third-party funded; the sponsors include the European Union, federal and state ministries, foundations, business enterprises, charities, civil society organizations and the DFG.