Olga Kononykhina

quantitative sociologist & data scientist

Olga Kononykhina - Quantitative sociology and data science in the fields of art, culture, diversity, governance, development, civil society and non-profits

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Work & study journey

Projects & travel

Olga Kononykhina is a data scientist at the ZiviZ im Stifterverband, Berlin. Her work (for the last 10 years) centres on national and international data-driven research projects in the fields of 

  • culture (Global Report - UNESCO, IFCD -Council of Europe, Cultural Value Project - HSoG)
  • civil society (Corporate Citizenship survey ZiviZ, Civil Society Enabling Environment Index - CIVICUS, Civil Society Index - CIVICUS, Global Civil Society Index - Hertie School of Governance, Comparative Nonprofit Sector Project - John’s Hopkins University, Civil Society Monitor - NRU-HSE), 
  • governance (European Governance Monitor - Dahrendorf Forum, The Governance Report - Hertie School of Governance; Good Governance Index – Council of Europe, Berggruen Index of Governance - Hertie School of Governance), 
  • development (Nigerian Corporate Governance Index, Business Action Against Corruption Africa). 

Before joining ZiviZ im Stifterverband she has worked in academia (Hertie School of Governance, Germany; CSI Heidelberg University, Germany; John’s Hopkins University, USA; NRU-HSE, Russia); non-profit sector (CIVICUS, South Africa); and collaborated with various organisations in Africa and Europe (including UNESCO and the Council of Europe).

She holds BS in Sociology and MS in Applied Mathematics and Informatics and currently is finishing her PhD at the Heidelberg University, Germany.



  • develop overall concepts / frameworks
  • develop indicators
  • collect, clean and analyse data
  • develop indices
  • create visualizations, GIS, maps
  • teach methods, data analysis
  • give lectures about civil society and non profit sector
  • give workshops about culture
  • write reports, articles and policy recommendations

IN WHAT FIELDS: Arts, culture, civil society, non profit sector, governance and development

FOR HOW LONG: 10 years and counting -

  • ZiviZ im Stifterverband
  • Hertie School of Governance (Germany),
  • CSI Heidelberg University (Germany),
  • CIVICUS (South Africa),
  • John's Hopkins University (USA),
  • NRU-HSE (Russia )

FOR WHOM: Academia, International Organisations, NGOs, Think Tanks

FAVORITE METHODS: GIS, dataviz, cluster, factor and network analysis, IRT models, data mining, FCA

WHERE: ZiviZ im Stifterverband in Berlin, Germany (since 2018)


MY Projects

As you can see all my projects aim to measure social systems and institutions. I usually work on macro-level projects, analyzing data that compare performance of multiple countries (but I look forward to working on a county or a city level - so i can practice my GIS skills more).

The projects I work(ed) on answer the  following questions:

  • how private sector collaborates with nonprofit sector,
  • how to measure performance of public institutions,
  • what are the drivers of good governance,
  • what is cultural diversity and how to measure it,
  • how to measure impact/value of cultural projects,
  • how to measure impact/value of cultural relations,
  • how to measure impact of an international convention/treaty,
  • how culture can drive democratic development, 
  • how to define and measure enabling environment for civil society, 
  • what is a critical capacity of a non-profit sector and how one can measure it etc.

I can tell you many fascinating data supported stories about pretty much any country in the world. However I do know a bit more about two regions I worked the most at (Europe - especially Russia, Romania, Germany, Ukraine; and Africa - especially South Africa, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Egypt).

Below you can find a description of selected projects I was a part of:

olga kononkyhina dataviz mapping data science
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olga kononykhina ggplot data science dataviz arts culture

artS & culture





      Olga Kononykhina dataviz, data science
      olga kononykhins data science, dataviz
      olga kononykhina data science dataviz arts culture civil society

      Chapter 14. Russia: A classical statist model (Irina Mersianova, Olga Kononykhina, S. Wojciech Sokolowski, and Lester M. Salamon) -Explaining Civil Society Development: A Social Origins Approach 2017

      Partnering with civil society - Global Report - Evaluating the Impact of the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions - Helmut K. Anheier; Olga Kononykhina 2015

      Measuring the Enabling Environment of Civil Society: A Global Capability Index - VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations - Lorenzo Fioramonti; Olga Kononykhina 2014

      In Search of Critical Capacity: Exploring Attitudes of NPO Leaders in Russia - Higher School of Economics Research Paper No. WP BRP 59/SOC/2015 Dr. Anael Labigne; Olga Kononykhina; Irina V. Mersianova 2015


      Cultural participation and inclusive societies - Council of Europe. Thematic Report - Helmut K. Anheier,  Regina A. List, Olga Kononykhina and Jessica Leong Cohen 2016

      Bridging the gaps: citizens, organisations and dissociation - CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation - Andrew Firmin; Mark Nowottny; Olga Kononykhina; JessicaHume 2011

      A disconnected civil society – where does faith fit in? - Media Development - Andrew Firmin; Olga Kononykhina 2012

      Civil Society in Modernising Russia CIVICUS Civil Society Index Analytical Country Report for Russia - NRU-HSE (also available in russian) - Lev Jacobson; Irina V.Mersianova; Vladimir V. Benevolensky; Olga Kononykhina etc. 2011


      My online CV will be here later, you may want to check a pdf version in the meantime

      And here is some stuff you didn't know and won't find on my CV


      How it all started: I was born and grew up in a suburb of Lipetsk (big industrial city in central Russia) in a house that was divided between 3 families with a Russian oven, no water or sanitation. Even now there is no google street view. But it was on the edge of a forest and we had all the freedom to explore the world around. Just think about it, I had a hedgehog, craw, duck and cats as pets, baked potatoes and bread on the open fire in the forest as often as I wanted, skied or cycled for hours. 

      Negotiation training: I was 2,5 when my brother was born. It was very exciting because i was promised that we would play together, so you can sense my degree of disappointment when Peter arrived and couldn't play with me. I wasn't ready to completely give up on the idea of having a sibling, but obviously wasn't happy with having a brother. When on some occasion we passed by a hospital I told my mother that the brother was no useful sibling and we'd better exchange him for a sister. Mom agreed but offered me to go and negotiate. So I went in, came back after a while and told my mom that unfortunately no sisters were available for exchange at the moment but I was advised to come next day.

      To be or not to be: I was in a special ballet class and apparently was quite good (or just hard working, who knows) and my mother worried that I would try to become a ballerina, so as soon as I started developing and platoed with my dance progress mom happily took me out of ballet. Anyway, I still love dance and still have dreams about dancing on stage

      Knowledge addict: I was and still is a huge nerd (I even had a  medal for excellence in studying). Back in secondary school my passion was with chemistry, geography, ecology, history and literature. In high school I got seriously hooked on macro-economics and then mathematics obviously clicked too. At the university I couldn't get enough of studying and often took 3 instead of 1 electives and also attended bunch of open-level courses. Now I consume mostly podcasts and online classes. 

      Failure is a part of life but not the reason to give up: Despite all my efforts and hours of preparation I didn't get into the university of my choice when i graduated from school. I was stubborn enough and didn't want to study anywhere else (and obviously wanted to prove to myself that i can get into the uni i wanted) so I spent the next year preparing for entrance exams... and... got 1 point below that year acceptance rate (okay for the sake of justice I got into 5 other universities, but wasn't really interested). I had to have an interview with the dean... and ended up being 5th on the waiting list... A week later they called me that I got accepted. 

      First job: I had my first paid job when I was 13. My father arranged for me to work on a conveyor at an alcohol production factory - bottles were placed upside down against the bright light, so that if a bottle was damaged at any stage of production then pieces of glass would fall inside a bottle and would shine like tiny stars. My job was to notice those stars and remove damaged bottles. My first unpaid "job" was a bit earlier, organising events, choreographing and arranging other activities at the children camp my mother used to work at. 

      If i could go back: I would have reversed my degrees and studied mathematics first and sociology after

      If I could change one thing about myself: I would really like to have wings. For now  my mind flies when working; and my body flies when dancing

      Something I wanted for a while: Back in 2009 I saw an index that ranked countries according to quality of life or something similar, and Sierra Leone was the only country that didn't have an ongoing war that was at the bottom of the list. Since then I wanted to visit it to see myself why it was "impossible" to live there. I visited Freetown in 2012 to facilitate a civil society research workshop and fell in love with the country and people there. In fact the most interesting and deep conversation about civil society in my life I had with a waiter at the hotel there. Now I am fascinated with observatories in Chile and plan to gift myself with a trip there after I finish my PhD.

      Priceless moments: I love witnessing moments when people finally "get it", when something that used to be a mass of questions gets colours, shapes, and directions. That moment when you literally see and sense the light in people's eyes. That's what i work and teach for: identifying "hmmm" and turning it into "aha"



      I do a bit of learning by doing:

      Dancing, painting, knitting, reading, writing

      Everything that I don't know yet at Coursera

      Languages at Duolingo

      Collecting crazy adventures & exchanging ideas