CSEND's approach to institutional reform and capacity-building is based on socio-economics, which assumes that economics is not a self-contained system functioning autonomously but, rather, is embedded in and interacts with society, policy and culture.

Consequently, socio-economics regards competition as a subsystem contained within a societal context comprising values, power relationships and social networks. The societal context both enables and restrains competition: because interests are not necessarily or automatically complementary and harmonious, societal sources of order are needed to ensure the efficient functioning of markets.

Socio-economics further assumes that individuals make choices on the basis of values, emotions, societal bonds and judgements, rather than by a precise calculation of self-interest.

Multi-disciplinary by definition, socio-economics encourages the formal study of the implications of societal, historical and philosophical influences on public policy. Socio-economics does not entail a commitment to any one ideological position; instead, it embraces a broad range of views which provide insight into the interrelationship between economics and public policy.