Project Description

The third sector, consisting of civil society associations and foundations, volunteers, and other citizen organisations and activities, offers unique renewable and sustainable resources for social and economic problem-solving, democracy, and civic engagement in Europe. In times of social and economic distress and enormous pressures on governmental budgets this sector is even more important than usual – not as an alternative to government but as a fully-fledged partner in the effort to promote economic development, active citizenship and social cohesion in Europe.

To take full advantage of this resource we need a clearer understanding of the third sector – its scope and scale, existing and potential impacts, and barriers to full third sector contribution to the continent’s common welfare. Third Secor Impact (TSI) is a comparative European research project addressing all those areas. It includes a distinctive stakeholder engagement process to capture the insights of practitioners and include them in conceptualisation, methodology and project outputs.

Research, carried out by more than 30 researchers from 10 European partner universities, is divided in four blocks: conceptualization, measurement, impact, and barriers. They are joined by more than 100 stakeholders to make impact, scope, potential and barriers of the third sector more visible for citizens, policy makers and third sector activists alike.

General objectives and goals

Main objective of Third Sector Impact is to create knowledge that will further advance the sector’s contributions to the socio-economic development of Europe.

Third Sector Impact will:

  • Clarify the concept of the third sector in its European manifestations;
  • Identify the major components of the third sector: size, structure, composition, sources of support, trends;
  • Identify third sector impacts on European economic development, innovation, citizen well-being, civic engagement, and human development
  • Develop tools for statistical measurement of third sector contributions;
  • Identify internal and external barriers for third sector organisations and suggest ways to overcome them;
  • Forge a partnership between the research community and European Third Sector practitioners.

Meeting our objetives

Comparative research

Third Sector Impact aims at analysing the conceptualization, size, scope, and impact of the third sector, the barriers it is facing, and potential avenues for overcoming these barriers in a cross-section of European countries. Project countries have been strategically chosen to capture the major European regions, which differ significantly with respect to their third sector scale, structure and character:

  • Croatia and Poland are former Communist bloc countries whose third sectors were heavily impacted by the Communist interlude. Consequently they are lagging behind their Western European counterparts.
  • Austria, France, Germany, and the Netherlands represent one of the dominant third-sector patterns in Europe: a close relationship between the third sector and the welfare state.
  • Norway, representing Scandinavia, is a country where third sector organisations (TSOs) have generally functioned less as service providers than as vehicles for civic engagement, advocacy, and volunteer engagement.
  • Spain and Italy give special emphasis to the “social economy” component of the third sector.
  • The UK has a liberal model with charitable activity.

Stakeholder engagement

Third Sector Impact is breaking new ground in social sciences by bringing in national and European stakeholders into the research process from the beginning. Thus, the understanding of the third sector generated by this project remains grounded in reality and enjoys sufficient support among key stakeholders to ensure respectful attention from policy makers and sector leaders.

TSI engages third sector organisations (TSOs) and networks in 10 countries (Italy, Spain, France, United Kingdom, Norway, Poland, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Croatia) and European level third sector networks. This inclusive approach allows

  • sharing information about the project’s objectives and outcomes;
  • bringing the expertise and experience of third sector practitioners into the project’s research work;
  • practitioner support for efforts to improve the measurement of the third sector and its impact in target countries;
  • building a culture of third sector measurement in Europe
  • raising awareness of impacts and potential of the third sector as a unique driving force of social Europe.

Information about TSI in other languages:

About TSI italiano

About TSI deutsch

About TSI francais

About TSI norsk


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