The third sector is still rather unknown to policy-makers and the wider public in Croatia, while the professional community is becoming aware of the concept. There is a significant overlap between the terms in case of their legal forms, where the distinctiveness is not always clear. Also, there is an overlap in public discourse between civil society organizations and nongovernmental organizations, as well as nonprofit organizations. The third sector is not referred to in academic writings. It is only marginally present in papers on civil society, when defining the concepts, where it is used almost interchangeably with the concepts of civil society, nonprofit sector etc. It can be said that the concepts of civil society and civil society organizations serve as a conceptual substitute for the third sector.

The concept of civil society has been widely used, especially after the year 2000. It is dominantly used in its organizational conceptualization, i.e. as civil society organizations. They include associations, foundations and public benefit corporations. In public discourse, the term civil society organizations usually refers to associations, whereas public benefit corporations, providing social services, are not perceived as being part of this concept. This is also evident in the institutional framework for civil society in Croatia.

Although the concepts of social economy and social entrepreneurship were mentioned in some earlier academic writings, those concepts have only recently been introduced to general discourse policy frameworks. The concept of social economy in continental European tradition is not embedded in Croatia. The more frequently used term of social entrepreneurship denotes economic activity on nonprofit basis and entrepreneurial organizational culture. Representatives and founders of public benefit corporations, conceptually regarded as part of nonprofit and third sector, do not perceive themselves as being part of those sectors, or even the realm of civil society.

This report investigates drivers and barriers for the development of Croatian third sector organisations in the fields of social service provision, arts and culture, and sports.