The third sector in the Netherlands is extraordinarily diverse and defies easy categorization, but it roughly consists of three parts that overlap:

  1. Third sector organisations that deliver public services: These include most organisations in social services, health and education. Their development is closely tied to that of the public sector at large and the welfare state in particular. They have faced cutbacks in recent years and have either had to scale back services or access new sources of funding. Some have faced instability, but there may also be opportunities for future growth due to a greater emphasis on local social innovation and community building.
  2. Organisations that primarily rely on memberships and donations for their funding: These cover most of the culture/arts and sports areas.They are hit be declines in membership and volunteering but remain well established.
  3. New organisations that arise in response to a retreating welfare state: social enterprises; mutual funds for groups that are not sufficiently covered by existing welfare arrangements; and other initiatives by self-organising citizens. At this point it is hard to say if they constitute a marginal add-on or a game changer. To some extent they mirror past initiatives that have since been institutionalized; they are situated on the edge of the third sector.

The impact of cuts in public funding have been more pronounced in those fields that are closely linked to the public sector. Across policy fields third sector organisations have adopted more entrepreneurial, business-like forms of organisation and management.

Read the national report on third sector barriers in the Netherlands for more details on TSOs operating in the four policy fields of social services, sports, culture and arts, and international cooperation. This policy brief formulates specific policy recommendations. You can comment on TSIs suggestions in our public consultation.