Event Details

15 December 2015
Faculty of Law Zagreb,
Department of Social Work,
Nazorova, 51,
Zagreb (Croatia)
10 am – 2 pm

Event Description

The TSI Croatia team organized their second meeting with national stakeholders on 15 December in Zagreb as part of the final conference of the project “Europeanisation of Croatian social policy and Croatian social charter”. This was a one year project of TSI stakeholder organization CERANEO with the main goal to increase the capacity of organizations and key stakeholders at regional levels to identify and solve the growing number of new social risks in the context of the Europeanization of Croatian social policy and their impacts on social policy. The meeting was attended by 18 representatives of the third sector from all regions of the country: representatives of ministries, local public institutions, and other stakeholders.

The TSI team presented and discussed the findings of the research on barriers for third sector organisations in a session titled “Challenges for third sector development in Croatia”. The discussion showed, once again, that the concept of the third sector is still rather unknown to policy-makers and the wider public in Croatia. The professional community is becoming aware of the concept. As such, the third sector has not been an integral part of the socio-economic development agenda and the modernization of social systems. This is also evident in the lagging development of the system of tax incentives to the sector. In Croatia, civil society discourse dominates, in which the notion of the third sector is usually used interchangeably.

This fact is also evident in the perception of other stakeholders concerning the role of TSOs: they are dominantly perceived in their advocacy and lobbying role, or as humanitarian organizations dealing with socially excluded communities, whereas their role in (professionalized) service provision is not yet acknowledged. Stakeholders highlighted problems of differentiation and different treatment of public and third sector organizations in providing public services. The legacy of paternalistic social policy is still visible in the widespread expectations from the state to organize and deliver social, healthcare, cultural and other services.

Low levels of trust of citizens, the government and other stakeholders in third sector organizations and their programmes seem to be a long-lasting barrier of the socio-cultural environment for the third sector development. The weak structure of human resources is an obstacle for a stronger professional development of third sector organizations. The level of volunteering is low. It is important to note certain cultural barriers for the involvement of volunteers in social, health, educational and cultural institutions.

Another problem for third sector organizations to offer and develop qualitative and sustainable programmes of inclusion of volunteers is the lack of capacities. Organizations are increasingly polarized. Results of our online survey suggest that organizations devote more resources to fundraising than ten years ago and that it is important for executives to have a business background. Increasing bureaucracy is a growing problem. Stakeholders have shown dissatisfaction with the burden of new administrative requirements in conducting their projects. The tax frame for development of the sector is unfavourable, especially regarding market activities of NGOs. Social enterprises, as shown from the presentation of the manager of social enterprise Rodin Let, are recognized but do not have any benefits in the tax system or privileges on tenders when competing with profit companies. They have a clear social mission and are mostly employing people with disabilities and people disadvantaged on the labour market. We are observing a trend of professionalization which can change organizational focus from their social mission towards marketisation. Organizations use various strategies to adapt in order to survive in uncertain conditions, for example competing in a growing number of tenders, writing a lot of project proposals which in turn create additional administration tasks.

Some recommendations formulated by participants refer the adjustment of the tax frame to developmental needs of the third sector, especially taking into account their economic activity and growth of social entrepreneurship. Human resources can be strengthed by using young educated people as new “development fuel”. There is clear need for obtaining relevant skills in the sector such as management, leadership, entrepreneurship. As the sector is growing there is need for specific educational programmes. EU funds are an opportunity for modernization, as they help to develop the capacity to be competitive on tenders that can enhance further development on the tender. Modernization of social policy is a key issue in opening additional space for the third sector. Fostering good governance is important, as it is not yet recognized as a concept importnat to the third sector. Further support (financial and logistical) for social entrepreneurship as a new practice, as well as investment in the development of the social economy and social innovations is needed, including fostering hybrid organization. We are witnessing a certain advancement in public discourse, highlighting examples of good practice. Challenges connected with developing projects for the European Social Fund are expected to have a positive impact on the development of the sector in future.

We are satisfied with the stakeholder’s reaction to our project and it’s analysis. Stakeholders recognized the importance of articulating issues of the third sector in the public domain for further development of the sector. The event was useful for the promotion of the project because participants will transfer their interest, they become our vested stakeholders and this event will be a driver of some new discussions and will open some new issues, especially with regard to future research and practical action in the field. We received valuable input and through discussion we came up with some new conclusions to deepen our arguments to finish our analysis about barriers in the development of the third sector in Croatia, and how to overcome them.

In this meeting, we have connected further with our stakeholders, invited them to follow TSI, and engage. We suggested to inform their members and stakeholders through their communication channels and invite them to engage and contribute and to stay in contact with us, share their research and evidence, as well as strategic documents to inform the research process, and to build a strategy for TSI”s work. We are looking forward to continuous communication and working together.