Event details

7-8 April, 2016
Associazione Promozione e Solidarietà – SPES
Casa del Volontariato
Via Liberiana, 17

Event Description

We are pleased to share a review of the seminar  “Discussing third sector in a comparative European perspective: From barriers to recommendations”. It convened representatives of 19 third sector networks from TSI target countries to discuss the results of TSI’s comparative research on enabling and hindering factors the third sector is facing in Europe, and formulate policy recommendations on infrastructural elements needed at European and national levels.

After a short welcome by TSI Project Coordinator Bernard Enjolras Lester Salamon outlined to third sector network representatives from 10 countries how TSI came up with a conceptualization of the third sector that captures the diversity of the sector as it has developed across Europe. This conceptualization is an important prerequisite to push statistical agencies to adequately measure the activity of the third sector. This in turn is an important step to gain recognition for the social and economic contributions non-profit, volunteer-based, or traditional welfare organisations, as well as social enterprises, cultural or sports associations are making every day.

Annette Zimmer shared the findings on the various barriers third sector organisations are facing today. The objective of this meeting is to discuss TSIs findings with assembled stakeholders. For this purpose stakeholders break into groups following the World Café model (participants moving around tables discussing different aspects of the findings on barriers – finance, human resources, governance issues, facilitated by researchers. Input from the World Café exercise is the final output of the session.

All participating stakeholders introduced themselves and their organisations and very importantly – they shared what they would recommend to EU policy makers based on their experiences on the ground. Given the diversity of types of organisations present, the different focus areas they work on and the different national contexts it is striking to see the different needs the third sector has, but also the convergence, as organisations across Europe are confronted with similar challenges, regardless of their backgrounds. Similarly interesting is the level of agreement on several of the issues mentioned. It would also be desirable to clarify third sector and local governance relationships.

Stakeholders discussing the main three barriers resulted in the following:

  • Governance issues and recommendations

Europe is not only a market economy, but it is also a cultural union, in which the third sector plays an important role that should be acknowledged. Suggestions range from the establishment of a Third Sector Department in the European Commission, representation of the sector in policy formulation. Eastern countries need regulative frameworks for new entities within the sector like social enterprises, while in Spain a big issue is the long delay of the implementation of new legislation geared towards support of the sector. Also at national level there is a general warning not to confuse the third sector with markets, but to acknowledge its specificity.

Recommendations at organizational level included more diverse and qualified Boards and that the sector should be careful not to outsource typical third sector activities like fundraising etc. Stakeholders mentioned the lack of more long term research on the value base of the third sector, in order to highlight its capacity to solve social problems and communicates in the media.

  • Funding and financing suggestions:

Also in this area one important demand is to put the third sector back on the EU agenda. Another important factor is public procurement practice and the push for more social clauses at all administrative levels. New funding mechanisms like loan guarantees, ethical banks, social loans, sharing and transferring assets among organisations were mentioned, as well as easier access to EU funds.

  • Challenges related to human resources

A very innovative recommendation brought forward is the creation of a third sector exchange programme comparable to Erasmus in academia, to ensure the enhancement of skills, leadership and practice exchange for staff members. The third sector should become a subject in school curricula. More national acknowledgement schemes of volunteer and volunteers are needed. For instance, volunteering could become part of education and work-time. Working conditions for both paid staff and volunteers must be improved, which includes support for training and organizing volunteers.

This event was a final step in engaging third sector stakeholders in TSI’s research in barriers. Each team already carried out online surveys, case study research and national stakeholder meetings in their respective country. National reports will be published shortly – see the first national briefing, summarising research and stakeholder input in the UK. Representatives of national third sector networks will be invited to join the final conference on 9 November 2016 in Brussels, that will focus on policy recommendations based on the input during this event and on other research as part of the TSI project.

Video messages from stakeholders will be available shortly.