Event Details

Stockholm, Sweden
Ersta Skondal University College
June 28 – July 1, 2016

Event Description

In their presentation on progress on impact measurement TSI’s Ruth Simsa, Daiga Kamerade, John Mohan and Bernard Enjolras focussed on individual level impacts, impact on the civil sphere in society, and economic impact, after clarifying that systematic reviews of research do not support unconditional and general claims of third sector impact on health, wellbeing, innovation, social capital, empowerment, or economic development.

Using the best available sources of data and suitable methods we can understand under which circumstance the third sector and volunteering can have positive impacts:

  • Better health and well-being may be a result of who decides to volunteer rather than an effect of volunteering. Political engagement may increase as a result of volunteering. Among unemployed, volunteering may improve mental health and well-being, but only when there are generous welfare benefits.
  • Third sector organizations work to enlarge the public space and promote civil liberties, but success depends on political openness. When civil liberties are improved, volunteering increases.
  • Different socio-political conditions can explain shares of volunteering as share of total employment and paid employment as share of total employment. In 13 of 14 European countries, the third sector had higher employment growth than the rest of the economy. For 11 of these countries, this period included the financial crisis from 2008.

Panelists concluded that the third sector is best viewed as a „catalyst“ in producing impact: it depends on the presence of other substances which either inhibit or promote effects. According to TSI research volunteering flourishes in countries with a high level of public welfare expenditures. Paid employment grows faster than the rest of the economy when the third sector is secured and has a certain economic independence. By improving the frame conditions of the third sector, it is possible to reach other goals (genuine TS impacts like civic participation, political engagement and the civil society role of the third sector organizations) and more (mainstream concerns).

According to Karl Henrik Sivesind, coordinator of the work on third sector impact, different socio-political conditions result in varying configurations and patterns of growth of the third sector in the European countries. Political openness towards civil society and funding and administrative arrangements that give room for some autonomy for the TSOs are important preconditions for impacts. This is important input to policymaking in each country and on the EU level.