Event Details

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

Event Description

As reported earlier, most TSI researchers attended the 2016 ISTR conference in Stockholm, presenting findings in the different working areas of the project. The round-table “Barriers to the Third Sector and Best Practices for Coping with Environmental Challenges”, held on 1 July, focussed on research findings of TSI’s work on third sector barriers, chaired by Taco Brandsen from Radboud University Nijmegen.

The discussion started with Joachim Benedikt Pahl of the University of Münster who provided a comparative overview of the major trends of third sector development in Europe. Benedikt highlighted four common barriers that were identified in all participating countries. First, volunteering in Europe has become more individualized. This forms a challenge to third sector organizations (TSOs) which have to do more efforts to recruit volunteers for their organizations. Second, TSOs throughout Europe have been facing increasing reporting obligations and bureaucratic requirements. As a result, many TSOs have reported difficulties in meeting the required reporting standards. Often, TSOs spend a lot of valuable time on bureaucratic mechanisms. Third, European TSOs are confronted by a decrease in financial resources and increasing competition on grants. This is the result of changing modes of financing and budgetary cuts in many European countries which have a direct impact on the third sector. Fourth, a rise of precarious employment patterns within the European third sector. Many TSOs are forced to cut down spending on personnel costs. As a result, TSOs become unattractive as employers.

After the comparative overview, five researchers of the TSI teams added information from the countries. Rafael Chaves of the University of Valencia (Spain) reported on the impact of austerity policies on the third sector in Spain. Ruth Simsa of the University of Economics in Vienna (Austria) identified the common impact of marketization on TSOs in Austria and other countries in Europe. Gojko Bezovan of the University of Zagreb (Croatia) focused on third sector development in transition countries and in particular the role of EU-funds. Ewa Les of the University of Warsaw gave an overview on housing policies and third sector development in Poland. Ulla Pape of Radboud University Nijmegen reported on the development of volunteering in The Netherlands.

The country presentations were followed by a discussion with the audience. Questions focused on the comparison of third sector development in Europe and on the issue of convergence. To what extent can we speak about TSOs becoming more similar to each other? The debate also touched on the difficulty of using a uniform definition of the third sector which in the majority of countries is comprised of a variety of very different organizations that are often more geared towards their specific policy field than towards the third sector in general. We enjoyed the lively debate with researchers form different parts in Europe and take up new ideas for the continuation of our project.

Report by Ulla Pape