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Completed project

The Contribution of the Third Sector to Europe’s Socio-economic Development


Project period 2014 - 2017
Project employer EUs 7. rammeprogram
Project nr. 613034

This research project is part of EU’s seventh framework program  (FP7-SSH-2013-2), and its main objective is to create knowledge that will further advance the contributions that the Third Sector and volunteering can make to the socio-economic development of Europe.

With the economic crisis in Europe and enormous pressures on governmental budgets there is now a great need to further our understanding of the potential contributions of the Third Sector. There is a need for a clearer understanding of its scope and scale, its existing and potential impact, and the barriers to its full contribution, all of which are factors that will be investigated in this project. Building on previous work, the project seeks to:

  1. Clarify the concept of the third sector in its European manifestations. The aim is to formulate a common conceptualize that meets the following criteria:  (1) Sufficient breadth to embrace the full range of entities and activities widely considered to be part of the Third Sector in Europe (2) Sufficient clarity to differentiate this set of organizations and activities from other major types, such as for-profit businesses and units of government (3) operationalizable enough to permit the development of cross-country comparative data (4) and sufficiently consistent with existing European statistical usage.
  2. Identify the major contours of the sector; its size, structure, composition, sources of support, and recent trends. 
  3. Identify the impacts of the sector; its contributions to European economic development, innovation, citizen well-being, civic engagement, and human development, and to create capabilities to measure these contributions into the future.
  4. Identify barriers both internal to organizations and external to them and suggest ways that these barriers might be overcome.
  5. Forge a partnership between the research community and the European Third Sector practitioners so that the understanding of the Third Sector generated by this work remains grounded in reality and enjoy sufficient support among key stakeholders to ensure respectful attention from policy makers and sector leaders long after the project is completed.

The project is a collaborative project involving 13 other research institutes in Europe, among them The Johns Hopkins University in Italy, and has a time frame of 3 years.

Research partners:

  • The Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (Italy)

  • Wirtschaftsuniversitat Wien (Austria)

  • University of Kent (United Kingdom)

  • Westfaelische Wilhelms-Universitaet Muenster (Germany)

  • The University of Brimingham (United Kingdom)

  • Stichting katholieke universiteit (Netherlands)

  • SPES (Italy)

  • EMES European Research Network ASBL (Belgium)

  • Centre national de la Recherche Scientifique (France)

  • Universitat de Valencia (Spain)

  • Pravni fakultet Sveucilista u Zagrebu (Croatia)

  • Uniwersytet Warszawski (Poland)

  • Renzo Razzano (Italy).



Bernard Enjolras PhD Research Professor, Director Center for research on civil society and voluntary sector +47 976 89 237 Send e-mail
Signe Bock Segaard PhD Senior Research Fellow +47 994 28 724 Send e-mail
Karl Henrik Sivesind Dr. polit. Research Professor +47 997 06 127 Send e-mail
Tags: Civil Society
Published Dec. 3, 2013 10:26 AM - Last modified Feb. 18, 2020 10:02 AM