Globalization and Welfare series
Edited by Adalbert Evers and Jean-Louis Laville
Chapter 2: From suffocation to re-emergence: the evolution of the Italian third sector
Carlo Borzaga INTRODUCTION Italy is undoubtedly one of the European countries that in the last ten years have experienced the most intense and unexpected development of the third sector and of some interesting organizational innovations. In fact, just over ten years ago, it was still believed that ‘the sector of private, nonprofit activity, the third sector did not play a dominant role in the Italian public sphere, and moreover that, although the role of the third sector was gradually increasing, it was unlikely that it would come to play a very significant part in Italian society’ (Perlmutter, 1991, p.157). Contrary to these predictions, in little more than ten years Italy has seen the birth of tens of thousands of voluntary and social associations, more than 6000 social cooperatives and hundreds of new foundations, among them 88 bank foundations with assets estimated at 30 billion euros. The sector’s workforce, which at the beginning of the 1990s stood at just over 300 000 (Borzaga, 1991; Barbetta, 1996), has almost doubled over the past decade (ISTAT, 2001). Moreover, in recent years, the third sector has worked closely with institutions, and interest in it among researchers, policy makers and the media has grown exponentially. This recent growth of the third sector has come about following a long series of measures in the last century which sought to restrict its role and action. Its growth has been due less to the strengthening of already existing organizations than to the birth of completely new ones largely...
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