The Third Sector in Europe

The Third Sector in Europe

Globalization and Welfare series

Edited by Adalbert Evers and Jean-Louis Laville

This book explores Europe’s third sector – the non-profit organisations and providers of social services such as mutuals, co-operatives, associations, voluntary organisations and charities: these elements of a civil society are important yet often overlooked features in contemporary socio-economics and social policy.

Chapter 9: The European Union and its programmes related to the third system

Peter Lloyd

Subjects: economics and finance, welfare economics, social policy and sociology, comparative social policy, economics of social policy


Peter Lloyd INTRODUCTION One of the sparks that ignited interest in the policy community for the idea of the third system came in 1998 from a little known internal European Commission publication from what was then known as DG5. In this paper, entitled The Third System and Employment – A Reflection (perhaps the first time the label acquired some official as opposed to academic currency) the following statement appeared: The social economy and the activities oriented to meet the needs unsatisfied by the market can lead to the development of a new sense of entrepreneurship particularly valuable for economic and social development at local level. This sense of entrepreneurship is closer to the aspirations and values of people that do not seek profit making but rather the development of socially useful activities or jobs. These forms of entrepreneurship have a useful role in promoting social cohesion and economic local [sic] performance. (CEC 1998d, p.4, original emphasis) It introduced the notion that there are alternative forms of enterprise with different aspirations and values that can contribute to economic and social development and that these are associated with something called the ‘third system’. It was on the basis of these ‘reflections’ and some Italian-led discussions in the European Parliament that a whole series of debates began to take place inside and outside the European Commission about how to define the third system and about how useful it might be as a policy instrument. What follows is itself a ‘reflection’, based on the author’s...

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