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Handbook on Third Sector Policy in Europe

Multi-level Processes and Organized Civil Society

Edited by Jeremy Kendall

While scholarship on the social, economic and political contributions of organisations existing between the market and the state has proliferated in recent years, no sustained attention has previously been paid to how such organisations are collectively treated by, and respond to, public policy. The expert contributors examine the policy environment for, and evolving policy treatment of, the third sector in the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom from a comparative perspective. They also look at how the third sector relates to multi-level European policy processes, including the Open Method of Co-ordination, the Community Method, nationally-led ‘partnership’ approaches within an overall EU framework and the United Nations International Year of Volunteering; an initiative implemented in the EU but originating externally.
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Chapter 4: The UK: Ingredients in a Hyperactive Horizontal Policy Environment

Jeremy Kendall


Jeremy Kendall 4.1 Introduction At least in quantitative terms, Britain (and its component nations) is close to average in terms of the economic and social significance of its third sector, whichever definition one uses (Kendall, 2003; CIRIEC International, 2008). Yet from a comparative perspective in terms of active cross-cutting national policy-making regarding the sector per se over the last decade, the UK emerges as truly exceptional. The sector had already grown economically at a comparatively rapid rate in the early 1990s, driven essentially by stateled policy reform within specific vertical fields (such as social housing and social care). But the last ten years have witnessed unprecedented, deliberate and sustained horizontal policy hyperactivity. This has built on a legacy of much more low-key, historically uninterrupted specialist institution-building inherited from the twentieth century and before. The result has been a uniquely British pattern of continuity and change. Latterly, the gathering of policy momentum in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland has been extraordinary, as has the sustained positioning of this institutional terrain on the agendas of some of the most powerful interests in the British state.1 The focal point for most of this effort for most of this period has been the ‘voluntary and community sector’. This has built rapidly upon a long-standing tradition of legal regulation in relation to charities, and more broadly, formulations of ‘the voluntary sector’ and ‘community groups’ as collective policy actors. Much more novel has been the arrival of the notions of ‘social enterprise’ and ‘third sector’,...

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