Multi-level Processes and Organized Civil Society
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Edited by Jeremy Kendall
Chapter 7: The Third Sector and the Policy Process in the Netherlands: A Study in Invisible Ink
7 The third sector and the policy process in the Netherlands: a study in invisible ink Taco Brandsen and Wim van de Donk 7.1 Introduction Some years ago, Paul Dekker stated that the Dutch third sector was ‘a category, not an entity’ (Dekker, 2001b, p. 62). Evidence gathered for the Third Sector European Policy (TSEP) network does not give cause to question that observation. Although it is possible to identify a third sector as an analytical construct, it is not a concept people working in or with it would easily identify with. Identifying a horizontal third sector policy community is therefore not an easy task. Third sector organizations generally do not engage in coalitions with organizations from other vertical policy fields, because the third sector is generally not regarded as a socially meaningful category. Nor is there evidence of coalitions among policy-makers, practitioners and academics based on normative beliefs about the role of the third sector. This certainly does not mean that the Dutch third sector is small or weakly institutionalized. In the Johns Hopkins study in the mid-1990s (the latest year for which systematic comparative data are available), it emerged as among the largest in the world.1 In fact, in terms of non-agricultural employment, it was the largest with 12.9 per cent. The major share of this employment was in social welfare services – particularly health care, education and research, social care and social housing.2 Voluntary work stood at 6.1 per cent, which again made it proportionately the largest.3 Of...
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