Third Sector: for Whom and for What?
The author gives a short overview of this year’s annual conference of the International Society for Third-Sector Research (ISTR) held on 5-8 July in Dublin, Ireland, on the topic “Third Sector: for Whom and for What?”
The proportion of the third sector, or, non-governmental and non-profit activity, increases constantly in the society. The number of organisations based on civic initiative, as well as their membership, is growing, cooperation network of associations is becoming closer, and also cooperation with the public sector and the economic community is catching up. Together with the expanding third sector, its problems become also more complex. This creates a need to share and compare experiences of different cultural, political and social backgrounds – and a conference with such a wide international scope provides an excellent opportunity for this. Approximately 600 people participated in the conference. The speakers emphasised constantly that as compared to earlier conferences this time the focus of theories and discussions has shifted from the provision of social services and the problems of so-called profiting vs non-profiting more to the area of political culture. In the terminology of presentations it was reflected, for example, in the preferred use of the notion “civil society” to “non-profit” or “third sector”. Interesting discussions took place, for example, on topics like the role of politics in civil society and the role of civil society in shaping local and international policy, but also therelationship of the state and civil society, different experiences in their regulation and possible forms of cooperation. Several presentations dealt within different fields with the role of civic awareness and knowledge in developing activities based on civic initiative.
Erle Rikmann, born 1974, sociologist, Estonian Institute of Humanities 1997; Tallinn Pedagogical University, MA studies in sociology 1997-. Work: Estonian Institute of Humanities, lecturer of sociology 1997-98, researcher, acting head of the chair 1999-. Affiliation: Estonian Sociologists Union, member of the Board 1999-.