Social InnovationThird Sector Impact

Social Innovation
Third Sector Impact


The research project Third Sector Impact, which is part of the EU’s seventh framework program, is a collaborative project involving 14 research institutes in Europe. It was launched in January 2014, and has a time frame of three years. 

The main objective of the research project is to create knowledge that will further advance the contributions that the Third Sector and volunteering can make to the socio-economic development of Europe.

The project is divided into seven main work packages. The first stages of the project will seek to clarify the concept of the third sector in Europe, and building on this the major contours of the sector will be identified; its size, structure, composition, sources of support, and recent trends. In the next stages the project aims to identify the impacts of the sector, including its contributions to European economic development, innovation and citizen well-being, as well as barriers both internal to organizations and external to them. An important part of the project is also to forge a partnership between the research community and the European Third Sector practitioners. This will ensure that the understanding of the sector generated by this work remains grounded in reality.

A total of 10 European countries will be studied in depth with the potential for relevant input from other countries to be included. The work to be accomplished is divided into four blocks: conceptualization, measurement, impact and barriers. Aware of the conceptual ambiguity that surrounds the Third Sector, a consensus definition will be proposed by Third Sector Impact and discussed with practitioners and other stakeholders. Indeed, stakeholders will be brought on to the research process since the beginning, something that is not common in social science comparative research projects.

Bernard Enjolras, coordinator of the project, stated “experts will accompany the work of researchers and together with policy-makers and practitioners will comment and provide advise on the intermediate findings. Numerous national and European exchanges with stakeholders are foreseen to facilitate this intensive feedback.” The first round of national meetings will run from April-June 2014 and a series of public consultation rounds will be launched through the project’s website (expected in early March).

Research partners:

Institute for Social Research (Norway)

The Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (Italy)

Wirtschaftsuniversitat Wien (Austria)

University of Kent (United Kingdom)

Westfaelische Wilhelms-Universitaet Muenster (Germany)

The University of Brimingham (United Kingdom)

Stichting katholieke universiteit (Netherlands)

SPES (Italy)

EMES European Research Network ASBL (Belgium)

Centre national de la Recherche Scientifique (France)

Universitat de Valencia (Spain)

Pravni fakultet Sveucilista u Zagrebu (Croatia)

Uniwersytet Warszawski (Poland)

Renzo Razzano (Italy) 

Image credit: Frankie Roberto via Flickr