Third Sector

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For the stranger to the field, the term “Third Sector” is very confusing. It is often confused with the “Third World” or the “Third Age” or the “Third Way” (in the United Kingdom). It actually denotes the sector of organizations that are neither public nor business, which means that it entails private organizations that are not-for-profit. While the other two sectors are called by a name that characterizes their activity (“public,” “business”), “third” is a neutral term, which depicts the fact that it is difficult to characterize its activities within a simple and concise term. Indeed, an analysis of the organizations that comprise that “sector” suggests that this group of organizations is very diverse and heterogeneous, which often calls into question the very idea of a “sector” when dealing with them. The term “Third Sector” also serves as a neutral concept in international forums or organizations (such as the International Society for Third-Sector Research – ISTR), where it is used to bridge various cultural traditions regarding that sector of organizations, such as “nonprofit” (United States), “voluntary” (United Kingdom), “nongovernmental,” “economie sociale,” and “civil society.”
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInternational Encyclopedia of Civil Society
EditorsRegina A. List, Helmut K. Anheier, Stefan Toepler
Place of PublicationCham
PublisherSpringer International Publishing
Number of pages5
ISBN (Print)978-3-319-99675-2
StatePublished - 9 May 2020


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