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A strategic unity: defining the third sector in the UK

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Abstract:

Academics, policy makers and practitioners often stress the need for definition to inform analysis and policy. This paper explores recent debate on the identification of a third sector of organisational activity in the UK. It reviews some leading academic models that have sought to locate this sector alongside others, and then examines attempts to identify the sector as a focus for policy and practice. The importance of policy discourses in shaping debate and constructing definition is explained and the potentially fractured nature of these discourses is explored. These are then contrasted with discourses from practice. A distinction is made between exogenous and endogenous approaches to definition, and the implications of each discussed. The paper identifies a strategic unity within discourse in the UK over the last decade and argues that this has been effective in constituting a unified third sector within policy and practice, albeit one with underlying diversity and potential longer-term instability.

Keywords: COMMUNITY SECTOR; POLICY DISCOURSE; SOCIAL ENTERPRISE; THIRD SECTOR; VOLUNTARY SECTOR

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1332/204080510X496984

Publication date: March 1, 2010

More about this publication?
  • Voluntary Sector Review publishes high-quality, peer-reviewed, accessible papers on third sector research, policy and practice. It is an invaluable cutting-edge resource for all those researching or working in the fast-growing voluntary, community and wider third sectors.

    The journal covers the full range of issues relevant to voluntary sector studies, including: definitional and theoretical debates; management and organisational development; financial and human resources; philanthropy; volunteering and employment; regulation and charity law; service delivery; civic engagement; industry and sub-sector dimensions; relations with other sectors; social enterprise; evaluation and impact. Voluntary Sector Review covers voluntary sector studies from a variety of disciplines, including sociology, social policy, politics, psychology, economics, business studies, social anthropology, philosophy and ethics. The journal includes work from the UK and Europe, and beyond, where cross-national comparisons are illuminating. With dedicated expert policy and practice sections, Voluntary Sector Review also provides an essential forum for the exchange of ideas and new thinking.

    Rigorous and stimulating, Voluntary Sector Review is an indispensable tool for everyone who values empirically-grounded, theoretically-informed and policy-relevant reviews of the future direction of the voluntary sector.

    Editor: Peter Halfpenny, University of Manchester, UK

    The journal is published in association with the Voluntary Sector Studies Network (VSSN) and a print copy of the journal is a membership benefit.

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