Book Review

The Third Sector As A Renewable Resource for Europe: Concepts, Impacts, Challenges and Opportunities by Bernard Enjolras, Lester M. Salamon and Karl Henrik Sivesind. Published by Palgrave Macmillan and available as a free download here.

More than a decade ago, Jacques Delors, former President of the European Commission, reflecting on how he sought to promote the Third Sector in his position as the head of the European Commission, emphasised the “poor recognition of the Third Sector” at the European Union level. More than 10 years later, and the situation is no better; recognition of the Third Sector in Europe is still poor.

Furthermore, the Third Sector in Europe lacks a clear identity and there is no articulated, shared understanding across Europe and within the European Union regarding what exactly the Third Sector is and what its role is in the European public space. A prime reason for this lack of common identity is that the manifold self-organised citizen-based initiatives that make up the Third Sector are not sufficiently aware of being part of a ‘sector’ sharing common attributes, values and what economists call a common “objective function” or underlying objectives, regardless of their specific field of activity.

Although at times a rather dense tome, the book provides a critical account of the Third Sector and its future in Europe. It offers an original conceptualisation of the sector in its European manifestations alongside an overview of its major contours, including its structure, sources of support, and recent trends.

It also assesses the impact of this sector in Europe, which considers its contributions to European economic development, citizen wellbeing and human development.

The Third Sector As A Renewable Resource for Europe presents the findings of the Third Sector Impact (TSI) project funded by the European Union’s Seventh Framework Program (FP7). It recognises that in a time of social and economic distress, as well as enormous pressures on governmental budgets, the Third Sector and volunteering represent a unique ‘renewable resource’ for social and economic problem-solving and civic engagement in Europe.

About the Authors

Bernard Enjolras is Research Professor and Director of the Center for Research on Civil Society and Voluntary Sector in Norway

Lester M. Salamon is a Professor at the Johns Hopkins University, USA and Director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies

Karl Henrik Sivesind is Research Professor at the Institute for Social Research, Norway

Annette Zimmer is Professor of Social Policy and Comparative Politics and Lead Researcher for Third Sector Impact work at Münster University, Germany