Growing Pains: the Italian Third Sector

Today, the Italian third sector seems to have lost the central role in public debate concerning social change that it held a decade ago. What does this mean for the sector? Alessandro Messina explores whether this situation reveals a sector settled in its role or a third sector whose period of growth is yet to come.

The number of non-profit organisations in Italy continues to grow, as does the volume of public services they provide. The third sector is no longer a new actor in the Italian welfare system and, in some ways, this could be considered positive – a ‘normalisation’ of the sector’s role in society and, on a lower level, its role in the economy. 

However, the exponential growth of a broad range of non-profit organisations – their number has increased by 283% in the last ten years – along with the deep changes in public policies and the forms of local government, and the significant cut in public budgets, all lead us to believe that the current muted role of the third sector in public debate is far from symbolic of its maturity.

by Alessandro Messina 

in Lessons from Abroad: the third sector’s role in public service transformation, edited by Filippo Addarii, Catherine Deakin and Seb Elsworth, ACEVO, ISBN 1-900685-51-5