The Italian Third Sectorin a Welfare Plural Society:Towards a Social Partnership?

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The third sector has long been researched and its structural and cultural characteristics have been highlighted rather clearly. Under the structural standpoint, we can notice: - The tendency toward a continuous internal diversification and specialization; - The rise in number of organizations characterized by high professional levels and managing capabilities; - The increase in networking skills, aimed at developing collaborative networks, both within the third sector and with other social actors (private companies, local agencies and so on). Culturally speaking, there are significant evidences about: - The presence of different associative cultures; - The contribution at the generation and dissemination of secondary social capital. Overall, there is an ever growing number of organizations which collaborate with other third sector agencies (but also with market and public ones); beside, many third sector organizations decide to connect each other in networks, mainly by creating multilevel organizations. In order to observe and understand such a differentiated, ever-changing sector, we need interpretative categories able to explain the morphogenesis of the phenomenon. One of these is the partnership category. The social partnership perspective, in fact, relies on social relationships networks in which actors behave according to a subsidiariety principle. Partnerships enable to adequately consider the high third sector inner differentiation, also with regards to the diverse relationships with the social private area, the state and the market. As for Italy, partnerships, intended as a place where different social subjects convene, may help local associative experiences to make a difference at a wider level. It is a form of linking social capital, generated by the middle level, whose action tends to connect the micro and the macro levels. The chapter also draws attention to some indicators of tendency toward social partnerships by third sector organizations. Overall, some Italian empirical research found out that as a result of the endogenous participation of third sector organizations in the social welfare provision and of the networking approach through social partnership, the answer to the social needs widens and the service quality increases. Furthermore, the more third sector organizations are able to individuate potential effective synergies among diverse social actors, the more they contribute at promoting forms of social capital generated in diverse contexts. There is a correlation between social capital production and third sector organizations social action. The whole Italian society can take advantage of this connection, as good practices of reciprocity and cooperation, as well as of services provided, keep on growing internally
Lingua originaleEnglish
Titolo della pubblicazione ospiteThe Social Generative Action of the Third Sector: Comparing International Experiences
Numero di pagine26
Stato di pubblicazionePubblicato - 2008


  • Good practices
  • Third sector
  • partenership
  • social capital


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