What is the Third Sector

The Third Sector is an important, but hitherto under-valued and under-researched sector of societies, political systems and economies.

ANZTSR arose from the growing awareness of the importance of the Third Sector in Australia and New Zealand, and paucity of reliable information about it and the difficulty of working as isolated researchers.

ANZTSR joins similar organisations in the US ARNOVA and the UK ARVAC and the International Society for the Third Sector Research ISTR as active networks that promote communication between researchers and help develop synergies in the research endeavour. Research networks have also formed in several European countries and regions, in Latin America and Japan. These all testify to growing interest in the Third Sector.

A brief history of ANZTSR is available here .

The Third Sector is constituted by all those organisations that are not-for-profit and non-government, together with the activities of volunteering and giving which sustain them. These organisations are a major component of many industries including community health services, rural, education, housing, sport and recreation, culture and finance.

Third Sector organisations vary greatly in size and in their activities. They include neighbourhood associations, sporting clubs, recreation societies, community associations, chambers of commerce, churches, religious orders, credit unions, political parties, trade unions, trade and professional associations, private schools, charitable trusts and foundations, some hospitals, welfare organisations and even some large insurance companies.

The Third Sector is gaining recognition in most countries as an important but hitherto undervalued and under-researched sector of society and of the economy. The experience of Eastern European countries has led many to recognise that third sector organisations are key institutions in civil society.

Many terms are used to refer to third sector organisations in different industries and countries. These include non-profit, non-government, community, voluntary, club, society, association, cooperative, friendly society, church, union, foundation and society.

The name Third Sector has gained international acceptance as a positive and inclusive term.