Extract for Scottish Community Re:investment Trust’s Information Memorandum
The fundamental importance of the third sector
A distinctive sector, what we now know as the third sector, has its origins in the charities, mutuals and voluntary organisations which flourished in the 19th century. Motivated by the compassion and solidarity of ordinary citizens, these initiatives provided respite from the extraordinary industrial expansion and harsh social changes generated by the market economy. Although to some degree ‘parked’ by the growth of state provision in the 20th century, the third sector has continued to change and thrive: witness, since the 1970s, the growth of the community sector; from the 1980s, the advance of community and social enterprise; while, the 2000s brought the increased emphasis on contracted public service delivery through the third sector. The social value of all this activity is explicitly endorsed by the state, with legislation affording fiscal benefits, and organisations eligible for this status are regulated – a distinctive sector.
Third Sector values and culture … given the diversity of the third sector, a single agreed statement of values and approaches seems neither likely nor useful. However, in 2007, the Third Sector Network in England drafted eight ‘values and principles’ – now distilled into four broad value-based narratives – which are:
• Independence: supporting the development of a third sector able to work independently of both state and private sector interests;
• Working for the common good: committing to practical steps to building a common, collective and shared wealth through a developing third sector;
• Social justice: asserting a fair society and protection of the planet as pre-conditions for third sector development and a wider sustainable development; and
• Democratic practice: drawing from the third sector’s long-standing democratic traditions of mutualism, collaboration, and inclusion and advocacy.
It is these principles and values that drive the work of third sector organisations, not government and not shareholder value or personal profit. Therefore whilst other sectors may share these values, they are not the driving force that they are for the third sector.
Taken together, these third sector values identify a space which is sometimes also referred to as ‘civil society’; the realm of the citizen, free to act outwith the control of the state or the constraints of market forces. Activity which, in 1948, Lord Beveridge described as one of the distinguishing marks of a free society.