American society has endured significant political, economic and technological change during the last decade of the twentieth century. These changes have left an indelible mark on the U.S. nonprofit sector. Most notably, fundamental changes in welfare policy, new competition from large corporations, increased contracting and accountability at the state and local levels, new expectations from a generation of new wealthy donors; a declining growth in government funding; difficulty in retaining well-trained employees, and keeping up with new technology have tested the sector’s capacity, its functions and the way it delivers services and advances causes. If the ‘past is prologue,’ the sector will survive, but it may take different forms. This paper assesses these challenges and predicts that in the next century, part of the sector will be highly professionalized and indistinguishable from the corporate sector while the rest of the sector will try to maintain its mission of service and continue to build civil society.
This study looks at the process of introducing and defining the concept of social economy in Japan and Sweden — two countries with different conceptions of the third sector. Although the social economy concept was introduced into both countries at about the same time the diffusion of the concept varied. Pressure from the EU membership boosted the process in Sweden and led to the launch of a cross-ministerial working group which included representatives from the social economy organizations, researchers, and representatives from regional and local government authorities. Japan lacked a similar external stimulus and discussions on the concept were primarily limited to people with backgrounds in cooperative related research and activities. The conclusion argues that a further inclusion in the discussions on a unifying concept for a third sector would result in greater insight and recognition by government officials and by ordinary citizens of the great variety of forms and methods available to organizations that fall under the social economy label.
Currently there are many unofficially sanctioned social organizations in China that are not register with the Ministry of Civil Affaires or its local departments. They are allowed to openly conduct activities and play increasingly active roles in various areas. These “bottom-up” organizations are created by private individuals and, by operating autonomously create a public space independent of the government. A study of these unofficial social organizations can shed light on elements of the evolving civil society in China. This paper examines the existing patterns of unofficial social organizations, analyzes the reasons of their emergence and the bases of their survival and growth. The discussion includes comments on the challenges to their future development.