Even though the term of “third sector” is much more used in the Anglo-Saxon area to describe the non-profit sector which consists largely of foundations and associations, several overlapping situations can be observed in the use of this term in relation to the social economy. The expression “third sector” was used by Levitt (1973) in the United States of America, while in Europe it has start to be used several years later to describe a sector existing between the public sector and the capitalist sector, close to the domain of social economy.
In the early 90, an international research project headed by Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, SUA) aimed to discover and quantify the size and structure of the non-profit sector, to analyse its development and impact on the society. The various stages of the project pictured the significant coordinates of the third sector in 36 countries on five continents.
Bibliography: “Social Economy in Europe” – The Expert Publishing House. 2010