Organised Civil Society and the Third Sector - SO876

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2017-18 2018-19
(version 2)
View Timetable
7 20 (10) DR J Kendall







The module provides an up to date overview of the range of contributions of the third sector to economic, social and political life. It includes analysis of definitions and categorisations, and the problematic boundaries between OCS, the third sector, the State and the market; foundational theories of third sector existence, organisation, functioning and behaviour; attention to the historical and current public policy agenda in relation to OCS and the third sector, in the UK and internationally; and reviews important approaches to ‘evaluation’ in the third sector.


This module appears in:

Contact hours

The module will be composed of 12 lecture hours and 12 seminar hours.



Method of assessment

Students will be assessed, primarily, through their performance on an extended essay of 4000-5000 words, to be handed in at the end of term, and worth 70% of the final grade.

Earlier on in the term, each student will write a briefer (1,500 word) paper, worth 30% of the final grade.

Preliminary reading

Anheier, H.K. (2014) Nonprofit Sector Organisation: Theory, Management, Policy, 2nd edition, Routledge. Overview from a leading international scholar, but management focused, rather economically oriented and generally quite demanding (being written primarily for an American-based Postgraduate audience).

Anheier, H.K. & Kendall, J. (eds) (2001) Third sector policy at the crossroads, London: Routledge. Early attempt to compare the policy situation between different countries

Bridge, S., Murtagh, B. and O'Neill, K. (2013) Understanding the Social Economy and the Third Sector, Palgrave, second edition. Welcome new addition to the literature, and accordingly relatively up to date, but rather descriptive in places, and insufficiently reflective or theoretically underpinned overall.

Deakin, N. (2001) In Search Of Civil Society, Palgrave. Thought provoking, but accessible.

Evers, A. and Laville, J-L (eds) (2003) The Third Sector in Europe, Edward Elgar. Wide ranging, but worth It.

Kendall, J. (2003) The Voluntary Sector: Comparative Perspectives in the UK, Routledge. Most systematic, comprehensive and up to date critical account - but you may find hard going in places

Kendall, J. and Knapp. M. (1996) The Voluntary Sector in the UK, MUP. Now somewhat out of date but very popular as covers in a nutshell certain key historical, legal and policy issues which are not distilled elsewhere.

Kendall, J. (2009) Handbook on Third Sector Policy in Europe: Multi-level Processes and Organised Civil Society, Edward Elgar, especially useful in the second part of the module.

Powell, M. (ed) (2007) Understanding the Mixed Economy of Welfare, Policy Press, Bristol. Useful source for contextualising the contributions of the 'third sector' to other sectors in formal welfare service delivery, although somewhat underdeveloped from a theoretical point of view.

Rochester, C. (2013) Rediscovering Voluntary Action: The Beat of a Different Drum, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke. Helpful and stimulating up-to-date book for assessing the relevance of organisational studies to third sector analysis, and understanding British policy and practice debates.

Steinberg, R. and Powell, W.W. (editors) (2006) The Nonprofit sector: A Research Handbook, Yale University Press. Comprehensive compendium including chapters from leading-edge, mainly US-based scholars on key topics, policy fields, and disciplinary sub-categories of study: for consultation as an 'encyclopedia' and especially if pursuing quite well defined, particular areas of knowledge.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

See the library reading list for this module (Medway)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes and, as appropriate, their relationship to programme learning outcomes

At the end of this module successful students will be able to:

• Understand and engage with debates concerning the definition, nature and scope of organised civil society (OCS) and the third sector
• Interpret and apply the basic theories of OCS and third sector existence, organisation and
• Understand the role of the national and subnational institutions in relation to the third sector as a policy actor, in relation to policy design and implementation
• Understand the role of the European Union and other supranational institutions in policymaking processes as they relate to OCS and the third sector
• Describe, evaluate and apply different approaches to collecting, analysing and presenting social and technical information as this relates to key aspects of the OCS and the third sector
• Assess the value of a range of research methods appropriate to the study of this field
The intended generic learning outcomes and, as appropriate, their relationship to programme learning outcomes

The module is intended to contribute to students’ ability to:

• Communicate, in terms of organising information in a clear and coherent way, responding to written sources and presenting information orally
• Develop the application of theory ad research evidence to understanding of key issues in welfare and social policy
• Work with others by co-operating on seminars and expressing reasoned arguments orally
• Develop argumentation: they will develop logical arguments based upon sound reasoning and understanding of the material and express these arguments in a written format
• Undertake desk-based research. Students will be able to gather library and web-based resources appropriate for postgraduate study; make critical judgements about their merits and use the available evidence to construct a developed argument to be presented orally or in writing

University of Kent makes every effort to ensure that module information is accurate for the relevant academic session and to provide educational services as described. However, courses, services and other matters may be subject to change. Please read our full disclaimer.