What is the Third Sector?

The Third Sector is often a misunderstood category, but it’s a great way to encapsulate all the organisations working for positive change. In this journal, we demystify the term.

What is the Third Sector?

The Third Sector is a term used to describe various types of organisations that sit separately from the public and private sectors. Charities, community organisations, Think Tanks and cooperatives can all be categorised as Third Sector. Commonly, Third Sector organisations are also referred to as NGOs or not-for-profits. Third Sector organisations range in size and scale, operating at all levels of society to overcome particular social, cultural and environmental challenges. For example, a small local charity may work solely on the issue of homelessness in their city, whereas larger organisation may work on multiple issues related to international development and be operating on a global scale.

What does the Third Sector do?

Around the world, Third Sector organisations contribute significantly to the health and wellbeing of people, animals and the environment. Governments increasingly rely on NGOs to provide services that would previously have been the public sector’s responsibility. As follows, many Third Sector organisations receive government subsidisation to provide their services.

The work of Third Sector organisations’ is exceptionally diverse. Some organisations work to fulfil a single aim, such as growing support for a particular issue, whereas others will provide services related to their focus areas. For example, a large-scale international development organisation such as UNICEF facilitates numerous projects and programmes around the world to support child welfare. Many NGOs also work to enact long-term, systematic change to laws and policy. For example, a gender-focused NGO may run campaigns to advocate for the abolishment of gender discriminatory laws.

Third Sector communications

For Third Sector organisations, telling engaging stories about their activities is critical to ensure they receive the support necessary to continue their work. To this end, many NGOs are now creating high-quality multimedia campaigns and content to disseminate their messaging and communicate the value of their work. With the documentary format increasingly popular among audiences, many organisations have also started to produce documentary films around their focus-issues, recognising the benefits the format can bring to growing awareness around a cause. Documentary films provide a perfect outlet for organisations to delve into the detail of issues and communicate the personal stories of the lives of those they impact. With streaming platforms, social media and digital technology ever-evolving, it presents an exciting opportunity or NGOs to fine tune their multimedia communications and generate lasting impact.