An Israeli think tank will survey the nation’s Third Sector that is fourth in the world in size versus the larger economy.Throughout the world, the not-for-profit sector – also known as the Third Sector – has grown significantly during the past twenty years. This growth has been spurred by a variety of factors, including widespread privatization of government functions and a commitment to building bridges between individuals and institutions to those in need.
Israel’s Third Sector is no exception. Constituting roughly 12 percent of the country’s GDP and employing about one-tenth of the nation’s workforce, Israel’s Third Sector is gaining considerable attention. Although very large, it has never been studied and analyzed systematically. The Israeli Center for the Third Sector Research, the first and only academic research center of its kind in Israel, is poised to facilitate and document this analysis.
The Center, led by Prof. Benjamin Gidron, is engaged in developing policy-relevant data regarding the nature, structure, and societal role of the Third Sector. The Center was established in 1997 at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev through a generous grant by the Atlantic Philanthropies foundation in New York. ICTR promotes the study of the Third Sector and related subjects, such as philanthropy, as an academic field.
Among its other roles, ICTR engages in policy analysis and thus advances issues pertaining to the Third Sector on the public agenda. It also developed and maintains a resource center and database on all registered nonprofits in Israel, which is used by researchers, policy-makers, and professionals in the field.
ICTR and Prof. Gidron were chosen to participate in the prestigious International Study of the Nonprofit Sector by Johns Hopkins University Institute for Policy Studies. This project is conducted in 35 countries and profiles each country’s nonprofit sector. Israel’s Third Sector underwent a comprehensive review as a part of this international study. The resulting research was compiled over three years and published during 1998-2000. This series was the most important research on the Third Sector ever to be conducted in Israel.
Among the findings, Israel ranked fourth behind Holland, Ireland, and Belgium in the relative size of its Third Sector within the larger economy. There are about 30,000 registered Third Sector organizations in Israel. However, only about one-third of these are active. Most are “amutot” (nonprofit associations), which provide an array of services. The number of foundations and advocacy groups in Israel is growing. On average, 1,500 new organizations are registered annually.
Overall, Israel’s Third Sector emphasizes classic welfare services, with 84 percent of the sector’s economic activity in the fields of health, education, and welfare. Public funding is the Third Sector’s main revenue source at 64 percent; more than one third of Israeli Third Sector organizations received government support in 1998. However, even given this governmental support, the study still revealed that the Israeli government policy toward the Third Sector suffers from fragmentation and a lack of organization and goals. The study suggests that comprehensive governmental policies toward the Third Sector should be devised – a development that took place in recent years in most European nations.
In addition to the John Hopkins research project, the Center has embarked upon a variety of other research studies. These programs delve into issues related to patterns of governance, salary structure in Israel’s Third Sector, social responsibility in the Israeli business sector, as well as research on patterns of giving and volunteering of the Palestinian Arab population in Israel.
Just five years into its mission, the Israeli Center for Third Sector Research has placed this issue on the national policy and research agenda. Though still an emerging field, the study of Israel’s Third Sector, coupled with data about political life, the economy, and demographics, promises to elucidate Israeli society as a whole.
Further information about the Israeli Center for Third Sector Research can be found by visiting: www.bgu.ac.il/ICTR.