The third sector1 is an ever more important element of the institutional mix in Europe. It has been famously described elsewhere as ‘a loose and baggy monster’ (Knapp and Kendal 1995). Over the past decade its significance in European nations has been heightened considerably and its import now stretches across a number of significant elements of European society. Inter alia, it has implications for:

• the creation and sustenance of civil society; • the efficient and effective delivery of public services; • the development of socially responsible businesses and social enterprises; • the promotion of social inclusion and the regeneration of deprived

communities and; • democratic culture and accountability.