Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences


Social Work


This is one of two summation papers presented at the conclusion of the 2012 Queensland University conference on the third sector, looking to the future. The focus initially is on the concept of the social imaginary as offered by the Canadian social philosopher, Charles Taylor. Much of the previous conceptual and theoretical work in third sector studies during the past few decades has been focused on questions of the best ways to imagine the community and national social configurations of increasingly large numbers of nonprofit, voluntary and nongovernmental organizations. The concepts of nonprofit organization and nonprofit sector have been most prominent figures in this evolving social imaginary, although there are other conceptions as well, notably civil society and commons. More recently, a group of European scholars has mounted a critique of the “North American Model” of the third sector as a space of nonprofit organizations defined by the non-distribution constraint. Examination of one major expression of this critique reveals a serious, thoughtful effort that deserves greater attention than it has received to date among North American scholars.

Source Citation

Producing the Third Sector: The Role of Social Imaginaries. Paper presented at the Workshop on Theoretical Variations in Voluntary Sector Organizing, Queens University, Kingston Ontario, October 20, 2012.



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