Theses defended

Governance, Institutions and the Third Sector. The Private Institutions of Social Solidarity

Vasco Almeida

Public Defence date
June 15, 2010
Doctoral Programme
Governance, Knowledge and Innovation
José Reis
This work is based on the conviction that the institutionalist perspectives of economics make an important contribution to studying the role and dynamics of the third sector in contemporary societies. Given the obvious limitations of conventional economic theories, it is shown that the existence of the third sector can be perceived more clearly through a causal model of explanation that integrates the various levels of institutional analysis.
The enormous diversity shown by the third sector internationally is explained by the approach of the varieties of capitalism and the notion of institutional complementarities. A comparative study of private welfare institutions (IPSS) and the English charities shows that their different characteristics and dynamics are explained by the fact that they are embedded in different models of capitalism, consolidated through a set of specific institutional complementarities.
Despite the heterogeneity it exhibits in the international arena, the third sector occupies a central place in the governance of most contemporary societies. Its importance in governance is illustrated in this work by the study of the contractual relations between the government and the IPSS. The focus on the financial aspects of contracting highlights the fact that the creation of rules of governance is a composite process whose results depend on the contracting capacity of the actors involved, and that the evolution of the regulation framework is influenced by the institutional hierarchy of the various institutional sectors involved.
This work describes a comparative study of three IPSS in which several core aspects are examined. In the first place, the pertinence of combining the structural levels of action with the individual level is shown, since this helps to understand the complexity of the process of change within organisations. The focus then shifts to the part played by the IPSS in the socio-economic dynamisation of local communities, and in increasing the complexity and diversity of social systems of production. Finally, it is shown that the transposition of the formal institutional framework for the practices of the organisations is a non-linear process, adapted in line with the strategies of the agents involved and the socio-economic characteristics of the communities.
These aspects are made clear particularly through an analysis of the functioning of some social services provided in the area of the third age. As well as a certain diversity in how each organisation structures its range of services there are forms of institutional isomorphism, especially in terms of the typified social services.