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The voluntary sector or community sector (also non-profit sector or "not-for-profit" sector) is the duty of social activity undertaken by organizations that are not-for-profit and non-governmental. This sector is also called the third sector, in contrast to the public sector and the private sector. Civic sector or social sector are other terms for the sector, emphasizing its relationship to civil society. Given the diversity of organizations that comprise the sector, Peter Frumkin prefers "non-profit and voluntary sector".
Discourse on the "third sector" began in the 1970s in France as a result of the crisis in the welfare state.
In India this sector is commonly called the "joint sector", and includes the industries run in partnership by the state and Private Sector. In a wider sense the initial investment is made by the state and later the handling is done by the private sector. But here the private sector is responsible to the state when it comes to handling.
In Israel this sector is commonly called the "Third Sector", (Hebrew: המגזר השלישי) and generally refers to non-profit organizations (NPOs) and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) with the line between the two quite fine. These organizations generally fill a gap in the existing government or municipal service provision. Examples include United Hatzalah for emergency medical first response, Yad Sarah for free loan of medical equipment, Yad Eliezer for poverty relief efforts, Akim for assistance for the mentally handicapped, and SHALVA for children with special needs.
The Cabinet Office of the British government until 2010 had an Office of the Third Sector that defined the "third sector" as "the place between State and (the) private sector." The Conservative/Liberal Democrat Coalition Government renamed the department the Office for Civil Society. The term third sector has now been replaced in Government usage by the term Civil Society or more usually the term Big Society, which was devised by political advisers and which featured prominently in the Conservative Party's 2010 election campaign.
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