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“Those Who Agree to Play on our Terms will be Taken In”: A Qualitative Study on the Perceptions of Public Authorities and NGO Representatives Regarding Self-Organizing Fourth-Sector Activity

Published in PAQ, Vol. 43 No. 3

Interest is growing in the role of spontaneous volunteers and emergent citizens groups in safety and security functions. This study connects those actors to the broad concept of the self-organizing fourth sector and analyzes the opinions of more than 200 Finnish representatives of public- and the third-sector organizations gathered through interviews and small group discussion on the tensions related to fourth-sector activity. The study reveals a strong desire to control the fourth sector, a desire that dominates any associated desire to enable it. The tension between enabling and controlling can be tamed by moving the fourth-sector actors under the control of the third sector. However, the role of the fourth sector is then reduced to being merely an extra pair of hands, and its self- organizing and emergent nature is subsumed. The debate over the paradox of spontaneous volunteering needs to be resolved before the fourth sector becomes a normal and acknowledged part of the security and safety functions.

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