Keywords: Mutual Aid Society; Third Sector; Social Economy; Solidarity; Welfare System.
According to a draft bill currently before the Italian Parliament, mutual aid societies should be considered as part of the Third Sector. And yet, when considering the primary aim of mutual aid societies (i.e. benefiting their members, rather than society at large), this position cannot be taken for granted. The paper discusses the opportunity to include mutual aid societies into a more broadly defined Third Sector, by investigating the activities that these organizations are actually carrying out, with particular reference to the organizations working in health and social care services. The authors compare the nature and purposes of mutual aid societies and with those of other Third Sector organizations, and discuss the potential benefit of including this particular category for advancing the Italian welfare system. Including mutual aid societies into the Third Sector could enhance the social role of these institutions and increase the contribution that private organizations pursuing collective aims can give to the construction of a new - and more pluralistic - welfare system.