# Three Sectors
> “…the plural sector comprises all associations of people that are owned neither by the state nor by private investors.” – Henry Mintzberg
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The "Three Sectors" offers a common and useful way to categorize different forms of collective effort in a society. Each sector has a different structure and logic. Each has access to a different bundle of resources (although there is also significant overlap). And each is governed by a different array of control and decision structures.
Arts intiatives can and do appear in all three sectors.
These three sectors include:
- **The Private Sector** - Defined by the private (individual or corporate) ownership and control of money and stuff. In the Private Sector, *somebody* owns and controls the choices and outcomes of the enterprise.
- The Private Sector is driven by an economic logic.
- Arts organizations in the Private Sector include art galleries, many dance studios, many professional theater and music ensembles, Broadway theaters, and a wide array of commercially focused art, design, and entertainment firms.
- **The Public Sector** - Defined by the public ownership and control of money and stuff. This is also called "government." In the Public Sector, *everybody* owns and controls the choices and outcomes, although different societies make different choices about who makes the decisions and how they are selected or appointed.
- The Public Sector is driven by a political logic.
- Arts organizations in the Public Sector include municipal performing arts centers and museums, state historical societies, many educational institutions, many state and local arts councils, and national arts organizations such as the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the Smithsonian Institution.
- **The Plural Sector** - Known by many names (including the Third Sector, the Nonprofit Sector, the Voluntary Sector, or the Independent Sector), the Plural Sector is defined by community ownership and control through the social or civic action of a group. In the plural sector, *nobody* owns the money and stuff. Rather, the money and stuff are held in the public trust, with their control determined by some form of shared governance (such as a nonprofit governing board). The Plural Sector includes nonprofit organizations, but also social movements, cooperatives, and informal community initiatives.
- The Plural Sector is driven by a social logic.
- Arts organizations in the Plural Sector include all nonprofit arts organizations serving theater, music, dance, visual arts, public media, education, and a wide array of other creative disciplines.
The term "Plural Sector" was suggested by management scholar Henry Mintzberg in his book, *Rebalancing Society.* He further suggested that vibrant societies are about balance rather than single-sector strength. Says he:
> Strength in all three sectors is necessary for a society to be balanced. Imagine them as the sturdy legs of a stool – or pillars, if you wish – on which a healthy society has to be supported: a public sector of political forces rooted in respected governments, a private sector of economic forces based on responsible businesses, and a plural sector of social forces manifested in robust communities.
Mintzberg is certainly not the first to suggest a three-legged platform for thriving societies. But his framing of “plural” as one of those legs is a productive contribution because it includes a vast range of collective efforts – not just formal institutions – such as social movements, cooperatives, and informal collaborations.
Of course, formal institutions are still in there too: not-for-profit arts organizations, educational institutions, social services, volunteer enterprises. But they are surrounded by the dark matter of millions of informal and often unrecognized collectives that support and advance a resilient plural life.
Mintzberg is also clear that each of the three sectors has unique strengths, but also insidious downsides – private (markets) can be crass, public (governments) can be crude, plural (communities) can be closed – which is why each sector must strive toward its best self and learn to play well with others.
The plural sector is not a midpoint between private and public. It is a third way of attracting, aligning, and activating people and resources. It’s a framing and naming that’s worth a ride around the block.
- Mintzberg, Henry. *Rebalancing Society: Radical Renewal Beyond Left, Right, and Center*. 1st edition. Oakland, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2015.
- Mintzberg, Henry. “[Time for the Plural Sector](https://ssir.org/articles/entry/time_for_the_plural_sector#).” _Stanford Social Innovation Review_ 13, no. 3 (2015). [https://doi.org/10.48558/0WX6-ZG74](https://doi.org/10.48558/0WX6-ZG74).
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