This essay describe the evolution, in terms of mission and practices, of the voluntary organizations that operate into the Italian’ social and health services, also called "third sector", during the last fourty years. This evolution has been affected from the prevailing welfare state model that has changed from the so called "welfare state" (’70-’80) to a "welfare community" model (twenty century). So during this evolution the voluntary organizations have undertaken an important role into the participation’ process, as a resource of the community, contributing to the decision making (from local to national level). The participation’ process imply the development of new involvement strategies finalized to the growth of different kind of partnership inside the community; the essay finally outlines the main results of the process, in terms of strengths and weaknesses.
Keywords: Volontariato, welfare di comunità, partecipazione, sussidiarietà, empowerment, cittadinanza attiva