Changing Landscapes for the Third Sector

About the project

This one year study, based in the School of Sociology and Social Policy at the University of Leeds, brings together a wide range of new research on the third sector. It explores important questions around how different third sector organizations, and those who work with or for them, have developed and adapted to a rapidly changing economic and social context.

Over recent years a noticeable shift has occurred in research on the third sector. Cross sectional studies that create a ‘snap shot’ of third sector organisations, activities and the individuals involved, have begun to be complemented by dynamic studies that create a moving picture of the sector through prospective or retrospective methods of enquiry. The recent application of qualitative longitudinal (QL) and case history methods in a number of third sector studies is part of this growing trend; distinctive forms of data and knowledge are being generated that can shed new light on how changes in the sector are created, lived and experienced, and that allow current trends to be placed in historical and developmental context. Viewing the third sector in this way is particularly important in times of austerity and sector transformation. Organisations are grappling with the demands of new and often reduced funding structures; greater emphasis on social enterprise models; a changing relationship with the state and local government; increased pressure to demonstrate the difference they make; and changes in the nature of participation. Understanding how the organisations and individuals that make up the third sector are responding and adapting to this changing landscape is vital; the provision of resources on these processes will enable a sharing of practice and experiences that will benefit the sector and those commissioning third sector services.

Based on a national network of Qualitative Longitudinal research projects on the third sector, the project is designed to:

The project is led by the Timescapes Data and Methods Service, University of Leeds (Kahryn Hughes and Bren Neale) in collaboration with the Third Sector Research Centre, University of Birmingham (Rob Macmillan); and the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (Veronique Joachim). Network members are from the Institute for Voluntary Action Research, the Association of Charitable Foundations, and the Universities of Durham, Edinburgh, Edinburgh Napier and Strathclyde.


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