Changing Landscapes for the Third Sector


New ways of working with data

The Changing Landscapes study develops new ways of bringing together existing qualitative longitudinal research together. We have followed a very specific plan of action, which has involved methodological work, such as synthesis and secondary analysis of data collected from across our network; and archive and repository work: developing the Timescapes Archive, which now contains two themed collections of qualitative longitudinal research data (families and relationships over the lifecourse; the third sector). New ways of data collection and analysis have therefore been core to this study.

Our motivation in this study is not only about the usefulness of these ways of working for enhancing our knowledge and understanding about the third sector, nor about the methodological challenges and academic gains from the research. We are also responding to very good practical reasons for thinking about how we collect and store data and how they may be re-used, as the major UK funding councils have devolved responsibility for research data onto the organisations (such as universities) that generated the research. Not only must research data be properly stored, but also research-active organisations are responsible for properly curating those data and making them available for re-use.

This question of curation and re-use leads us directly into considering whether and how any data set is only of value if it can be found and understood sufficiently well to allow researchers to reuse the data. This might include researchers from the original study as, in qualitative longitudinal research, the very nature of the research involves the need to go back to data again and again, and re-analyse in the light of new and emerging data. However, re-use more broadly refers to how new researchers may want to ask different questions of data generated by an existing study, or work across a range of thematically linked data sets. Therefore, this need to understand how to get to data, and what those data are, becomes even more acute.

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Report on the Timescapes Archive

The broad aim of the Changing Landscapes project, as set out in the proposal to ESRC, was “to bring together a body of qualitative longitudinal and life course research on the third sector in order to exchange knowledge and data of relevance to the future development of the sector”. Underpinning this aim is the Timescapes Archive – a specialist archive of Qualitative Longitudinal (QL) data for sharing and re-use. The long term strategy for the archive is to build collections of thematically related QL datasets, including non ESRC funded datasets, in order to facilitate data discovery and secondary analysis across a range of substantive topics. This is in a context where QL methodology is fast advancing and a growing number of projects are being funded. The archive originally contained a collection of 9 datasets (Changing Relationships and Identities through the Life Course – short hand title, Changing Relationships and Identities). Under the new funding, the aim was to develop a new collection of datasets (Changing Landscapes for the Third Sector). The specific objective was to “prepare data from two complimentary datasets (NCVO and Birmingham) and ingest the data into the Timescapes Archive (ESRC proposal).

This report describes the work undertaken in order to achieve the objective of adding two datasets to the Timescapes Archive, but also details the important development work undertaken to establish the Timescapes Archive on a new technical platform which will support the long term strategy for the Archive and ensure that the Archive is aligned with the University of Leeds institutional data management provision. The development work carried out over the past year is detailed below, but has included the following key activities:

  • Migrating the existing collection of 9 datasets (Changing Relationships and Identities) to the EPrints platform.
  • Setting up a new search and browse function for the collection, to aid data discovery and facilitate re-use.
  • Modifying EPrints to create an access control layer suited to QL data.
  • Creating a new collection (Changing Landscapes for the Third Sector) comprising two datasets, for ingestion into the new platform.
  • Provision of support and guidance to the depositors (NCVO and Birmingham) on data management and preparation of the datasets for archiving.
  • Creating a new Guide to the Timescapes Archive for both depositors and users.
  • Ongoing collaboration with the UKDA to ensure compatible, complementary systems are in place.

Read the full report here

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Data Sharing in Changing Landscapes for the Third Sector

A core strand of Changing Landscapes is sharing data as part of knowledge exchange across the network. The project as a whole comprises a series of linked strategies: data sharing, knowledge exchange, synthesis and review, and secondary analysis. These bring together a new body of qualitative longitudinal and life course research on the third sector, in order to exchange data and knowledge of relevance to the future development of the sector. Sharing these distinctive forms of knowledge across academic and practice organisations provides the foundation for scaling up evidence and creating impact for practitioners, service providers and for wider public policy.

The data sharing strand aims to explore and promote ways in which a linked collection and assembly of qualitative longitudinal data gathered on the third sector can be used to generate insights to address particular research questions. The questions posed as part of the Changing Landscapes study relate especially to the micro-dynamics of change in third sector organisations as they navigate a shifting policy landscape.

Selected data between two projects in the Changing Landscapes network, Real Times by the Third Sector Research Centre (TSRC), and Pathways through participation, by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) with the Institute for Volunteering Research and Involve, were brought together at a data sharing event in the early phase of this project in order to:

  • explore the possibilities of emergent and interpretive analysis of each other’s data in understanding key aspects of the micro dynamics of change in third sector organisations;
  • consider how this exchange might develop and refine the analytical questions for the synthesis and review strand of the project; and,
  • contribute to, and refine, the key analytic themes for secondary analysis.

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Veronique Jochum on Data-Sharing

In July 2014, I took part in a data-sharing workshop at the University of Leeds with the Timescapes team and Rob Macmillan from Third Sector Research Centre (TSRC ). The objective of the workshop was to share a number of interview transcripts from the Pathways through participation project and the Real Times project to explore common themes. The Pathways through participation project was led by my organisation NCVO (National Council for Voluntary Organisations) in partnership with IVR (Institute for Volunteering Research) and Involve. As the project manager I really welcomed the opportunity to revisit the dataset and explore how some of our findings might resonate with the findings of Real Times.

These Pathways through participation and Real Times datasets are very different so I was intrigued to see what could come out of the workshop – whereas Pathways through participation is a collection of individual life stories of participation from the perspective of the individual, Real Times looks at the journeys of voluntary organisations over time. Prior to the meeting Rob Macmillan and myself had identified several areas we were interested in exploring further, selected 3 to 5 transcripts each with this in mind and then contacting the interviewees to gain consent.

At the workshop, we rapidly saw that despite the two datasets having very different units of analysis (the individual in the case of Pathways through participation and the organisation in the case of Real Times) our understanding of the data benefited from the rich discussion we had. The key learning point for me was the realisation that the approach to volunteering of organisations seemed largely disconnected from people’s motivations to volunteer – why people might want to engage with them in the first place, but also why they would decide to stay engaged or leave. Of course, it very much depended on the organisation, their activity and size, and what sources of funding they accessed. But, in the examples we looked at in more detail, volunteers were very much there to complete a task, which raised some interesting questions about the boundaries between paid and unpaid work.

This was my first experience of data sharing and I’m pleased to say it was a positive one. It definitely highlighted some very real gaps in knowledge and pointed to further areas for exploration.

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Participant’s voices

We thought you might like to hear some of the voices of the participants in the original studies, especially the Pathways Through Participation Study conducted by NCVO.

Click on the names in the list below to show their stories, or download the final report of the Study here.

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