Third Sector Research Centre launch announced

David Kane |

The Third Sector Research Centre will be launched later this month but it has already begun work and is developing its activities, links and publicity. Close links between VSSN and the centre are planned. More information on this will follow.

Pete Alcock, the centre’s director, wrote:

“The Third Sector Research Centre (TSRC) is a five year investment in research on the Third Sector supported by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the Office for the Third Sector (OTS) and the Barrow Cadbury Trust. It is a joint venture between the Universities of Birmingham and Southampton who bring to it complementary interests and strengths. It began formal operation on 1st September 2008 and will bring together experts from a range of disciplines to develop a research programme that will lead to improved understanding of the key patterns, processes and impacts of developments in the sector. This in turn will strengthen the evidence base for policy towards the sector.

The Centre’s agenda and programme are rooted in close collaboration with key partner organisations in the sector and they will reflect priorities identified by these organisations. The development of the research programme will take place with the full engagement of our partner organisations. They will play a strategic role in steering our activities overall and will also be linked closely into appropriate aspects of our research programmes.

The centre will systematically review existing research on the sector, and it will also assemble databases on which future researchers can draw. It will conduct a programme of sophisticated social science research ranging from complex quantitative modelling to in-depth qualitative studies and action research. This will greatly improve our knowledge of the key factors affecting the sector’s development and of the varied impacts and contributions of the third sector. Considerable effort will be devoted to developing communications strategies, so that targeted messages can be delivered to the range of stakeholder groups with interests in third sector.

The centre will work with sector agencies and government bodies to contribute to building capacity for further research across the third sector. This will include the creation of an active website and the recruitment of knowledge brokers to promote knowledge exchange and engagement with policymakers and practitioners. A temporary website has been established, which can be accessed at . A link will be provided from here to the permanent site once this is up and running.

The centre will be led by Professor Pete Alcock (University of Birmingham), with Professor John Mohan (University of Southampton) as deputy director, and will also include contributions by Jeremy Kendall (School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research, University of Kent) and Professor Fergus Lyon (Centre for Enterprise and Economic Development Research, Middlesex University).

The administrative and contact base for the centre will be at Birmingham, based in the new College of Social Sciences (contact Activity at Birmingham will include contributions from social policy (IASS and HSMC) , public policy (INLOGOV) and the Birmingham Business School (CURS and the Centre for Public Service Partnerships). At Southampton, the centre will be based in the School of Social Sciences, where research activity will be concentrated in the divisions of Sociology and Social Policy, Politics and International Relations, and Social Statistics, with input from the Department of Geography. The Centre’s activities at Southampton will benefit from close association with the Southampton Statistical Sciences Research Institute, the hub of the ESRC National Centre for Research Methods, and the new ESRC Centre for Population Change.

The Centre will also co-ordinate the work of the three Capacity Building Clusters (CBC) that have been established to support and enhance research capacity within the sector through CASE PhD studentships, knowledge transfer partnerships, research placements and vouchers. These present opportunities for third sector organisations to join collaborative research projects and for new researchers to build their experience of research on the third sector. Two CBCs have so far been commissioned, on Social Enterprise (led by Professor Fergus Lyon at Middlesex University, with Durham University and London South Bank University) and Action Citizenship and Community Empowerment (led by Zoraida Mendiwelso-Bendek at Lincoln University, with Goldsmiths and Manchester Metropolitan University).”

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