Our approach to research
TSRC was established to meet the need for a stronger research base on the third sector in the UK.
Much existing third sector research has been funded by policy makers or practitioners, and is focused on the evaluation of particular activities or initiatives. Whilst useful and important for policy and practice, this is most often limited to a particular focus and specific time frame. TSRC exists to develop broad, independent and long-term research and analysis.
Robust and independent research
All our researchers are trained academics working in universities, mostly at Birmingham and Southampton. It’s important to emphasise that we are independent of both government and the third sector. However, we intend our work to be accessible and useful to both practitioners and policy makers, even if at times we will ask difficult questions and be critical. It is only through such critical and independent research that we can understand our social world better – and ultimately improve our practice within it.
Our research priorities
The centre will fulfil four broad research functions:
- To consolidate our knowledge from existing research, making it available to academics, policy makers, practitioners and others, and identifying gaps in what we know and understand.
- To articulate and explore difficult theoretical issues, and develop a critical understanding of the policy environment in which the sector operates.
- To acquire reliable data about the size, shape, structure and dynamics of the sector, to interrogate and analyse it, and to make key features and findings available to research users. This will include quantitative data, led by Southampton, and in-depth qualitative research, led by Birmingham.
- To analyse the economic and social impact of the sector. Whilst this has potentially unlimited focus, key streams of research - as identified by the commissioning process and scoping report - are underway. These research streams will respond to changing priorities, and the evidence review and engagement with stakeholders will play an important part in identifying appropriate research questions.
Working in partnership
Whilst we must ensure that our work is theoretically informed and empirically robust, it must also be informed by the needs and concerns of those in the sector. We need to know the key questions that policy makers and practitioners want evidence on.
We have established an Advisory Board to oversee our research strategy, and Reference Groups for each research stream, with representatives from sector agencies, academic research and policy providers. We have established a Knowledge Exchange Team to ensure that our research engages with the widest range of stakeholders, and that our findings and analysis are made available to all. Find out more about involvement
TSRC aims to establish itself as a permanent centre for academic research on the third sector, providing a sustainable resource for practitioners, policy makers and academics and enabling us to address a wide range of developing research questions.