"The Future of the Third Sector" Conference is taking place at Cumberland Lodge between 15th-17th June 2011
The Third Sector Research Centre (TSRC) was established under the last government in 2008. We are funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, with support from the Cabinet Office and the Barrow Cadbury Trust, to provide a robust and independent base for research on the sector in the UK. We are funded initially for five years and have a wide ranging programme of research, including in particular building up a reliable base of quantitative and qualitative data about the sector. We will have the numbers to show size of the sector and how it is changing, and we will also have detailed stories of how organisations have shifted and developed over time.
One of the reasons for joining with Cumberland Lodge to sponsor this residential conference is to explain how our research is developing and share our findings with a select audience of key research users. Given that we are just about half way through our programme of research, this is a timely point at which to share and reflect – and to get feedback and advice on how we should take our work forward over the coming two and a half years.
However, in the world of policy and politics things do not stand still – however, much academic researchers might wish that they would! Since we began our work there has been a change of government, and hence changes in policy, not the least the introduction of a new drive to promote the Big Society and to place third sector organisations at the centre of this – or at least ‘charities, voluntary organisations and social enterprises’, as the term third sector itself has been dropped by the new government. And just over a year after the new government came to power this is also a timely point at which to explore this new policy agenda in more detail and look back over the first year to assess its achievements and challenges.
So researchers from TSRC will be reporting on our findings; but will also be discussing with leading policy makers and practitioners what these might mean for this new and developing policy agenda. One of the challenges now placed on all social science researchers is to engage with those who might use their research and seek to make an impact the worlds of policy and practice. This is certainly at the heart of TSRC’s mission – and one year into our new Big Society we are looking forward to seeing how effectively we can do this through debate and discussion at Cumberland Lodge.
Professor Pete Alcock
Director Third Sector Research Centre
University of Birmingham
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