Third Sector Trends is a longitudinal study which was established in 2008. As such it is the longest running research programme of its kind in the UK. The work is to continue from 2018-2020 thanks to the support of the Community Foundation serving Tyne & Wear and Northumberland.
The impact of the study is considerable as it informs voluntary and community organisations, cooperatives, community businesses and social enterprise about the wellbeing and direction of the sector. Its results are also widely used by policy makers and funding bodies.
The original aim of the Third Sector Trends study, when commissioned by Northern Rock Foundation, was to examine objectively the structure and dynamics of the third sector in North East England. In 2015, the Community Foundation assumed responsibility for the study and its legacy and took it forward working with JRF, Garfield Weston and IPPR North.
The work has included both quantitative and qualitative analysis and in the early stages involved the Universities of Durham, Teesside and Southampton.
The TSO1000 survey
The longest running aspect of the study is its biennial survey of the sector which will enter its fifth iteration in 2019. The large scale study now collects data from right across the North of England allowing for in-depth analysis of more than 3,500 respondents. It is expected that, in addition to the North East England study, the research will continue in the North West and Yorkshire and the Humber in 2019.
The TSO50 study
A second strand of the work is a longitudinal study of a cohort of 40 third sector organisations in North East England. This began in 2010 and has continued to 2018. Analysis of this very detailed study will proceed in 2019 alongside the survey work.
The role and impact of charitable foundations
Additionally in 2019, a study of the third sector from the point of view of charitable foundations will take place. This research, which will include 15-20 charitable grant making foundations based in or beyond the North East region, will examine the approaches taken to funding and will pay special attention to its likely impact on localities throughout the region.
The study has produced many reports which are available at this address: https://www.communityfoundation.org.uk/knowledge-and-leadership/third-sector-trends-research/