All posts by Tony Chapman

Entrepreneurial vitality and innovation in North East England

In reputational terms, North East England seems to live a double life. On one hand, the region’s distinctive political and industrial history, landscape and coast, culture, society and cityscapes are lauded and nationally valued. On the other hand, North East England has a reputation for ‘underperforming’ economically in comparative terms.

Statistically, the region does not fare as well as some other regions. Business density is more sparse, there are fewer business start-ups and productivity is lower than in many other regions. Furthermore, there are fewer jobs available per head of working population and the quality of those jobs tends to be lower than in other areas (using measures such as pay, security, skill and options for advancement). 

National measures of performance use standardized metrics irrespective of local circumstance. This can advantage some areas if they have a strong asset base. Places with fewer local resources may struggle to meet the same levels of performance – but this may not mean that they have not been successful relative to their assets.

This report looks at the situation in North East England through a more positive lens by making comparisons with other areas. It is argued that future research should avoid using ‘deficit’ models of economic potential and instead look more critically at what the region has to work with, and not what it lacks.

The research, by Tony Chapman, Tanya Gray and Sarah Green of Policy&Practice in collaboration with the North East Local Enterprise Partnership was funded by Research England.

The full report can be downloaded here: Business innovation in the context of place (July 2021)

A shorter summary report can be downloaded here: SHORT REPORT Business innovation in the context of place (July 2021)

And a presentation to the North East Economic Evidence Forum, 27th July, 2021. Enterprise and innovation in the context of place presentation 27th July 2021

New study to measure positive impact of charities and voluntary organisations across Yorkshire

Durham University research to measure the role charities play in improving people’s lives and wellbeing in the region. 

The positive effect of charity and community activities across Yorkshire is to be measured as part of a new study co-funded by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority.

The study will measure the size and effect of the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) Sector, examining its economic and social impact on improving people’s lives and wellbeing in the region.

Throughout the pandemic, the VCSE sector has played an important and increasingly recognised role working in partnership with the public and private sectors, and is considered key to ensuring an inclusive economic recovery. Often also known as the ‘third sector’, it includes charities, community groups and associations, social enterprises, mutuals and co-operatives.

The research is led by Professor Tony Chapman of St Chad’s College, Durham University, an expert in the voluntary and community sector, who has undertaken similar research locally, nationally and internationally.

Tracy Brabin, Mayor of West Yorkshire, said: “Throughout the pandemic, the third sector has been a lifeline for so many people both in our region and across Yorkshire. This research will recognise and celebrate the incredibly important contribution volunteers make to their local communities and economies. It will also help us understand where local leaders can work more closely with the voluntary and community sector to help improve people’s lives and wellbeing.”

Professor Chapman said: “Estimating the overall impact of the sector is undoubtedly the most challenging but also the most intellectually interesting aspect of the work to be undertaken. It also has potential to influence the way VCSE work is valued at a national level. Findings can be interpreted in the context of current policy debates around ‘levelling up’, the ‘Foundation Economy’ and community wealth building’.”

The study, which is expected to be published in the summer, will develop a fuller picture of the VSCE sector, including its size, turnover, assets, the numbers of people employed, the value of volunteering and impact.

The results will be used to better understand the scale of the social and economic value the VSCE sector creates, including cost savings resulting from improving people’s health and well-being, and improving their confidence and overall social mobility.

It has been commissioned by West Yorkshire Combined Authority in partnership with West Yorkshire and Harrogate Health and Care Partnership, Humber, Coast and Vale Health and Care Partnership, Yorkshire Sports Foundation, Community First Yorkshire and Two Ridings Community Foundation.

The study covers the geographic areas of:

  • West Yorkshire Combined Authority (Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees, Leeds and Wakefield)
  • West Yorkshire and Harrogate Health and Care Partnership region (Bradford district and Craven, Calderdale, Harrogate, Kirklees, Leeds and Wakefield)
  • Humber, Coast and Vale Health and Care Partnership region (North East Lincolnshire, North Lincolnshire, Kingston-upon-Hull, East Riding of Yorkshire, York and in North Yorkshire – the districts of Hambleton, Harrogate, Richmondshire, Ryedale, Scarborough and Selby).

Going the extra mile, how business works with charities



The Law Family Commission on Civil Society has been established to do ground-breaking research to enhance the potential of civil society.  Unlike other programmes of research, the Commission aims to explore productive relationships between civil society, the state and the private sector and to find out how to maximise the benefits of current or future interactions.

Professor Tony Chapman of Policy&Practice was commissioned in January 2021 to undertake new analysis of Charity Commission and Third Sector Trends data to find out what kind, how much and where business invests in charities.

The relationship between the corporate social responsibility work of big business and the activities of major charities has already been researched quite extensively. This report does not concern itself with these major charities with annual incomes above £25m. Instead, it focuses on the third sector in more general terms – with a particular focus on small to medium sized organisations which generate the bulk of sector activity – especially at the local level.

Little is known about the volume of financial and non-financial support which business provides to the sector in general and how it is distributed across regions, amongst organisations, or within local areas with particular characteristics. Nothing much is known about the social purposes for which support is given, nor the extent to which this support is valued by third sector organisations.

The aim of this report is to begin to fill some of these gaps in our knowledge by drawing upon data from the Charity Commission register and the long-running Third Sector Trends study. Using these data, the report will offer the first substantive study of business and third sector interactions. It will explore the following issues:

  • The types and extent of business support: define what kinds of financial and non-financial support are currently provided and explore the characteristics of third sector organisations that receive support.
  • What issues does business support: to find out what issues business supports and determine whether businesses and third sector organisations share the same kinds of priorities.
  • The value of business support: reconfigure existing data to produce estimates of the financial contribution of business to third sector organisations and the proxy-values of non-financial support.
  • Regional variations in business support: present estimates on the distribution of business support regionally which takes into account variations in affluence and deprivation and the structure of the local third sector.
  • The quality of relationships with business: from a third sector perspective examine the extent to which businesses are accessible to organisations and invest time in understanding their work.
  • The extent to which organisations feel valued by business: finding out which kinds of third sector organisations are most or least likely to feel that business invests trust and energy in their activities.
  • What the future holds for sector relationships: the prospects for the development of productive relationships are considered from a third sector point of view before and after the Covid-19 pandemic began.

The original findings of this research will present a number of challenges to practitioners, commentators and policy makers in the public, private and third sectors that need to be addressed. The most important of which is the potential mis-match between the ethos, purposes and practices of sectors and how that may impede good working relationships.

It is expected that the report will be published in June 2021.



Business innovation in local context



Over several decades, North East England has borne the burden of a reputation of ‘underperforming’ economically. Certainly, in bald statistical terms, business density is more sparse, there are fewer business start-ups, and ambitions for business innovation, investment and growth are lower.

Laudable strategies and action plans have been produced over the years to tackle under-performance – but statistical indicators have proven to be difficult to shift. A problem with using national metrics is that they do not necessarily compare ‘like-with-like’.  But a risk remains that accepted narratives which point to failure and disappointment might dampen future potential in those areas which are performing less well economically.

If the use of national and regional statistical metrics represent something of a ‘blunt instrument’ when applied to areas which have particular characteristics, we need strong evidence to demonstrate that this is the case.  Certainly, the North East of England is a varied region with great expanses of rural areas in Northumberland, a major metropolitan area centred on Tyneside and Wearside and the mixed fortunes of towns on the former Durham coalfield.

This new study, to be undertaken by Professor Tony Chapman, Sarah Green and Dr Tanya Gray of Policy&Practice aims to help develop a deeper, stronger and sustainable culture of innovation in the ‘context’ of localities to ensure that achievement is fully recognised and built upon by:

  • Assessing contextualised starting points for businesses success, identifying factors which helped or hindered achievements.
  • Adopting open-minded definitions of ‘innovation in context’ (including invention, technical product/service innovation, complementary business interactions, repositioning business from client perspectives, etc.).
  • Exploring aspects of place-based entrepreneurial inspiration, the opportunities and support structures which facilitate business.
  • Recognising that area boundaries are permeable and that indigenous and endogenous growth drivers produce potential for serendipitous interactions if negative perceptions are challenged.
  • Understanding that places have different starting points and that success cannot be assessed with standard metrics and adopt an action-oriented outcome framework which learns from effective practice, locally, nationally and internationally

The first phase of the work will be funded by Research England and Durham University’s Strategic Priorities Fund. From April, North East Local Enterprise Partnership will continue support for the second phase of the project.

The project will conclude and report in December 2021.

Policy&Practice Annual Report 2020

Policy&Practice has had another productive year, culminating in several reports from our long-running Third Sector Trends Study of the voluntary and community sector which began in 2008.

It has been a difficult year for everyone in the voluntary sector due to the Covid-19 pandemic.  Policy&Practice has been on the forefront of research in this domain – publishing a several reports on the impact of Covid-19 on charities, but also offering alternative explanations on how the sector might emerge from the pandemic as, in many ways, a stronger force to sustain civil society and contribute to social and economic recovery.

New projects have been secured for 2021.  Professor Fred Robinson has been commissioned by William Leech Research Fund to undertake a new project on ‘tainted money’ and how Christian organisations should respond.  Professor Tony Chapman, Sarah Green and Dr Tanya Gray have a new project on business innovation in local context for the North East Local Enterprise Partnership.

Full details of current work and last year’s achievements can be found in our Annual Report which can be downloaded here: Policy&Practice Annual Report 2020

The structure and dynamics of the Third Sector in England and Wales

For the first time in 2019, the long-running Third Sector Trends Study extended its reach across the whole of England and Wales and collected responses from over 4,000 charities, social enterprises, local community groups and cooperatives.

This first working paper published in this programme of work is technical in nature and does not lend itself to easy-to-grasp headlines and soundbites. What it does do is provide a foundation upon which more accessible briefing reports can be produced which can be relied upon to provide more accurate estimates on sector activity.

Even with a large sample of organisations such as this it is difficult to generalise about findings unless data can be ‘scaled up’ to national and regional levels by using reliable multipliers.

To do this, the Third Sector Trends Study has now used data from the Charity Commission register, the Third Sector

Trends Study and NCVO Civil Society Almanac to get a much clearer picture about the situation of the local Third Sector across England and Wales.

The analysis is not perfect, methodological refinements will need to be made and more data collected in future rounds of the study to answer new questions as they arise. But it is a starting point to move analysis in new directions.

Future briefings will build on this work by exploring issues through new lenses to cast light on the wealth of diversity in civil society and the benefits that can bring to a wide range of constituencies of individuals and interests.

A blog outlining the purpose and key messages from the study can be found here.

Structure and dynamics of the Third Sector in England and Wales: technical paper on working definitions and baseline data analysis, Durham: Policy&Practice is available at here: Structure and dynamics of the third sector in England and Wales (Revised February 2021)

Law Family Commission on Civil Society

The Law Family Commission on Civil Society, launched today, is an ambitious programme of research into how the potential of civil society can be realised.

The Commission aims to offer tangible ideas for policy-makers, companies, philanthropists and social sector organisations to tackle challenges that limit the achievements of civil society organisations such as charities, social enterprises and community groups.

Professor Tony Chapman, of Policy&Practice, has joined the Commission’s Technical Panel to advise on research priorities and research methodology.

The Law Family Commission on Civil Society is hosted by Pro Bono Economics and is financially supported by Andrew Law and the Law Family Charitable Foundation.

To accompany the launch, a set of essays has been published today which can be downloaded here: Essay collection: Civil Society,



Principles and pragmatism

How can Christian organisations obtain the money they need whilst holding on to their principles? How vigilant should churches and other Christian organisations be about the provenance of money which they receive through donations, grants or from investments?

Professor Fred Robinson of Policy&Practice has been awarded a Leech Fellowship to look at these issues, focusing on the North East. He’ll be finding out how Christian organisations think about money, particularly money that comes from sources that appear to have values that conflict with a Christian ethos.  Should they accept money from the Lottery, for example, given its association with gambling? Or from charitable trusts linked to particular business activities such as fossil fuels?  Thinking of historic benefactions, what should Christian organisations say or do about money they have received in the past that was earned through the business of slavery?

The problem of ‘tainted money’ has recently been generating a good deal of controversy in relation to the sponsorship of arts, culture and sport. There are also some lively debates about university endowments and the legacies of slavery. Christian organisations will get increasingly drawn into these issues — and they should have something credible to say about the positions they adopt and the actions they take.

Fred will certainly be exploring some difficult and controversial issues. He’ll be asking what we mean by ‘tainted money’.  Isn’t all money tainted? And he’ll be wondering whether good works cleanse money – or even help redeem the sinner who donates. Shouldn’t we be encouraging more philanthropy rather than discouraging it? Should Christian organisations refuse ‘tainted money’ — or even give it back?

Fred comments: ‘I am very much looking forward to thinking about all this and talking to people from the churches and other Christian organisations across the North East about these issues. I want this research to have a practical purpose – I think it can help clarify what the dilemmas are and how best to respond to them’.

Policy&Practice has been undertaking quantitative and qualitative research on the voluntary sector and this project builds on that work. This is a one year project, starting in January 2021. It is funded from the William Leech Research Fund, a charitable trust that supports research in the area of Christian social ethics and practical theology in North East England.

For further information, please contact Fred Robinson at

Third Sector Trends 2018-2020

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 continued from 2018-2020 thanks to the support of the Community Foundation serving Tyne & Wear and Northumberland, Power to Change and Garfield Weston Foundation and the work is now complete culminating in a series of reports.

The study has produced many reports which are available at this address:

Third Sector Trends Study 2022

The study will resume in 2022 across the North of England and will be extended across all remaining areas of England and Wales following a successful pilot study in 2019.

The impact of the Third Sector Trends 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, Power to Change and IPPR North.

The work has included both quantitative and qualitative analysis and in the early stages it also involved the Universities  of Teesside and Southampton.

The TSO1000 survey

The longest running aspect of the study is its biennial survey of the sector in North East England and Cumbria which entered 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 3,000 respondents.

In 2020 the study was extended across remaining areas of England and Wales.  This pilot study will inform the development of a nationwide survey in 2022 in addition to more intensive work across the North East England study, Yorkshire and the Humber  and North West England.

The TSO50 study

A second strand of the work is a longitudinal study of a cohort of 50 third sector organisations in North East England and Cumbria. This research began in 2010 and has continued to 2020.

The role and impact of charitable foundations

Additionally in 2019, a study of the third sector from the point of view of charitable foundations took place. This research, which included 25 charitable grant making foundations based in or beyond the North East region,  examined the approaches taken to funding and will paid special attention to its impact on localities throughout the region.


Diversity and inclusion in Third Sector leadership: why is it not happening?

The extent to which leadership opportunities in the Third Sector are open to all members of the community who feel that they may have a contribution to make has finally become a serious topic of conversation in recent months.

Debates have been hampered by a lack of reliable evidence. Our new report from #ThirdSectorTrends makes a contribution to the debate by presenting evidence on the personal and biographical characteristics of Third Sector leaders across the North of England.

Third Sector Trends is a big study funded by Community Foundation serving Tyne & Wear and Northumberland, Power to Change and Garfield Weston Foundation. It has now been running for twelve years in the North of England. In 2019, nearly 3,200 organisations responded to the survey. So we have probably produced the most reliable data so far on the topic. 










What did we find out?

Amongst chairs of boards of trustees or directors, which govern Third Sector Organisations (TSOs), we found that older people, men and graduates are over-represented compared with population averages. By contrast people with disabilities and members of BAME groups (and to a lesser extent, women) are less well represented.

Amongst chief officers there are proportionately more graduates and women in positions of leadership than in the general population. People with disabilities and members of BAME groups (and to a lesser extent men) are shown to be less well represented.

There is a great deal that we still don’t know

Our report provides only a partial picture of the current situation in the North of England. It shows that something is going wrong when it comes to the appointment of people with some biographical or personal characteristics to leadership positions. Specifically, there are proportionately too few Black, Asian and other minority ethnic (BAME) people in leadership roles.

Interpreting headline statistics is not simple. It is unlikely that organisational cultures, policies and practices provide the sole explanation for unequal representation in leadership roles. It is more likely that there is a range of push and pull factors that attract or dissuade people from putting themselves forward for senior posts in TSOs (see diagram). We need to know more about these underlying social processes.

As report author, Professor Tony Chapman said:

‘The well-known process of mentoring, nudging or arm-twisting people into leadership roles (especially chairs) is probably done within very limited ‘civic core’ social circles instead of broadening the search to a much wider constituency of potential. It is also likely that many charities, perhaps inadvertently, communicate the wrong messages to potential candidates and repel as many potential candidates as they attract.’











Defining what needs to be done is simple – get more people from diverse backgrounds into the talent pool and stop discriminating against them once they arrive there. Achieving these objectives is a whole lot more difficult – for all kinds of reasons – but continually brushing the issue under the carpet just won’t do. Everyone has to play our part and get on with doing something about it.

 Diversity and Inclusion in Organisational Leadership: evidence from Third Sector Trends 2020, is published by Community Foundation serving Tyne & Wear and Northumberland and is free to download at this web address:  THIRD SECTOR TRENDS BRIEFING DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION IN ORGANISATIONAL LEADERSHIP (OCTOBER 2020)

The report can also be downloaded here:

A short blog on the report’s findings is available here: