All posts by Tony Chapman

Whatever happened to the North East?

A new academic article by Professors Keith Shaw (Northumbria University) and Fred Robinson (Policy&Practice) shows that governance in the English regions has been undermined and weakened by recent structural changes.

Although well established during the New Labour era, the regional level of governance in England did not survive the post-2010 process of institutional churn shaped by economic austerity and central government’s aversion to the regional level. This has subsequently led to rescaling to the sub-regional level and the introduction of devolution ‘deals’ involving new combined authorities with elected mayors.

This article looks at the experience of North East England, where regional structures have been broken up and the region disempowered by such changes. It reviews what has happened to governance in the North East over the past 20 years and discusses why the dismantling of regional governance matters.

While the region’s external relationships with central government are problematic, it is also argued that governance problems within the region are no less important and need reforming. Longitudinal research indicates that organisations providing public services in the North East have continued to be characterised by inadequate accountability, unrepresentative governance and lack of transparency.

The combined effects of the devolutionary consequences of Brexit and the ineffectiveness of small-scale ‘devo-deal’ interventions mean that the ‘Regionalist case’ in England will need to be refashioned and restated. The article concludes by considering the case for reintroducing regional-level governance and points to ways of bolstering the accountability and effectiveness of this level of sub-national governance.

Shaw, K. and Robinson F. (2019) ‘Whatever happened to the North East? Reflections on the end of regionalism in England’, Local Economy 33(8): 842-861.


National Youth Agency’s ‘The Environment Now’ Evaluation

Policy&Practice at St Chad’s College was commissioned to evaluate the National Youth Agency’s ‘The Environment Now’  programme of work funded by the Big Lottery’s ‘Our Bright Future’ initiative in 2016.  The project was also supported by O2 Telefonica.

Our Bright Future allowed the NYA to to work intensively with young people over three years developing environmental projects. Funding was awarded to undertake 50 projects devised and run by young people who were, in turn, supported and trained through a comprehensive programme to develop their sustainability learning, employability skills, digital understanding and self-confidence.

An  investment of up to £10,000 was made in each of the 50 projects to help meet key environmental challenges.  Project leaders were supported by NYA programme staff and specialist O2 Telefonica mentors. The project aimed to help produce sustainability leaders of the future.

The evaluation of the programme was undertaken independently by Professor Tony Chapman and Stephanie Rich of Policy&Practice who were involved from the initial planning stage to design a comprehensive and rigorous methodology to blend qualitative and quantitative data.

The final report was published in January 2019. NYA The Environement Now Programme Evaluation (January 2019)


Policy&Practice Annual Report 2018

Policy&Practice has had a productive year.  Projects have been completed for the National Lottery in an evaluation of a project in the Our Bright Future programme,  the evaluation of a National Youth Agency project for The Money Advice Service and a project on how to work with the third sector for the Economic and Social Research Council.  And new projects have started for Power to Change, Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland, and Auckland Castle Trust.

Several more reports have been published this year from the Third Sector Trends study – which will start its fifth round of surveys in 2018 – representing over ten years of intensive study.  Two studies were published with IPPR North with groundbreaking data on the contribution of business to the third sector  and on the value of volunteering to local charities.  A study was also published on community business as a prelude for more intensive research in 2019 for Power to Change. The Third Sector Trends project, which covers the whole of the North of England has become increasingly influential on thinking about how best to support and fund charities in the North.

Policy&Practice has also continued to organise and host events across the North East of England with the Institute for Local Governance, including seminars on arts and heritage, community business, social isolation, the future of town centres, amongst other things.

To read about our past, current and future work in detail, you can download our report here: Policy&Practice Annual Report 2018

Let’s talk about value: how universities create value for students, staff and society

St Chad’s College Lunchtime Lecture, Wednesday 30th January, 12.30 – 1.30 p.m.

Carol Adams, Professor of Accounting in Durham University Business School, will consider the appropriateness of measures of university performance.  Her talk will be based upon her recent report: ‘Let’s Talk Value: How Universities create value for students, staff and society’.  In her lecture, Carol will ask what universities create for society and how that can be better communicated.

Professor  Adams is an expert in integrated reporting, social and environmental accounting, sustainability reporting and developing strategy to address sustainable development.  She is founding editor of the Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal and writes on her website at

Carol has been involved in various global corporate reporting initiatives and is currently a member of the ACCA’s Global Forum on Sustainability, the ICAS Sustainability Panel, the Climate Disclosure Standards Board’s Technical Working Group and she is Chair of the Stakeholder Council of the Global Reporting Initiative.

She was a member of the Capitals Technical Collaboration Group for the International Integrated Reporting Council. She has also served as a Director and Council Member of AccountAbility and was involved in the development of the first AA1000 Framework.

Carol is an experienced non-executive director and consults to multinational corporations and other organisations on corporate reporting and integrating sustainability into business practices. She has led the development of internationally award winning management and governance processes and sustainability reports

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 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:

The Value of Volunteering in the North.

Today IPPR North publishes a new report on volunteering in Northern England by Professor Tony Chapman,  Policy&Practice and Jack Hunter, Senior Researcher at the Institute for Public Policy Research.

Based on research findings from the Third Sector Trends study, the report recognises that the volume of voluntary activity in the north is enormous – about 930,000 people regularly volunteer and deliver over 76m hours of work.

The bulk of volunteering is organised through the tiny charities and groups. Those with income below £10,000 produce about a third of all volunteering opportunities, and over two thirds of volunteering hours happen in small organisations with an annual income below £100,000.

The report shows that It’s not just about the volume of time that volunteers give, it’s about the ‘quality’ of their contribution and the ‘depth’ of the social impact it achieves. The bedrock of civil society is its core of small and informal groups where people have come together to make a difference to their local areas. Most of these organisations have no employees and their financial resources are often very limited. But they survive and thrive because of the hours of work put in by their unpaid volunteers.

‘Good Friends’ service volunteers at Age UK North Yorkshire and Darlington



Policy makers are urged to recognise that it can be difficult to assess in conventional evaluation terms the impact of small charities that work with and rely upon volunteers the most. But just because it is hard to measure their contribution does not mean that it should not be valued – so national and local funders need to keep this in mind when allocating money to local charities – they may not be able to measure the impact of what they do – but they would, like as not, be able to recognise the loss to the locality if they were no longer there.

A blog by Tony Chapman on the research findings can be read here:

And the full report is available from IPPR North, The Value of Volunteering in the North

How do community businesses compare with other voluntary and community organisations?

People are often confused by the complexity of civil society. For example there are so many ways of describing what is sometimes known as the ‘third sector’, ‘voluntary, community and social enterprise sector’ or ‘civil society sector’. This problem is compounded when we try to define specific types of organisations. Community business is a case in point: how are these organisations defined, and how do they differ from others such as social enterprises or community or voluntary organisations?

This new report looks at where community businesses sit within this wide range of organisational types and draws a distinction between them and other third sector organisations (TSOs) which engage in trading or those which have no reliance on earned income. to the report helps readers to recognise what is special about community businesses, how they contribute directly to their localities and what opportunities and challenges they face compared with other types of TSO.

The report presents data from the 2016 Third Sector Trends study which covers the whole of the North of England. It is a large long-running study with more than 3,500 responses of which 612 survey respondents (17% of the sample) were identified as community businesses. As a category of organisations, community businesses tend to be larger than other TSOs (60% have income over £100,000 compared with just 27% of general charities that earn some of their income). They tend to have been established more recently (47% since 2000 compared with 35% of general charities that earn income). Community businesses are more likely to work in urban areas, and particularly deprived urban areas.

Read the report: Community Business in the North of England (2018) Policy&Practice

A blog is also available from Power to Change and Policy&Practice By Suzanne Perry, Tony Chapman and Tanya Gray which can be located here

Tackling loneliness and isolation in Northern England

Devising visible strategies to address hidden problems

A seminar organised by the Institute for Local Governance at MEA House, Newcastle,Friday 7th December 2018, 9.30 – 13.00

In October 2018, the Government launched A Connected Society: a strategy for tackling loneliness. It is a wide-ranging document which recognises that loneliness can affect people in all stages of the life course and is often compounded by social isolation.

The seminar aims to explore the underlying meanings and causes of loneliness and isolation so that informed debate can ensue on what can be done about it for different constituencies of people. We can’t cover everything, so in this seminar we will look at either end of the life-course, focusing on the experience of young people and older people – to see what experiences they may have in common and those which differ.

Tackling loneliness, as the seminar will show, is not an easy thing to do. Often feelings of loneliness and isolation are associated with social stigma – this can potentially undermine well-meaning attempts to tackle the problem through, for example, generalised approaches to social prescribing. This was recognised in the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness report ‘Combating loneliness one conversation at a time.’ Simplistic strategies which look for easy answers will not work.

So the seminar looks at a variety of approaches which have been taken in North East England to consider their merits, but also learn from the difficulties they encountered in reaching and supporting people with diverse experiences and needs.

The seminar will be chaired by Cullagh Warnock, Trust Manager, Millfield House Foundation, and speakers will include:

  • Professor Thomas Scharf, Professor of Social Gerontology, Institute of Heath and Society, Newcastle University: on understanding the similarities and differences between loneliness and isolation.
  • Lesley Carberry-Campbell, Head of Regions, England and the Channel Islands, Silverline: on the provision of out-of-hours and weekend support for lonely or isolated older people.
  • Dr Stephen Crossley, Senior Lecturer in Social Policy, Department of Social Work, Education and Community Wellbeing, Northumbria University: on a multi-agency intervention to tackle loneliness and isolation in Gateshead. 
  • Helen Mills, Chief Executive Officer, Age UK Northumberland: on the priorities to be tackled when addressing loneliness and isolation amongst older people.
  • Steve Watson, Development Advisor, Youth Focus North East: on raising awareness of isolation and loneliness amongst young people.

The seminar is free to attend, but places are limited and they tend to book up quickly, so please register your attendance via: Janet Atkinson, Institute for Local Governance, Durham University

The Institute for Local Governance is a North East Research and Knowledge Exchange Partnership established in 2009 comprising the North East region’s Universities, Local Authorities, Police and Fire and Rescue Services.

Seminar presentations can be downloaded as pdf documents below:

Steve Watson – Loneliness and Isolation 7th December 2018

Tom Scharf – Loneliness and Isolation

Silverlline – Loneliness and Isolation Seminar

Helen Mills – Loneliness and Isolation



Whose town centre is it anyway?

Perspectives on the purpose of town centres in North East England:

A seminar organised by the Institute for Local Governance at Teesside University, Darlington, Friday 23rd November 2018, 9.30 – 13.00


Town centres provide options for working, socialising, shopping and pampering ourselves. But they are more than just hubs for such activity, they also represent a focal point for civic pride and sometimes protest – they tell us something about our local culture, our sense of place and about who we are.

Recently, however, alarm bells have been ringing about the decline of town centres. Some of these challenges are not new.  For years, critics have argued that there has been an over-production of retail space. Certainly, North East towns have experienced increased competition from out-of-town shopping centres – especially from supermarkets, DIY, furniture and electrical goods outlets.

But the growing popularity of online shopping is now threatening other high street staples. The closure of banks and other high street institutions such as Marks and Spencer has been accompanied by an inward rush of discount stores and charity shops. Empty shops look like scars on the urban landscape – offending the integrity and prominence of towns.

This seminar aims to challenge doom-laden accounts of town centre decline and will look at recent positive thinking on how to reshape urban space, reuse buildings and renew social pathways into the town as a socially inclusive cultural, working and, once again, residential arena. In so doing it will try to balance debates which prioritise economic wellbeing with those associated with social and cultural growth.

The seminar will be chaired by Councillor Chris McEwan, Deputy Leader, Darlington Borough Council, and speakers will include:

  • Rachel Anderson, North East England Chamber of Commerce: on the diverse challenges facing five town centres in North East England.
  • Professor Colin Haylock, University College London and Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation: on planning and urban design with more varied uses to enrich the role and reshape the experience of town centres.
  • Richard McGuckin, Director of Growth and Development, Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council: on town centre cultures and the journey of transformation.
  • Chris Watson, Head of Land and Communities, Groundwork NE & Cumbria: on the engagement of the community with town centre regeneration strategies.

The Institute for Local Governance is a North East Research and Knowledge Exchange Partnership established in 2009 comprising the North East region’s Universities, Local Authorities, Police and Fire and Rescue Services.

Unfortunately, Chris Watson was unable to speak at the seminar.  Issues surrounding community engagement were discussed by Tony Chapman, but this did not discuss the work of Groundwork North East.  All other seminar presentations can be downloaded here.

Colin Haylock – Whose town centre is it anyway

Tony Chapman – Whose town is it anyway

Rachel Anderson – Whose town centre is it anyway

Richard McGuckin – Whose town is it anyway



The comprehensive university

St Chad’s College Lecture, Thursday 18 October 6.00-7.00pm, Williams library. ‘The Comprehensive University: why we need to rethink academic selection in higher education’, chaired by Professor Fred Robinson of Policy&Practice.

In this hard-hitting paper, Tim Blackman, a serving Vice-Chancellor, calls for a much less hierarchical higher education sector.  He shows how this will benefit students, the quality of learning and social mobility and, most importantly, he shows how to get there.

The Comprehensive University can be downloaded here:

Tim Blackman is Vice-Chancellor of Middlesex University and Professor of Sociology and Social Policy.  His previous roles include Pro-Vice Chancellor and Acting Vice-Chancellor at The Open University and Head of the School of Applied Social Sciences and Director of the Wolfson Research Institute at Durham University. After leaving school he worked at sea for a year before undertaking a degree in Geography, a spell as a community worker in Belfast and a PhD on housing policy.

He started his academic career at the University of Ulster before moving into local government for five years and later returning to higher education as a Deputy Dean at Oxford Brookes University and subsequently Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences and Law at Teesside University. He has written on urban policy, housing, social care and health inequalities, worked as a government adviser on the National Strategy for Neighbourhood Renewal, and is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences.