All posts by Tony Chapman

The difference the third sector makes

Research shows big difference charities, social enterprises and community organisations make across the Yorkshire and Humber region

West Yorkshire and Harrogate Health and Care Partnership and Humber, Coast and Vale Health and Care Partnership, West Yorkshire Combined Authority, Yorkshire Sport Foundation, and Community First Yorkshire have published a joint report today (Thursday 2 September) to celebrate the work of charities, social enterprises, and community organisations ahead of International Charity Day on Sunday 5 September.

The research led by Professor Tony Chapman of Policy&Practice, St Chad’s College, Durham University on the structure, dynamics, and impact of the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) sector across the area, highlights the big contribution made to the economy and the health and well-being of people who live here.

The VCSE sector in West Yorkshire and Harrogate includes around 14,900 registered and unregistered groups supporting local people in many areas of their lives from youth groups, ageing well support, sports, and wellbeing clubs to name a few. The sector employs around 43,100 full time equivalent posts, which makes up 3.7% of employment across the area.

On top of this there are an estimated 147,000 regular volunteers giving their time and energy to good causes helping young and old people to live their best life possible, around the clock, 365 days per year.

Tracy Brabin, Mayor of West Yorkshire said: ‘The voluntary, community and social enterprise sector does amazing work across the region. I’m extremely thankful for all the support they offer to people living across West Yorkshire, especially those local unsung heroes who often give up their free time to volunteer in their communities whether it’s coaching a community sports team, teaching at a young people’s theatre group, or helping at a local foodbank. The sector gives invaluable support to those who wouldn’t otherwise receive it and it is right the report sets out the hard work and commitment of individuals working in the sector who regularly share their life experience to help others – it’s commendable and each organisations and every person has my heartfelt thanks and support’.   

Jo-Anne Baker, WY&H HCP Harnessing the Power of Communities Lead said: ‘The sector is larger than the finance and insurance industries, and larger than the arts, entertainment and recreation sector. The significant contribution made by the VCSE sector to people’s health and community wellbeing is evidenced throughout the research. This not only contributes to financial savings for the NHS and other public services but produces immediate benefits for thousands and thousands of people accessing their help and support’.

The report acknowledges it is hard to measure the total added value the sector produces.  Based on available data, this equates to approximately £1.6 billion per year. If taken alongside the economic value of the sector, this means the total added value of the sector is between £5.2 billion and £6.2 billion per year in West Yorkshire and Harrogate alone.

The use of conventional metrics on productivity only partially captures the value of the sector because the benefit to communities and difference made to people’s lives is unmeasurable.  The report presents new ways of making effective and shared judgements on sector value which draws heavily upon findings from the Third Sector Trends study which has been running since 2008.

The full report is available here: The structure, dynamics and impact of the VCSE (Final Report)

A blog on how to make judgements on the added value produced by the third sector can be found here:


Going the extra mile, how business supports charities

Research conducted for the Law Family Commission on Civil Society by Policy&Practice shows that businesses donated services and funds worth an estimated £2.4billion in 2019 to small charities and community groups – equating to around 0.06% of private sector turnover.

This includes £1.9bn in financial donations and around £474million worth of pro bono support such as legal services, in-kind donations such as the use of office space and employee-supported volunteering.

The study found that on average businesses across England donated £456 each year to charities and community groups with annual income below £25m. While there are many examples of businesses and civil society working closely together, this latest research suggests there are significant gaps in the relationship and that the partnership is not operating at its full potential.

The detailed study of 4,000 organisations by University of Durham’s Professor Tony Chapman for the Commissio

n also found that:

  • Businesses give most support to charities for children and young people and focus attention mainly on poorer urban areas. Those charities that serve the interests of carers and people with learning difficulties are most likely to say that business supports them well, while those which serve BAME and rural communities are the least likely to be well supported.
  • Charities and community groups which received support from business are generally positive about their experiences, with 84% saying businesses trusted them to be well organised and professional.
  • Three quarters (73%) of charities and community groups say they struggle with opportunities to meet businesses.

James Timpson, CEO of Timpson and Commissioner of the Law Family Commission on Civil Society, said: “We have seen the great strides made by business in pursuit of other vital causes, such as sustainability and equal pay. The next great stride that business can take is to commit to a partnership with civil society. Investors may have a key role to play in this, as might transparency measures – as they have on other social issues. No matter how it is achieved, a strong partnership between business and civil society can only help to improve both communities and companies.”

Mitch Oliver, Global VP Brand & Purpose at Mars and Commissioner of the Law Family Commission on Civil Society, said: “It has never been more important for business and civil society to pull together. By working together, we can be stronger and accelerate the recovery from a pandemic that has sadly slowed progress in many of the areas that we all care about. The mission to secure a healthy planet, an inclusive society and a world where everyone is thriving is strengthened when business and civil society collaborate.

Nicole Sykes, Director of External Affairs at Pro Bono Economics, said: “Purpose has become a watchword in every business boardroom in recent years. Customers, investors, shareholders and employees all expect a commitment to social good. But business’ efforts will fall short if they fail to work with civil society. This new research shows that the average annual contribution to small charities from businesses in England amounts to little more than a rounding error. The average business in England donates the same amount of cash to small charities each year as they misplace from their petty cash. It’s no wonder high proportions of the public are sceptical of business’ efforts to paint themselves as about more than just profit.

Professor Tony Chapman, Director of Policy and Practice at St Chad’s College, Durham University, said: “While the financial and in-kind support business currently gives to charities is barely a fraction of business turnover, their contribution is highly valued by the organisations and groups who work well with businesses. However, relationships that are formed seem to happen mainly by accident, rather than design, so there is room for improvement on both sides of the fence to build connections between sectors at the local level.”

Chaired by former Cabinet Secretary Gus O’Donnell, the Law Family Commission on Civil Society is created by Pro Bono Economics with the generous support of Andrew Law and the Law Family Charitable Foundation.

The report can be found here: Going the extra mile – how businesses work with the social sector (July 2021)

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