Category Archives: Current and Recent Research Projects

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 j.f.robinson@durham.ac.uk.

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: https://www.communityfoundation.org.uk/knowledge-and-leadership/third-sector-trends-research/

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.

 

How do charitable foundations support North East England?

Policy&Practice has been commissioned by the Community Foundation serving Tyne & Wear and Northumberland to look at the way charitable foundations support the voluntary sector in the North East of England.  The research has involved in-depth interviews with 25 regional and national charitable foundations and is concluding with seminars in Newcastle and London to test the findings from the research.

In recent years funding for the voluntary sector has remained fairly similar but its composition is changing – with a lower level of reliance on local and national government sources during a long period of austerity policy.  Charitable foundations have often stepped in where social needs have been growing in areas such as homelessness, poverty, health and personal wellbeing.  Reduction in funding for youth services by local councils has also led to higher levels of investment by charitable foundations.

The research is not just about where money from grants is flowing, Instead it is focusing on how charitable foundations determine what issues they want to support, how they know  if their grant giving is making a real difference and how they work alongside each other to have a greater overall impact.  Another key purpose of the exercise is to feed new questions in the forthcoming Third Sector Trends survey across the North beginning in June 2019.

Charitable foundations involved in the study include all Community Foundations serving Tyne & Wear and Northumberland, County Durham Community Foundation, Tees Valley Community Foundation, The Ballinger Family Trust, The Barbour Foundation, Big Lottery Fund, Children in Need, Comic Relief, Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, Garfield Weston Foundation, Greggs Foundation, The Henry Smith Charity, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Lloyds Bank Foundation, Middlesbrough and Teesside Philanthropic Foundation, Millfield House Foundation, Northstar Ventures, The Pilgrim Trust, Power to Change, Sage Foundation, The Sainsbury Family Charitable Trusts, Sir James Knott Trust, The Tudor Trust, Virgin Money Foundation and Wolfson Foundation.

A report will be published in the late summer of 2019 on the research findings and further reports will emerge in 2020 using quantitative data from the Third Sector Trends surveys.  For more information on the project, contact tony.chapman@durham.ac.uk.

The Social Process of Supporting Small Charities

Small charities make a big contribution to wellbeing in local communities and as recent research has shown, they can be effective at supporting people who are hard to reach, hard to hear and hard to help than bigger charities or public sector organisations and agencies.

The Lloyds Bank Foundation ‘Grow’ project was devised to support small charities with income below £75,000 which were ineligible for support through the Foundation’s existing programmes. This research report explains how these charities responded to support offered to them by specialist consultants.

There have been several initiatives in the past to help small charities to become stronger, bigger and more sustainable, and to encourage them work together to increase their impact. These are all ‘big asks’ and charities often resist attempts by outsiders to change them. But there is little good evidence to make sense of the ‘social processes’ involved in providing such support and explanations for how charities respond.

 

This report attempts to help fill that gap in our understanding by exploring how the culture and dynamics of small charities affects their readiness to embrace change, to accept support act upon advice in several areas of development which may be important for their future wellbeing.

Small charities may lack structural complexity (unlike larger more formal organisations with a specialised division of labour and hierarchical command chains which are underpinned by bureaucratic principles and procedures) but this does not mean that their internal dynamics are simple.

The analysis hinges upon a recognition that very small charities are much more complicated social entities than immediately meets the eye.

The summary report can be accessed at this address: https://www.lloydsbankfoundation.org.uk/GROW_pilot_executive%20summary%20report_final.pdf

The full report can be downloaded here: The Social Process of Supporting Small Charities (March 2019)

Tackling barriers to young people’s aspirations and ambitions in County Durham

durham-county-council-logoMany young people in County Durham are not achieving as much as they should as they make their journey towards adulthood. While much support is lent to young people to achieve their potential, it falls unevenly – too often being focused upon those who already have many advantages.

Recognising that this was unacceptable, Durham County Council commissioned this research via the Institute for Local Governance in 2016 to start a debate in the County on how to achieve more for young people from less advantaged backgrounds.  There is widespread belief in the UK that young people from less-advantaged backgrounds are less likely to make successful transitions to adult life because they lack aspiration and ambition.

Over-simplified explanations such as these are readily backed up with examples, garnered from observation and experience, which serve to reinforce falsehoods. With sufficient repetition these falsehoods start to ring true. To instigate discussion across all sectors, this study was undertaken to  hold up a mirror to County Durham, and ask policy makers and practitioners  to look again at the situation of young people and challenge popular narratives about young people’s presumed lack of aspiration and ambition.

Policy makers and practitioners are encouraged to consider critically the differences between ‘aspiration’ and ‘ambition’; ‘attitudes’ and ‘behaviours’; ‘attainment’ and ‘achievement’, and most crucially, ask questions about what constitutes ‘success in life’ for young people from different starting points. By doing so, it is hoped that organisations in the education, public, private and voluntary sectors will be able to focus their resources individually or in complementary ways on those young people who are most in need of support.

Professor Tony Chapman, Dr Tanya Gray, Dr Stephanie Rich and Paul Braidford were commissioned by the Institute for Local Governance to undertake a project on young people’s ambitions and aspirations in County Durham.

The report was launched on 29th March 2019 at an event at Bishop Auckland Town Hall which was opened by the Bishop of Durham, the Right Reverend Paul Butler.

A summary report on the project can be downloaded here: Tackling barriers to young people’s aspirations and ambitions in County Durham SUMMARY REPORT March 2019

The full report can be downloaded here: Understanding barriers to young people’s aspirations and ambition in County Durham (full report March 2019)

The event presentation can be downloaded here: Understanding barriers to young people presentation March 29th 2019

 

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)

 

Trading interactions amongst community businesses in Bradford, Hartlepool and Middlesbrough

Professor Tony Chapman and Dr Tanya Gray are starting a new project for the  Power to Change Research Institute on trading interactions amongst community businesses in Bradford, Hartlepool and Middlesbrough.

The term ‘community business’ (CB) includes a range of organisations including: Companies Limited by Guarantee, Cooperatives and Community Benefit Societies, Community Interest Organisations, Community Interest Companies and Registered Charities. Some CBs have been operating for decades while others are relatively new, emerging from, for example, asset transfer programmes. While some community businesses are large, employing many staff, the majority are quite small.

Most CBs rely primarily upon trading to sustain their activity. Trading includes sales of space, self-generated services that meet the identified needs of the local community or manufactured goods, and through the delivery of services for other organisations. Because they also tend to rely on grants and in-kind support from other organisations, we need to know how that affects their approach to earning income from trading.

The principal aim of the research is to explore the extent to which community businesses build beneficial relationships with other community businesses – thereby strengthening each other’s financial situation and deepening their contribution to local economy and society.

Examples of such interactions may include opportunity signposting and appraisal, customer referral, inter-trading, sharing facilities or kit, partnership bidding for grants or contracts, skills-exchanges, media and public relations initiatives, informally sharing the burden of roles in representation on boards and committees, and so on. These interactions may produce indirect or direct financial benefit.

In the research we intend to explore the range and depth of relationships CBs establish and find out how they were initiated and became embedded over time. We also want to find out if these trading relationships are more effective in meeting ‘local needs’ and being ‘locally accountable’ than other charities or private businesses. Finally, it will be useful to find out what kinds of support CBs may need to build stronger relationships with other CBs in their locality and explore how and by whom such support be best delivered.

Knowing how and why some CBs successfully build and sustain positive working relationships with other CBs will help gauge the scope for and benefits to be gained from intensifying positive, trusting and mutually beneficial trading relationships. In disadvantaged areas, where there may be fewer private sector businesses, such interactions could produce significant economic and social benefit by retaining resources within the community.

Indirectly, CBs may benefit significantly if funders and development organisations such as Power to Change become aware of the benefits of promoting or engendering certain types of CB-to-CB interactions and thereby deepen the quality, volume and depth of positive interactions.

Communicating the benefits of CB-to-CB interactions may help to encourage more of this kind of activity – but only when we can be sure that the circumstances leading to the establishment of such relationships are identifiable, understood and replicable.

The research begins in March 2018 and will conclude in April 2019 with a series of reports and events to communicate the key messages.

Auckland Castle Trust Heritage Lottery Fund Project Evaluation

A remarkable regeneration project is now well underway to create a world-class visitor destination in Bishop Auckland, County Durham. At its heart is a mission to revitalise the future of the town through employment, training and educational opportunities.

As an attraction, The Auckland Project will comprise Auckland Castle, for centuries the private palace of the Prince Bishops of Durham, along with galleries, gardens, restaurants, a park, a hotel and England’s first museum exploring the history of faith in the British Isles.

Thanks to National Lottery players, The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has made a substantial grant of £11.4m to The Project to support the conservation of the Castle and the creation of the new Faith Museum, as well as associated community activities.

Professor Fred Robinson and Ian Zass-Ogilvie from St Chad’s College have now been commissioned by The Auckland Project to undertake an evaluation of this important HLF-supported work.

Fred Robinson said: “We are delighted to have the opportunity to support The Auckland Project. It’s a really interesting approach to regeneration and we all hope it will make a big difference to the local economy and help revitalise the community.”

“Our role is to evaluate what’s being achieved by the Project – and look at the wider impacts too. We look forward to working closely with The Auckland Project.”

Investing in small charities in ‘cold spots’: Redcar & Cleveland and Port Talbot & Neath

Small charities form the bedrock of civil society.   So their wellbeing needs to be attended to, especially in places where there are concentrations of economic difficulties.  The problem with previous attempts to strengthen small charities is that ‘gold standards’ about what a successful organisation should look like have been adopted.  And far too often, standardised tools have been developed to build the ‘capacity’ and ‘capability’ of such charities which simply don’t address the specific needs of individual charities.

Lloyds Bank Foundation has invested significant resources in the development of charities for many years through its Engage and Enhance programmes.  But some charities which really need help don’t meet the eligibility criteria. This project seeks to change that by working with a small number of charities, intensively, over a period of a year.

Known as Lloyds Bank Foundation’s ‘Grow’ programme, this project seeks to experiment with new approaches to strengthen small charities without demanding standardised outcomes which meet the expectations of outsiders rather than of charities themselves.

Based in two areas of the UK which have been challenged economically in recent years, the project will invest significant levels of support to help charities become more resilient as organisations and effective in what they do but without necessarily expecting them to grow or change beyond the ambitions they set themselves.

Professor Tony Chapman has been chosen to assist in the development of this two year programme and will evaluate the success of the intervention.

The project will conclude in June 2018 and our evaluation report will be published in March  2019.  A link to the publication will be provided when available.

 

Can deferred gratification help young people stay committed to apprenticeships?

Professor Tony Chapman and Stephanie Rich are to evaluate the National Youth Agency’s My Money Now programme which is funded by the Money Advice Service. The project brings together tried and tested approaches to inform the development of financial literacy and sustained money management skills and builds on the success of an existing intervention (Barclays Money Skills Champions).

Its purpose is to strengthen the existing evidence on the immediate advantages of the previous programme for Money Skills Champions, to get a better understanding of how peer education improves the financial capability of 16-21 year olds who are engaged in apprenticeships and which, in turn, has the potential to help influence subsequent decision making which could have longer-term benefit by enhancing the likelihood of improved retention on apprenticeship schemes.

More specifically, the evaluation aims to explore the efficacy of the project through the following research questions:

  • To determine if the NYA’s existing approach to ‘peer education’ has distinctive and beneficial impacts upon young people’s approach to learning about discrete financial issues which are replicable for young people from disadvantaged or marginalised backgrounds.
  • To find out if the financial learning intervention has a positive impact by improving young people’s knowledge about financial issues and strengthens their locus of control when making immediate financial decisions.
  • To explore whether increasing knowledge and skills through peer education about financial issues may impact positively on young people’s ability to navigate key life transitions by weighing up the ‘opportunity costs’ of their decisions in financial and personal development terms.

The project runs for 15 months, beginning in January 2017.

This project has now been completed and it is expected that the final report will be published on the MAS evidence hub website in May 2018 – a link will be provided here when available.