Value and the third sector

Briefing and working paper series: no. 25

This paper provides a broad sweep across the ideas and practices around ‘value’, and how these relate to third sector organisations and activities. It argues that the current focus on outcome-based ‘social value’ by academics and policy-makers is limited, and forms only part of how third sector organisations operate, why they exist, or how they contribute to society.

It shows how new measurement approaches, predicated on ideas of blended value, open up opportunities for resources and impact but may downplay inevitable conflicts in outcomes and stakeholder concerns, and ignore moral values or processes. These new measurement approaches also attempt to add together outcomes which cannot always be easily combined.

The paper suggests ideas for a research agenda that would begin to fill gaps in current understanding - and help policy and practice to better ‘value’ and support diverse third sector activity.