Third sector partnerships for service delivery: an evidence review and research project

Briefing and Working Paper 60

Partnership working has been driven by the policy of the last Labour administration, which aimed to make the third sector more efficient and aligned to the delivery of a range of public services. Since the election of a coalition government in 2010 these drivers have not lessened but have been re-asserted. Interest in externalisation has been reinforced by the drive for efficiency, made more pressing by the financial crisis, deficit reduction programme and resulting public spending cuts in 2010-2011.

The current government has been in many respects radical in its approach to service delivery, with the promotion of a ‘Big Society’ involving new and expanded roles for third sector organisations (TSOs) in public service delivery, expanded roles for mutuals and co-ops (particularly in health), and the ‘community right to challenge’. These all have implications for the way in which TSOs enter into partnerships, with each other, public and private organisations. 

The  Briefing paper 60 (PDF, 128KB) provides a brief overview of the academic literature and outlines the research that TSRC is undertaking into this theme.

The Working paper 60 (PDF, 546KB) is based on a full evidence review. It considers the main forms of partnership working, governance and accountability, and looks at outcomes and evaluation. Key emerging directions are the growth of the commissioning agenda, an increasing emphasis on TSO/private sector partnerships as part of a supply chain, and greater application of outcome-based approaches linked to payment by results.

Research contacts

Dr James Rees, Professor David Mullins and Professor Tony Bovaird.