Understanding the distinctiveness of small scale, third sector activity: the role of local knowledge and networks in shaping below the radar actions

Working Paper 33 - May 2010

‘Below the radar’ has become a short-hand term for small community groups who are either not registered with the Charity Commission or other regulatory bodies and/or lack a regular, substantial annual income. Much of the existing research into the third sector has focused on formal, larger, organisations leaving gaps in the knowledge base around the nature and function of small groups and more informal activities which happen at a community level.

This TSRC Working Paper is based on interviews with representatives from national community sector organisations, development agencies, members of policy fora and academics with a background in community based research. It explores the scale, scope and functions of ‘below the radar’ activity in the Third Sector, why people become active within their community and the factors which both help and hinder community based action. Finally the paper explores the strengths and weaknesses of ‘below the radar’ action, issues of accountability. It asks the question – are there features that make more informal community organisation and activity distinctive?