Mapping the Big Society

Working paper 62

Implicit in the idea of the "big society" is the view that communities will be the first port of call in responding to social needs. But there are concerns that this will be much easier in some communities than others. Part of the role of TSRC is to assemble evidence on the distribution, resources and capacities of the third sector. The purpose of this paper is to illustrate how our quantitative work contributes to a better understanding of the sector's contribution, and provide insights into the baseline from which “Big Society” policies have commenced.

The paper reviews some key elements of the quantitative work we are doing and provides illustrations of the insights we can provide.

Firstly, it considers the question of the geographical distribution of third sector organisations, focusing specifically on regulated organisations which say they operate at the “neighbourhood” scale. This is relevant given the strongly localist emphasis of current policies.

Secondly, there is a summary of a work in progress on the idea of a "civic core”. Rather than focusing on headline rates of participation (e.g. in volunteering) this work attempts to quantify the relative contribution being made by different groups of the population to the total amount of effort given across three dimensions of pro-social behaviour (donation of money to charity, hours of unpaid help, and numbers of associations of which people are members).

Thirdly, with an eye to current discussions about the likely effects of public expenditure reductions on the sector, there is an analysis of the exposure of third sector organisations to public funding streams.

The paper concludes by considering likely developments which will impinge on our capacities to measure the Big Society.

More Information

Research contact

John Mohan