About us

The third sector is a term which refers to a universe of organisations operating outside the formal state or public sphere that are not trading commercially for profit in the market.

Such organisations include charities and voluntary organisations, community groups, social enterprises, cooperatives and mutuals. These share a number of characteristics, principally their independence, public purpose, voluntarism in their governance and activities.

The Third Sector Research Centre (TSRC) constitutes the principal and most influential investment in academic research in this field in the UK. Our research investigates the resources, roles and relationships of third sector organisations, and the impacts and distinctive contributions these organisations make. We provide critical and independent research, not beholden to government or other stakeholders, as to the value and impact of third sector organisations.

We work closely with practitioners, policy makers, and other academics to develop our research programmes and explore the relevance of findings for practice. 


TSRC was first launched as a Venture Funded ESRC Research Centre, co-funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the UK government Cabinet Office's Office of the Third Sector (renamed the Office for Civil Society in 2010), and the Barrow Cadbury Trust.

Since that initial tranche of funding (2009-2014), we have had ongoing core support from the University of Birmingham ( until 2016) and the Barrow Cadbury Trust (until 2018).

Since 2014 we have drawn in funding from a range of other partners, including charitable trusts (Big Local; Leverhulme; Wellcome), the European Union (FP7 programme), NIHR, and research councils (principally ESRC).

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