Research Streams

Below the radar

Below the Radar explores the role, function , impact and experiences of small community action groups or organisations - those that do not necessarily exist on formal registers, and often unknown to policy makers, funders , or anyone beyond their direct beneficiaries.

Quantitative analysis

TSRC is conducting large-scale programmes of quantitative research – using data from the Charity Commission, and other sources, to develop our understanding of the third sector.

'Real Times'

Real Times is a long-term qualitative research programme which aims to follow the journeys of third sector organisations over time. This will provide an opportunity to study the nature of change in third sector over time, and how organisations adapt, progress and survive.

Service delivery

Third sector organisations are important in the provision of a wide range of public services. These roles, and their commissioning processes, are a developing area that is not always understood or evidenced, and can be controversial

Theory and policy

We explore the theoretical and conceptual debates about the third sector, and provide informed and critical analysis of the policy context for the sector in the UK

Previous research

Initial evidence reviews

The initial stages of research at TSRC involved conducting reviews of the evidence already available on several topics relevant to the sector.

These evidence reviews have been vital to inform our research. They enabled us to identify gaps in the existing research base, and set the priorities for our own work.

Evidence review papers (2009-2011):

  • The black minority ethnic third sector
  • The third sector delivering public services
  • Below the radar literature review (updated 2012) 
  • Impact and evaluation
  • Social enterprise and the environment
  • Housing scoping papers
  • Individual voluntary participation in the UK

Economic and social impact

This research included assessment of the economic impact of third sector organisations, with a particular focus on the role that they play in delivering public services and contributing to general community wellbeing.


This project examined the activities and contributions of a broad range of environmental organisations, as well as the extent to which wider elements of the third sector respond to environmental challenges, in particular climate change.

Equalities research

Cuts across all our research.

Social enterprise

Our research includes theoretical and policy analysis, and currently focuses on: the role of social enterprises in public services provision; social enterprise spin outs in health care provision such as Right to Request; small charities and social enterprise; and challenges and tensions.

Workforce and workplace

This research looks at people, relationships and conditions that define the third sector’s paid and unpaid workforce and explores their implications.