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Research centre calls for dialogue on sector’s future

1 October 2012
pic of signposts showing history and future

We need to review how to respond to these challenges and plan for organisations and their beneficiaries into the future.

The Third Sector Research Centre has launched a series of dialogues to debate the future of the sector.

A discussion paper entitled The Worst of Times?, published to stimulate the first debate, argues that the sector is experiencing significant changes in its relationship with the state. This could mark a turning point for the third sector, which may require some co-ordinated responses.

The centre calls for debate over how current economic and political changes are affecting different parts of the sector and the services they provide – and what this will mean for the shape of the sector in the coming years. 

Current changes may be particularly detrimental for some parts of the sector, says the centre. Its research shows that organisations located in relatively deprived areas, and that serve socially excluded or vulnerable people, are most likely to be in receipt of public funds and therefore most likely to be affected by government funding cuts.

Change in the sector is not only about funding, says TSRC.  Expectations of the different roles the sector plays and how it should operate are also changing. Could this threaten the underlying values and identity of voluntary organisations, the centre asks?

Centre director Pete Alcock said: 'The changing economic and political circumstances in the country pose some major challenges for the sector as a whole and for different organisations within it. We need to review how to respond to these challenges and plan for organisations and their beneficiaries into the future.'

The centre is inviting people to participate in the Third Sector Futures Dialogues. The discussions will explore some of the big questions the sector is facing – over funding, contracting with the state, questions of value and worth, pressures of marketisation, and tensions between paid and unpaid work.

The centre will publish a discussion paper for each dialogue, bringing evidence from their last four years of research to inform the debates. The Centre has also formed a Sounding Board, made up of key voluntary sector representatives, who will meet to discuss the issues raised.  

For further details of the dialogues and how to get involved, see thirdsectorfutures.org.uk  

Upcoming dialogues:

No longer a voluntary sector
(22 October – 5 November 2012)

Is the third sector so special? What is it worth?
(12 – 24 November 2012)

Is the third sector being overwhelmed by the state and the market?
(13 – 26 January 2013)

A strategic lead for the third sector
(10 – 23 February 2013)