Organisation profile

Organisation profile

The Third Sector Research Centre (TSRC) aims to enhance our knowledge of the sector through independent and critical research, giving us a better understanding of the value of the sector and how this can be maximised.

We work closely with practitioners, policy makers, and other academics to gain input into our research and explore its findings.

This page summarises key information about the Centre and its work - follow the links below to explore in more detail.

What is the third sector

The third sector is a debated term. We take a broad definition, to include all organisations operating outside the formal state or public sphere that are not trading commercially for profit in the market. 

This means charities and voluntary organisations, community groups, social enterprises, cooperatives and mutuals. Whilst these organisations are exceptionally diverse, they share a broad common theme of being value driven.

Our Research

Our research is divided into research streams focused on different areas of the sector. All research papers are published on our website, along with summaries and short ‘briefing papers’.

Browse our Research streams

Building Capacity

TSRC is reviewing existing research and building comprehensive databases to create lasting resources for third sector research.

We are also working to grow the sector's potential to use and conduct research, through collaborative research projects.


TSRC 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.

This funding ran from September 2008 to August 2013.From September 2013 until March 2014 the centre was further funded by the ESRC under bridge funding arrangements, supporting a range of new and continuing research activities until the outcome of our application for further funding under the Centres and Large Grants Competition was known. Unfortunately this application was unsuccessful.

The Barrow Cadbury Trust (BCT) are continuing their funding support for TSRC's work focusing on 'below the radar' third sector activity, as over its first five years.


The Centre is accountable to a Steering Committee made up of its funders.

An Advisory Board informs the Centre's overall work. It is made up of leading practitioners, policy-makers and academics from across the third sector. Their main role is to advise on the general strategy for TSRC, supporting its impact strategy, acting as ambassadors for the Centre, receiving, commenting and approving the Annual Report.

Reference Groups meet with researchers from the streams. They also work ‘virtually’ to advise and comment on our research. They act as advisors - informing the development of the research, discussing implications of the findings, and promoting its dissemination in the field.

TSRC continues to undertake research for other funders and commissioners in the third sector field.

UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. Our work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 1 - No Poverty
  • SDG 2 - Zero Hunger
  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 4 - Quality Education
  • SDG 5 - Gender Equality
  • SDG 7 - Affordable and Clean Energy
  • SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions


Dive into the research topics where Third Sector Research Centre is active. These topic labels come from the works of this organisation's members. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

Recent external collaboration on country/territory level. Dive into details by clicking on the dots or