Summary of research by Dr Jane Cullingworth which explores the relationship between the third sector and the state in Scotland.
This document summarises PhD research undertaken by Dr Jane Cullingworth at the University of Glasgow from 2015-2020, which was supported by What Works Scotland.
Her research explores the relationship between the third sector (broadly defined as charities, community organisations and social enterprises) and the state (focusing on the Scottish Government and a local authority).
The document, aimed primarily at the third sector audience, presents an introduction to the research, an outline of the case study approach, four key findings and four recommendations – two of which are targeted at the third sector and two at the state.
It is widely held that society’s ‘wicked problems’ – like poverty and homelessness – can be better addressed when all relevant stakeholders work together.
Over the past 20-30 years it has become commonplace for third sector organisations (TSOs) to work in close partnership with government and statutory bodies in collective planning and decision making. The involvement of third sector organisations with government and statutory bodies is part of a broader societal movement called democratic governance, involving citizens and civil society organisations in decision-making with the state.
Often the third sector is represented through intermediary bodies, organisations that are connected to and support the wider third sector, providing an interface between the third sector and the state.
This research set out to explore the nature of an intermediary body’s active participation in governance networks in Scotland. In particular the research considered if there was an impact on the independence of the intermediary body (its ability to speak out and pursue its mission) and what the involvement meant for its relationships with the broader third sector. This research focused on a particular type of intermediary body, a third sector interface (TSI) whuch exist in each local authority area in Scotland
A case study approach to the research was used, focusing on a TSI in an urban local authority in Scotland, referred to by the pseudonym Wychwood.
- There are risks for the third sector in participating in governance networks.
- “Managed talk” can get in the way of real conversation.
- The TSI is a “civil servant construct”.
- Representing third sector voices is “fraught with tension”.
Recommendations for the state:
- Co-create governance spaces
- Enable the third sector to organise its own models of delivery and engagement
Recommendations for third sector intermediary bodies:
- Facilitate rather than represent voice
- Assert independence
See more details about the research process, the findings and the recommendations in the summary document.
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