As is the case for other sectors, the COVID-19 pandemic had significant impacts on the third sector. However, it is likely that it will disproportionately affect the third sector, just as the 2010 UK Government austerity measures did. The demand for services is ever greater in a time of need, and at the same time funding is increasingly constrained. This perfect storm was expected to exacerbate the existing core challenges facing third sector organisations (e.g. chasing funding stream after funding stream), leaving them in a position where they can only really be reactive, unable to plan for the long term (including creating long-term strategies and writing business plans).

Universities and their campuses influence the economy, for instance via retail growth and providing skilled workers to the job market, and generally universities are important for creating prosperity in the communities they operate in. As a civic institution and as one of the largest organisations with charitable status in the city, the University of Glasgow can place greater, coordinated emphasis on its social impact; specifically with the local third sector. It was expected that the Collaborative project would also benefit the University of Glasgow staff members and students who participated – increasing collaborations with organisations for research development, data collection and impact, and increasing opportunities for experiential learning for students.

Funding and evaluation

The Collaborative received funding from the ESRC Impact Acceleration Account COVID-19 funding call, helping to set up the pilot project. It sought funding from a variety of sources to continue this work from January 2021.

The researchers received ethical approval for any research carried out as part of the relationships developed through The Collaborative, and for the evaluation work required to measure impact.