A strategic lead for the third sector?

Who can or should speak for the sector?

Finally, we take a serious look at possible futures for the third sector. We discuss continuing tensions between delivering services for and advocating on behalf of vulnerable groups, alongside both collaboration and growing competition between third sector organisations. Given these tensions, how could or should a strategic and coherent voice for the third sector materialise? We raise questions of leadership, legitimacy and leverage to debate who can or should speak for the third sector and on what basis.


NEW: TSRC discussion paper (pdf, 144KB) 


Live Q&A, Guardian Voluntary Sector Network: Leadership in the voluntary sector, 19 February 2013, 1 – 3pm

London seminar: 14 February 2013, 2 – 3.30pm (view presentation)

Sounding Board meeting: 7 March 2013

This discussion is now closed. See outcomes from the discussion and Sounding Board meeting 


  1. Carl Allen says:

    Keep in mind that charity is mentioned once in the paper as is charitable.

    It may be clearer to say that the objectives of the Third Sector ( or the Swarm as it sometimes behaves) are charity, community services and public sector services.

    And except for charity, these objectives may be delivered by any organisation in the private, government and Third Sector. Government does not do charity as an objective although some might think the exception is the current government.

    A question to be considered … has the future been here for some seven years and it is some few years since that seven years?

    • Carl Allen says:

      I must be getting really old or lazy, but can anyone give the characteristics of a Golden Age in the context of seven years of plenty followed by seven years of lean?

  2. I have enjoyed reading this paper very much. I notice you mention Manchester and Birmingham, but the Leeds experience is equally noteworthy. During 2009, the concept of Third Sector Leeds was developed, and the Third Sector Leeds Leadership Group has been meeting since January 2010. It does act as a single point of contact for the sector in partnership working in Leeds, including the Children’s Trust, The Health and Well Being Board and the Community Safety Partnership. It has led discussions between the sector, the Council and NHS about procurement and commissioning arrangements, and the impact of the financial squeeze on the local authority arising from deficit reduction and increasing demand for services. Last but by no means least it has also sought to get the sector actively engaged in and contributing to key strategic debates about the city’s future.

    The Core Cities group of councils for the voluntary sector had an interesting discussion about the development of third sector assemblies in Leeds, Sheffield and Birmingham ealrier in February. My own conclusion from that discussion would be:

    - that strategic unity is more needed not less in the current context, but is harder to achieve;
    - that there is a “London” bias to the sector’s national leadership which needs to be balanced by voices from the local level, ironically that includes the “local” level in London too!
    - that the sector’s leadership needs to be driven first and foremost by outcomes for communities.

    Transform Leeds, our “Transforming Local Infrastructure” programme, is helping us consider the next stage in these developments, which we are describing as the development of a more coherent third sector community in Leeds. We would welcome the opportunity to contribute our experiences thus far and to learn from others.