A Revolution in Third Sector Research?

A Revolution in Third Sector Research?
Social Value Lab

A bold new initiative has been launched onto the third sector scene in Scotland by the Social Value Lab.

Research4Change is a pilot programme that provides affordable, quality assured research to third sector organisations on a shoe-string budget. This ‘no frills’ scheme (think Easyjet rather than BA) provides research support to community groups, voluntary organisations, and social enterprises at around 40% of the fees charged by large commercial consultancy practices. 


Research4Change is designed to get organisations from A to B without the frills, fuss, or expense of other traditional options. The focus is on small-scale assignments that help organisations to make their case, extend their influence, and develop or sustain their services. This can include market research, community consultation, best practice reviews, funding searches, service user surveys, etc.


The research support is provided by a talented pool of research graduates, early career researchers, and experienced researchers with time on their hands. In a tough economic climate the scheme has been designed to help support researchers to build or sustain a career in conducting research that matters. Only highly qualified researchers are selected.


The Research4Change programme is designed to be self-sustaining, operating as it does without grant subsidy. The costs of research design, management, supervision and support from experienced third sector researchers are built into each assignment. Quality assurance is a central feature.


Commenting on the thinking behind this new venture from the Social Value Lab, Jonathan Coburn (founding Director and Principal Consultant at the Lab) said:


“The market for third sector research is broken. Third sector organisations need research evidence now more than ever, but can’t get it at a reasonable cost or quality. Qualified researchers have a huge amount to offer, but can’t get the break that they deserve. This is our solution. It’s one that we hope will shake things up.”
The programme has received much interest from talented young researchers. Commenting on the value of the scheme, Charlotte Mitchell (one of the Research4Change pool of researchers) said:


“I qualified with an MSc in Public Health Research earlier this year and have built up quite a bit of experience working with charities in the past as a volunteer or intern. Despite this, there are limited job opportunities in the social research field at the moment. This scheme comes at a perfect time for me and will hopefully lead on to further opportunities.”


The Research4Change scheme is part of the Social Value Lab’s long-term vision to revolutionise the way that research is commissioned and conducted in the third sector. Commenting on the potential of the programme, Gerry Higgins (Chief Executive of third sector support body CEiS and a Director at the Lab) said:


“Often voluntary organisations and social enterprises are uncertain about where to shop for research support, find it difficult to verify quality, or can’t afford the excessive fees being charged by large commercial consultancies. This initiative provides a win-win situation by offering affordable research that is of genuine social value, while providing much needed opportunities to qualified researchers.”


If you are interested in finding out more about the Research4Change programme please refer to www.research4change.org.  


For further information please contact: 
Jonathan Coburn on 0141 352 7419 or email: jonathan@socialvaluelab.org.uk