Scottish Universities Insight Institute : a development from the institute for advanced studies

a development from the institute for advanced studies


Big Data and the Third Sector

Examining the Relevance, Emerging Opportunities and Challenges of Using Data for Scotland's Third Sector Organisations

Public service reform has led to increasing provision of services by third sector organisations.  This leads to two challenges for policy makers: understanding the make-up and distribution of the third sector to inform policy; and ensuring that organisations have access to the necessary data to inform the design and delivery of services.

There has been a growing interest in 'big data' - large, fast-moving, and complex datasets - and 'open data' - data shared online, usually by public bodies.  The combination of these different data sources, and in particular the linkage together of different data sources, provides both great opportunities and challenges to third sector organisations. Many third sector organisations themselves are also increasingly generating large administrative datasets related to service provision, volunteering, and fundraising, for example.

Scotland is at the forefront of administrative data linkage efforts.  Linked data combining different data sources can permit analyses of a sort that cannot be conducted using one source alone.  For example, the depth of social survey data can be combined with the reliability and scale of administrative data with records linked at an individual level. 

Reflecting the challenges above, the programme will tackle the following questions:

  • How can we use data to better understand the scale and scope of the Scottish third sector?
  • How is data currently used in the third sector?
  • How can the capacity of third sector organisations to engage with data be developed?  

Each strand will involve a one-day workshop, to include one academic keynote speaker and one policy/practice keynote speaker. These will be followed by presentations from both researchers and practitioners/policymakers, and roundtable and plenary discussion sessions. The third workshop will draw together the learning from the first two workshops to identify actions, future research questions, and new collaborations. Programme outputs will include a final report, a new Scottish network for third sector data, workshop briefings, and a journal special issue.

SEMINAR TOPICS are available to view by clicking on each tab below.

PRESENTATIONS from all three seminars are available to download.  Click on the Presentations tab below.


  • Programme Team
  • Workshop 1
  • Workshop 2
  • Workshop 3
  • Presentations

Final Report

The Scottish Network for Third Sector Data

Visit the Network's website for News, Events & Resources


Workshop 1
13 October 2014

Workshop 2
25 November 2014

Workshop 3
4 February 2015

View the tabs below to see topics covered and presentations from the series.