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.

Programme Team

Dr Alasdair Rutherford, University of Stirling
Dr Eleanor Burt, University of St Andrews
Chris Yiu, The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO)
Rikke Iversholt, The Institute for Research and Innovation in Social Services (IRISS)

Final Report


There are no outputs listed for this programme.