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A Third Sector Research Partnership for Wales

Published: 25/09/23 | Categories: Information & support, Author: Anna Skeels

Partners at SPARK write about the new Third Sector Research Partnership.

Research is an important driver for an effective and sustainable third sector in Wales.  It can build a better and deeper understanding of key issues and context and provide credible evidence for funders.  Research can also inform and improve practice through organisational learning and development, support policy calls and refine strategies for governance and management.  However, with over 97% of the third sector in Wales made up of small and medium sized organisations, research can be limited by competing priorities, a lack of resources, funding, access, capacity, expertise, and time.


SPARK is Cardiff University’s new social science research park.  It brings together research centres with expertise in a range of fields – for example, education, civil society, and public health – with practitioners, policy makers and community stakeholders to tackle the most pressing social challenges of our time. As such, SPARK provides an excellent starting point to make a success of building research capacity within the third sector in Wales.

Along with Wales Council for Voluntary Action (WCVA), Cardiff Third Sector Council (C3SC) and other partners – Cwmpas, Building Communities Trust (BCT), Together for Change, Swansea and Aberystwyth Universities and the University of South Wales – SPARK has formed a new Third Sector Research Partnership.  Together, we aim to better connect the research needs of third sector organisations with the research skills and knowledge available within the academic community in Wales.


Our first step is to deliver a series of workshops for voluntary organisations based in Cardiff by the end of this year.  These will help us to explore how best to ‘match’ research needs with appropriate support. Our survey of researchers in SPARK has shown us that 50% of respondents are already collaborating with the third sector and 44% interested in providing pro bono support to third sector organisations.  A range of research skills, knowledge and expertise are available and on offer, including, for example, on case study design, interview techniques and writing research funding proposals.

In October and November, we will be delivering five short research workshops for small and medium sized third sector organisations based in Cardiff, exploring their research aspirations and ideas.  Each participant will come out of the workshop with the beginnings of a ‘research canvas’, mapping out their research needs and possible next steps.  This has the potential to lead onto further support, for example on developing a research question, deciding on methods, sourcing data, or drafting a research funding bid.  Some research needs might be written up as defined research ‘projects’ that new Masters’ students in Cardiff University could deliver on.

Other support might include enabling connection with existing research findings that are relevant and can inform your work.  Access to such research could support more evidenced-based practice or a chance for you to steer the direction of future research.  In a sector where capacity to undertake research can be limited, it is important to explore what evidence is already ‘out there’ and can be of use.

We see this Cardiff-based activity as a first step in exploring longer-term, value-based relationships and collaboration between third sector organisations and academic researchers in Wales.


SPARK will deliver five research workshops for Cardiff-based organisations in October and November this year.

If you are a small to medium-sized third sector organisation (e.g., charity, community-based organisation, social enterprise) and have been operational in Cardiff for at least two years, this could be for you.

Each of the five workshops will run for two hours and will be at the following dates/times/locations:

Please sign up on Eventbrite for the workshop you want to attend by 10 October 2023.

If you can’t attend any of these sessions, but are interested in research support, please contact Anna Skeels SkeelsA1@cardiff.ac.uk or Dave Horton daveh.community@gmail.com.