* This briefing – the first of two – provides a summary of the research carried out by the Third Sector Research Centre (TSRC) over the five years of its existence and comments on the implications for local authorities.

* The TSRC was a five year initiative launched in 2008 to address the lack of research attention focused on the third sector in the UK. From 2008 to 2013, the Centre provided independent academic research on issues affecting the third sector to support improvements in policy and practice. It was jointly hosted by the universities of Birmingham and Southampton and funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, the Cabinet Office, and the Barrow Cadbury Trust. This funding came to an end in August 2013.

* In March 2014, the TSRC published a final report, ‘Understanding the Third Sector’, summarising its contribution to the research evidence on the third sector. Many of the Centre’s research programmes and key findings will be of interest to local authorities.

* This briefing focuses on third sector policy in the UK and the changing relationship between government and the third sector, including an increasing emphasis on the role of the third sector as public service providers. A second briefing (to follow) will focus on volunteering and ‘below the radar’ activity.

* This briefing will be of interest to Elected Members, commissioners and policy officers within local government as well as other officers with an interest in third sector issues.

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