Government urged to set up sector research body

The NCVO has asked the Government to fund a voluntary sector equivalent of the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

The umbrella body made its case for an independent voluntary sector research body at a meeting last week with officials from the Office of the Third Sector, the Treasury and the Department for Communities and Local Government.

Representatives from the Charity Commission, private sector research firm Ipsos Mori and the Economic and Social Research Council also attended.

"If you look at any other sector of the economy, government collects basic statistics about its characteristics," Karl Wilding, head of research at the NCVO, later told Third Sector.

"The NCVO and other organisations do that, but I think we're getting to the point now where we need to invest more heavily in basic data collection."

The NCVO would like to see solid evidence produced on subjects such as how public service delivery is changing the sector.

"We tend to have lots of one-off surveys, but I think we need something that enables us to track how the sector is changing," Wilding said. He added that long-term analysis was needed to meet the accountability and public policy demands placed on charities.

"It's not just government that is asking us to be more accountable," he said. "It's donors who are also increasingly acting like investors. "We're no different to other public organisations in that we have to be able to demonstrate what we do with public and donors' money."

Wilding and Martin Brooks, director of research at New Philanthropy Capital, are hoping to garner support for the idea among charities at a meeting with charity research directors later this year.

Ed Miliband, minister for the third sector, said: "One of the things I have picked up is the need for a better evidence base."

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