Purely Academic: The historic ties that link our third sector with other countries

University lecturer David Clifford looks into the relationship between charities in England and Wales and overseas

David Clifford
David Clifford

A new analysis of information from the database of the Charity Commission reveals the international charitable connections between England and Wales and overseas.

The results help to illustrate the small-scale charitable activity that links people and places internationally. About 16,500 charities that are registered in England and Wales also operate in at least one country or territory outside the UK, compared with about 4,500 in 1995. The total of 16,500 includes many well-known larger charities, such as Oxfam and Save the Children, but also a large number of smaller organisations, many quite recently formed and working in a small number of countries - 55 per cent of them work in just one country. About a third have annual incomes of less than £10,000; nearly three-quarters have incomes of under £100,000.

My research shows that charities are most likely to work in countries in southern Asia or in sub-Saharan Africa, but are less likely to work in countries that are considered the least politically stable, or where corruption is considered to be the least under control. Countries with historic Commonwealth or colonial ties to the UK tend to have more English and Welsh charities working there. There are more working in India, with its very large population and historical colonial links, than in any other country. There are also high numbers of English and Welsh charities working in Kenya, Uganda and South Africa.

These results are consistent with the possibilities for international voluntary collaboration provided by some of the more accessible methods of travel and communication.

The full text of International Charitable Connections, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and published in the Journal of Social Policy (volume 45, issue 3), is free to read online here.

David Clifford (@numbersdavid) is a lecturer at the University of Southampton and an associate of the Third Sector Research Centre

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