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Wales research body receives £7m grant to launch voluntary sector centre

Ian Rees Jones, director of Wiserd, says the centre will study of the changing nature of civil society in the context of devolved governments and social and economic change

Ian Rees Jones
Ian Rees Jones

The Economic and Social Research Council has awarded a £7m grant to carry out research on the voluntary sector to the Wales Institute of Social and Economic Research, Data and Methods.

Wiserd, which is based at Cardiff University and will receive the money over the next five years, said it would launch a new centre called Wiserd/Civil Society in the autumn to carry out research in collaboration with other universities such as Universities of Edinburgh, Aberystwyth, Bangor, Sheffield and Ulster.

The Third Sector Research Centre, which was given £5m of funding from the ESRC and the Office for Civil Society when it was set up in 2008, said in February that it had been unsuccessful in securing new funding from the ESRC.

The TSRC, which reached final interview stage in this funding round, said that the loss of funding, which expired last month, would result in a significant reduction in its future plans and outputs.

Ian Rees Jones, director of Wiserd, said its new centre would undertake a programme of research "which aims to further inform our understanding of the changing nature of civil society in the context of devolved governments and processes of profound social and economic change".

"Some work will take in parts of Wales but also taking in work in the UK through collaborations we have with other research centres," he told Third Sector.

"For example, with Edinburgh University we are looking at the levels of involvement of young people in civil society."

Wiserd/Civil Society will become one of four UK research centres that will receive a share of the ESRC’s £29m investment for research in all areas.

Asked why the TSRC had not had its grant renewed, a spokeswoman for the ESRC said: "In the case of the Third Sector Research Centre, the decision not to renew funding was made entirely on the relative strength of the submitted proposal and is not a reflection of the work undertaken by the centre to date.

"Nor should it be seen as a change of direction for the ESRC, as we remain committed to supporting research on the third sector and continue to fund other work within this arena. We will also continue to engage with funding agencies and other organisations to see how we can work together on issues relating to the third sector."

She said that the research programme that the Wiserd centre would carry out "aims to inform our understanding of the changing nature of civil society in the context of devolved government and processes of profound social and economic change".

"Because of its size and devolved government, Wales offers a unique context for studying these issues, and the research programme, which will include comparative studies at regional, national and international levels, will have relevance not only within Wales but more generally," she said.

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