The spotlight falls on trusts and foundations

Their role is attracting more scrutiny as the funding environment continues to tighten, writes the editor of Third Sector

Stephen Cook
Stephen Cook

The foundation world is an enigmatic, multi-faceted part of the charity sector - large in number, diverse in size and varied in the way they do things. Not many of them put their heads above the parapet and join a debate about their collective role. Many, in fact, might jib at the word collective.

Nonetheless, their role is inevitably attracting more scrutiny as the funding environment continues to tighten and people search for new responses to pressing social problems. Two examples of this appeared recently – a scholarly discussion about collaboration called Supporting Social Change: A New Funding Ecology, and an impassioned denunciation by the social entrepreneur Jake Hayman.

These are the starting points for our feature on pages 36 to 39, where we ask a trio of leading foundation chief executives to give their views on key questions such as joint working, transparency and long-term vision. What they say is varied and inconclusive, but suggests that the tectonic plates are beginning to shift.

Mark Goldring has been running Oxfam for two years and in that time has reshaped his senior team, featured as an undercover boss on TV and weathered a couple of political storms. Tim Smedley's interview reveals him as pragmatic, down to earth and sure of his ground - a good man to have around in a crisis, perhaps. The sector needs people like that as a certain anti-charity bandwagon continues to roll. The latest example of this is, of course, the stories about the tragic death of Olive Cooke, examined in our Big Issue.

On another front, have a look at the celebratory pictures from our Business Charity Awards and go to to read in detail about the winners. More companies are partnering with charities to do good work, and long may it continue.

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