A Collaborative Quantitative Research Development Programme in the Third Sector: Understanding Volunteering in Scotland

Dr Alasdair Rutherford, University of Stirling, Dr Helen Harper, Volunteer Development Scotland, Dr Louise Meikleham, Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator and Steven Hope, Ipsos MORI

There is increasing enthusiasm for exploiting “big data”, and making better use of quantitative data from both social surveys and administrative sources. However, this poses a significant challenge for organisations that do not have adequate quantitative methods expertise. This is particularly true for third sector organisations; both charities providing services and infrastructure bodies such as third sector interfaces.

This project piloted a collaborative programme to involve third sector practitioners in the analysis of a linked administrative and social survey data on charities and volunteering. Participants developed their quantitative methods skills and built a better understanding of the benefits and challenges of using different types of secondary data. The analysis conducted through this project enabled us to better understand both the demand and supply of volunteers in Scotland. It also brought together the organisations involved in collecting and using that data, including the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR), Volunteer Development Scotland (VDS) and Ipsos MORI, in order to develop existing and future opportunities for collaborative research.

The outputs from the project was a four page research summary paper for policy/practitioner audience which summarised the key findings from analysing the linked social survey/administrative dataset; a four page research summary paper for an academic audience which identified new research questions and allowed producers of the data to understand the potential and limitations of its use in a policy/practice context; an academic paper on determinants of volunteering in Scotland; and an evaluation report of the pilot project to involve third sector practitioners in secondary data analysis summarising the effectiveness of the pilot collaboration, and recording learning for potential future development. In addition, a seminar was held for AQMeN members.