Call for papers


The impact of evaluations in the third sector: values, structures and relations

Organised by Third Sector Research Centre, Universities of Birmingham and Southampton

Venue: Shelter Training in London, City Forum, Unit 13, 250 City Road, London EC1V 2PU

TSRC will be holding this one day event, with the aim of bringing practitioners, policy-makers and academics together to explore the effects that impact evaluation has on third sector organisations. We invite academic papers to be presented in a context that engages academics, practitioners, and policy makers alike. For each paper presented, a discussant will be invited to prepare a reply, reflecting the view of a practitioner and/or policy maker.

Deadline for abstract is 15th September 2010. Please send abstracts to Naomi Landau, TSRC Knowledge Exchange Team: / 020 7520 2421

If you would like to discuss possible papers please contact Dr Malin Arvidson, TSRC, University of Southampton: 07900 987 030

More information:

The current environment in which many third sector organisations operate is characterised by relationships based on contracts and competition and the challenge of proving their worth or ‘impact’. Understanding evaluation and impact assessment requires not just an understanding of tools and definitions, but a recognition that these activities take place within a political arena where values, power and resources affect relationships, strategies, and organisational sustainability.

This one day conference will address topics related to evaluation and impact assessment within the third sector. It aims to examine the consequences of what we may call a ‘formal accountability regime’ and the context within which it is taking place. The consequences may refer to intended or unintended effects, good and bad, and occurring within organisations as well as between organisations and various stakeholders. We invite papers with a clear theoretical grounding (but not precluding reference to empirical material) that will highlight some of the following:

  • How can we understand impact assessment and reporting as a means to building and maintaining relationships?
  • How is formal and informal reporting used by the third sector in order to establish authority and legitimacy?
  • How is it used by commissioners and funders to exert control over service delivery?
  • In what way does formal accountability affect relationships with beneficiaries and service users? Does it provide a basis for user choice and public trust?
  • How does the use of ‘toolkits’ and focus on specific outcomes affect the running and structure of organisations?
  • Social goals, environmental sustainability and the concept of ‘value for money’ – can they all sit comfortably together in one comprehensive evaluation framework? How do organisations negotiate competing goals?
  • How do individual staff negotiate competing goals?

The questions above are suggested starting points, but other inputs are welcome, that for example elaborate on concepts such as trust, accountability regimes, mission drift, and staff integrity. We also invite contributions based on research of public and private sector organisations, written with the specific intention of exploring how experiences from these sectors can inform our understanding of impact assessment in the third sector.

This one day event will allow for more intensive and in-depth discussions than are usually offered at conferences, allowing academics, practitioners and policy-makers to share their learning and experience. The output of this event will be published as short summaries by TSRC. Presented papers will also be considered for full publications in journal or book form.

TSRC may be able to contribute toward expenses for those participants presenting papers. Please let us know your requirements in advance.


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