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The third sector delivering public services: an evidence review

By Rob Macmillan


This paper examines research evidence, argument and policy development on the third sector and public service delivery over the last five to ten years. Forty-eight separate pieces of research published between 2004 and 2010 on the themes of public service delivery, commissioning and procurement are reviewed. This body of literature represents the research response to the new third sector public sector delivery landscape which has developed out of the UK Labour government’s interest in promoting the sector’s role in service delivery. The review examines four themes developed from the literature: emerging commissioning and procurement practices; the experiences of third sector organisations in the new service delivery landscape; the support needs of third sector organisations, and the impact of the new service delivery landscape on third sector organisations. By examining what we think we know and suggesting priorities for ongoing research, the paper aims to contribute to the ongoing discussion of the sector’s role in service delivery. The third sector’s experience of the new service delivery landscape has been somewhat mixed and varied. But new questions will be asked about the sector’s experience in an era marked by public finance retrenchment and under different political and ideological priorities. As a ‘stock-take’ and a baseline for a new economic and political context, the review indicates where research attention has been focused, and where it hasn’t. Overall greater attention appears to have been given to the voices and concerns of staff involved in TSOs, rather than other stakeholders such as trustees, volunteers and particularly TSO members and service users. By contrast, far less research attention has been given to the nature of the services commissioned, whether new commissioning processes are leading to service improvement, and fundamentally what difference services make

Topics: H Social Sciences (General), HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare
Publisher: University of Birmingham
Year: 2010
OAI identifier:

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