Taxonomy

Introduction

Metadata, categorisation, taxonomy, ontology, classification, filing labels…. A boring but necessary basis to being able to manage data and bring it together to create meaningful information. There appears to be a lack of any sector-wide effort to agree (electronic) standards. VolResource is concerned that this could put voluntary groups at a disadvantage in the future when coming up against public sector data standards which are getting increasingly sophisticated, or other funder monitoring requirements.

See Wikipedia for a definition and discussion of Taxonomy.

The data we have in mind is anything to do with keeping tabs on sector activity, whether that is case work, service delivery or member processes. Its use will go well beyond IT, so this subject should not be seen as just a technical issue.

Viewing the Sector

The most obvious need for some degree of standardisation is in voluntary sector research.

  • Johns Hopkins University Centre for Civil Society Studies Comparative Nonprofit Sector Project has developed, starting out from the existing International Standard Industrial Classification (ISIC), an International Classification of Nonprofit Organizations (ICNPO) – check the Publications page. Evolved into the Global Civil Society Index. It has been pointed out that “for all its faults, this system does have the virtue of simplicity. Other more complex (including multi dimensional) systems, [include] those developed and used in the UK have other advantages of course”.
  • The Canadian sector study, Canadian Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector in Comparative Perspective (pdf format 348kb published March 2005, may still be available via Sector Source), has a modified version of ICNPO at pages 38 to 43.

Online directories and electronic databases of voluntary organisations is perhaps the usage that comes to mind from the term ‘metadata’.

Various local, regional and national sector umbrella bodies have of necessity worked on classification for their web based directories. Here’s some efforts we know about:

  • Northern Ireland’s Community NI site has asked the sector to feed into the development of the themes (activity/topics) navigation facility (there is also a geographical one). See bottom section of the left hand navigation area.

Scotland’s CVS network established a Data Management Consortium – but only known web link has gone. There was also a ShareIT Community Metadata Schema, in Manchester, but we believe funding cuts have hit what little activity there was.

Wales Council for Voluntary Action has/had a classification system with “46 categories which are a mixture of beneficiary types, activities and functions, and any one organisation can be coded in as many categories as seems appropriate”. (Unlike ICNPO which insists on just one box being ticked). The categories are grouped into 23 forums, the basis of the representative seats at the Voluntary Sector Partnership Council with the Welsh Assembly.

Frontline operations also have a need for relevant classification systems, for monitoring activity (reporting to funders, benchmarking against others), making information available online categorised for different service user needs etc.

  • 211 Taxonomy focuses on the telephone information line for human services operating in 31 states in the US, Puerto Rico and Canada. This includes nonprofit and capacity-building categories. Subscription to gain full access to the site appears to cost but there is a Volunteer Opportunities example, in pdf format, 217kb.

Questions

The following have been raised in various discussions on taxonomy issues.

  • Can, or should, library resources be classified in the same way as a web site?
  • Is it possible to create compatibility across local, regional or national approaches? And also work with public sector classifications?

Public sector

The public sector has been working on its electronic classification standards for some time. The Integrated Public Sector Vocabulary brings together three existing labelling mechanisms for electronic information: the Government Category List (GCL), Local Government Category List (LGCL) and the seamlessUK taxonomy. At 2013, see ESD Standards section. Also see other taxonomies (controlled lists or standards) maintained by ESD.

Research Resources

Info on a range of UK-based bodies carrying out or reporting research into various aspects of society, economics etc. We tend to focus on those of particular interest to our target audience.

Also see: Issue-based support organisations.

Organisations

Local and Regional resources

Find neighbourhood statistics ONS, the government’s statistical service, has produced a regionalised web data service (NeSS). A range of stats are accessible from ward to region scale, but in the early stages of development.

YorkshireFutures Regional Intelligence Network provides stats, policy analysis, research.

National

PolicyLibrary is more of a pointer to public policy research.

ARK is a source of social and political information for Northern Ireland (joint project of Queen’s University Belfast and University of Ulster).

Ashridge Centre for Business and Sustainability Think tank on sustainable development and the implications for leadership, strategy and change in organisations.

Bevan Foundation “the social justice think tank for Wales”.

Centre for Crime and Justice Studies is an independent charity that engages with the worlds of research and policy, practice and campaigning.

Centre for Economic Policy Research Reports include titles such as The New Economics of Rising Inequalities (with OUP).

Centre for Effective Services Irish organisation which focuses on “implementation science”. Useful links page (at Jan. 2015) of organisations around the world promoting evidence-informed approach to policy and practice.

Centre for Labour and Social Studies (CLASS) – thinktank established by the labour movement in 2012 to act as a centre for left debate and discussion.

Centre for Local Economic Strategies Works in ‘the area of local economic regeneration … and serves a network of local authorities, Training and Enterprise Councils etc’. Services and information available on a one-off or subscription basis. Barclay House, 35 Whitworth Street West, Manchester, M1 5NG, phone 0161 236 7036.

Centre for Policy on Ageing Promotes informed debate about issues concerning older people.

Centre for Policy Studies is an independent centre-right think tank.

Centre Forum an independent, liberal think-tank.

Centre for Research on Families and Relationships, University of Edinburgh.

Centre for Scottish Public Policy.

Centre for the Study of Public Policy at University of Strathclyde.

Civitas, the Institute for the Study of Civil Society, aims to “deepen public understanding of the legal, institutional and moral framework that makes a free and democratic society possible”. A useful European think tanks list, too.

Countryside and Community Research Institute at University of Gloucester.

Demos ‘is an independent think tank and research institute based in London. Launched in 1993, its role is to help reinvigorate public policy and political thinking and to develop radical solutions to long term problems.’

Economic and Social Research Council ‘is the UK’s leading research funding and training agency addressing economic and social concerns’. An academic body – find others via Research Councils UK.

Eurostat European statistics of all types.

Foreign Policy Centre is ‘committed to revitalising debate about foreign policy in an age of increasing global interdependence.’ Mezzanine, Elizabeth House, 39 York Road, London, SE1 7NQ, phone 020 7401 5350.

Foundation for Information Policy Research studies the interaction between information technology and society.

Institute of Economic Affairs Mission is ‘to improve public understanding of the fundamental institutions of a free society, with particular reference to the role of markets in solving economic and social problems.’

Institute for Fiscal Studies Mainly on economics and taxation issues, but includes consideration of impacts on/of society. Have done some research with CAF. From site redesign winter 04/05, charity related publications are no longer grouped, so do a search on Charities as keyword. Phone 020 7636 3784, email: mailbox@ifs.org.uk

Institute for Public Policy Research Influential centre-left think tank, aim is to promote and contribute to a greater understanding of key social, economic and political questions. With their web site now accessible its now well worth checking out. 30-32 Southampton St, London, WC2E 7RA, phone 020 7470 6100.

Institute of Race Relations ‘conducts research and produces educational resources which are at the cutting edge of the struggle for racial justice in Britain and internationally. It seeks to reflect the experience of those who suffer racial oppression and draws its perspectives from the most vulnerable in society.’

Institute for Research and Innovation in Social Services Promoting positive outcomes for people who use Scotland’s social services.

Institute for Social Banking International organisation based in Germany.

Institute of Welsh Affairs.

Joseph Rowntree Foundation Do a wide variety of research on issues which matter to the sector, including volunteering, housing, social welfare. Website includes links to other sites with research information, as well as having much of their own available online.

Local Area (previously Authorities) Research and Intelligence Association (LARIA) A good links page. Of most relevance to areas of work in which councils are prominent (e.g. care, housing).

National Centre for Social Research ‘is the largest independent social research institute in Britain. It conducts social research among members of the public to provide information on a range of social policy issues in Britain.’ 35 Northampton Square, London EC1V OAX, phone 020 7250 1866, email: info@natcen.ac.uk

National Research and Development Centre on adult literacy, language and numeracy.

Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency.

Office of National Statistics The government’s agency, giving ‘the latest comprehensive range of official UK statistics and information about statistics as well providing free access to a selection of recently released publications in downloadable pdf format.’

PIRC Independent provider of research on corporate governance and corporate responsibility issues for shareholders (full name is Pensions Investment Research Consultants). See also Ethical Investment – Resource Extra

Policy Studies Institute ‘conducts research which will promote economic well-being and improve quality of life’ and is a wholly owned educational charity subsidiary of the University of Westminster. Quarterly academic journal Policy Studies, published by Carfax (now part of Taylor and Francis). Also produce the influential Cultural Trends.

Public Management Foundation A research centre on issues related to the provision of public services, with underlying notion of ‘managing for social result’. Closely connected with Office for Public Management whose web site features Social Results News, updated weekly. 165 Grays Inn Road, London, WC1X 8UE. Phone 020 7278 1712, email: pmf@pmfoundation.org.uk

Research in Practice for Adults (takes over from Centre for Evidence-Based Social Services?) – research utilisation organisation for adult social care.

Royal Institute of International Affairs at Chatham House is an independent research and membership organisation working to promote the understanding of key international issues.

Runnymede Trust UK-based independent think tank on ethnicity and cultural diversity, working ‘to challenge racial discrimination, to influence anti-racist legislation and to promote a successful multi-ethnic Britain’. 133 Aldersgate Street, London, EC1A 4JA, phone 020 7600 9666, email: info@trt.demon.co.uk

Scottish Universities Insight Institute “promotes collaboration and engagement between researchers and wider society”.

Social Market Foundation. Established 1989 to provide a source of innovative economic and social policy ideas.

Social Policy Association, amongst other things produces Journal of Social Policy, and Social Policy and Society

Social Research Association Exists ‘to advance the conduct, development and application of social research’.

Society Central “a social policy news website aiming to forge better connections between academic researchers and those involved in the policy-making process”.

Socio-Legal Studies Association produces newsletter, annual conference as well as information on research areas.

Sociological Research Online ‘publishes applied sociology, focusing on theoretical, empirical and methodological discussions which engage with current political, cultural and intellectual topics and debates.’ Quarterly (last days of Feb, May, Aug, Nov). Has a full list of useful links. Individuals should be able to get access to most info on-screen, but in theory at least there are restrictions around the Archives for networked organisations.

Third Sector Knowledge Portal is an online library and web catalogue, developed by the Third Sector Research Centre to promote and preserve evidence, research and analysis of the ever-changing work of the voluntary, community and social enterprise sectors. See our page for further voluntary sector research bodies.

The Young Foundation undertakes research to identify and understand unmet social needs and then develops practical initiatives and institutions to address them. Includes Institute of Community Studies?



Other Sources

Alliance for Useful Evidence promotes useful evidence in decision making across social policy. A network of individuals and organisations from across government, universities, charities, business, UK and wider.

Social Science Research Network Well-connected worldwide resource.

Online editions of newspapers and magazines are providing a useful source if you can only find the right site and section. We suggest trying:

Opinion pollsters major players includes Ipsos MORI (has Charities Research Team which helps charities to maximise their fundraising efforts, connect with key audiences or heighten media coverage).

UN Statistics Division – Social Indicators.

Doing it

Secret Services A Handbook for Investigating Local Quangos, Local Government Information Unit, ISBN 1-8979-57-10-0. Published 1995, 192 pages. How to investigate quangos, including how to obtain and use financial, policy and other information from health authorities and trusts, housing associations, Training and Enterprise Councils, Urban Development Corporations etc. Also includes criteria for monitoring the activities and performance of quangos. Available from LGIU, 1-5 Bath Street, London EC1V 9QQ Price: £25.00

Social Research Association has a number of resources and publications,  including on research ethics.

Charities should check out the Charity Commission guidance intended for any charity that carries out, or funds others to carry out, research.

  • ARVAC promotes the use of research by small/local/community organisations (see Sector Development page).
  • Bradford Community Statistics Project appears to have ended – check Bradford Resource Centre just in case.
  • Community University Partnership Project from University of Brighton aims to help local/regional community and voluntary organisations develop their work through research.
  • Interchange is a charity based at University of Liverpool that “facilitates research by social science HE students for the benefit of local voluntary & community groups”.
  • National Centre for Research Methods Has pointers to training sources, publications etc on improving methodolody and capacity. Academically based.
  • Opinion Research Services is a public sector specialist based at University of Wales Swansea.
  • Radical Statistics (RadStats) believes that statistics can be used as part of campaigns for progressive social change.
  • Science Shop from Queens University Belfast and University of Ulster. Students can assist Northern Ireland voluntary and community groups with research projects on social science research, health science issues or policy, environmental and geographical questions, historical research, educational issues, information technology.
  • The American Management Assistance Program for Nonprofits has a section on Basic Research Methods. Their pages are generally ‘library links’ but looks well organised. Another US source: Resources for Methods in Evaluation and Social Research.

Sector Development, Research, Statistics

The collecting, sharing and use of data to improve performance across voluntary organisations is on Knowledge and data sharing page.

See Research Resources for help with doing your own research.

Statistics

NB. This section was previously a separate page, with data put together when sector stats were hard to find on the web.

Scoping the sector is a developing field. There is no single definitive source, or a definitive definition of what the voluntary sector covers (see Glossary for some suggestions).

For instance, ‘registered charities’ will not cover all the small community organisations which aren’t registered in any way, or not-for-profits which don’t fall within the charitable definition (e.g. because their primary aim includes campaigning).

Key sources of charity statistics

General

Specific topics, regions

  • Sector bodies in English regions, and counties, have undertaken a variety of studies. See Local contacts for where to go to find out latest position.

Sector Development

RSA Project 2001 This ran pilot projects in Yorkshire and London, supporting voluntary organisations “in providing a quality learning experience for volunteers, committee members and staff”. The resulting report Making it Work – Learning and Accreditation in the Voluntary Sector, (Mar 01) costs £5 including p&p from 020 7451 6833.

Research Bodies, Think Tanks

  • ARVAC (Association for Research in the Voluntary and Community Sector) aims to increase effectiveness through research, and provide researchers with a supportive network. Acts as a resource for people interested in research in or on community organisations.
  • CAF Research Programme Has Charity Trends website, with research and analysis of data on the sector. This includes: payroll giving, gift aid, income from central government and health authorities, trends in individual giving, local/community income. Free printed copies from CAF Research, phone 01732 520125, email: research@caf.charitynet.orgCAF does/supports various other research. Kings Hill, West Malling, Kent, ME19 4TA, phone 01732 520000.
  • Centre for Civil Society at LSE closed September 2010, but some of its extensive list of publications is still available. The connected Centre for the study of Global Governance, which produced a Global Civil Society Yearbook, also closed July 2011.
  • Centre for Government and Charity Management, London South Bank University. Extends to social enterprise; current and recent masters dissertations on various charity topics available.
  • Centre for Voluntary Sector Research at Sheffield Hallam University. Undertakes contract research for organisations.
  • Civil Exchange “is a think tank that exists to help government and the voluntary sector work better together”.
  • DANGO (Database of Archives of Non-Governmental Organisations) was tackling the availability of records relating to non-governmental organisations and pressure groups active in the UK since 1945, to help assess the impact of such bodies on society. Ended 2007 – see NGOs in Britain below.
  • EMES European Network studies third sector, social enterprises etc.
  • European Research Network on Philanthropy Also see their LinkedIn page.
  • The Evidence Library has been set up by Scottish umbrella body SCVO to “provide a resource for discovering new research, finding out the latest facts and figures and stimulating ideas”.
  • The Galileo Group (not the international investment company) is an independent scholarly community of academics and practitioners whose main interest is to explore the way in which theories can be developed and applied to problems of organisation and management in the voluntary sector.
  • HistPhil is a web publication on the history of the philanthropic and nonprofit sectors, with a particular emphasis on how history can shed light on contemporary philanthropic issues and practice.
  • Institute for Jewish Policy Research has undertaken studies on governance, resources etc. within the jewish voluntary sector.
  • Institute for Voluntary Action Research, developed out of Aston Centre for Voluntary Action Research, Aston Business School.
  • Institute for Volunteering Research.
  • nfpSynergy, a commercial business, aims to “provide ideas, insights and information to help not for profit organisations thrive in a changing world.”
  • NGOS in Britain (Non-Governmental Organisations UK 1945-1997 – also this link) at Birmingham Centre for Contemporary History. Project was due to run to 2011.
  • OPM (was Office for Public Management) has Voluntary and Community Sector as one its area of work – evaluations and more.
  • Third Sector Development Unit, University of Teesside – possibly now part of Social Futures Institute.
  • Third Sector Research Centre (government/ESRC funded 2008-14).
  • The Royal Irish Academy did have a Third Sector Research Programme but no sign on the website from spring 2013.
  • UK Voluntary Sector Research Group (UKVSRG) brings together the researchers of the four national sector bodies (see Support Bodies page). Wales – WCVA supports sector research and networking. Scotland – try SCVO’s Evidence Library.
  • Voluntary Action History Society aims to advance the historical understanding and analysis of voluntary action, charitable and voluntary organisations and to build a network of academics, students and practitioners working in this field.
  • Voluntary Sector Studies Network “provides a virtual and actual meeting point for scholars and researchers both outside and within the voluntary (third or non-profit) sector(s), with a shared analytic interest in this set of institutions.” Publishes Voluntary Sector Review journal – see Magazines.
  • Various regional statistics have been produced for the sector. See our Local/Regional contacts page.


International (mainly American)

Research Projects and Reports

Campaign for Voluntary Sector Archives – website run by run by the British Academy Research Project ‘Digitising the Mixed Economy of Welfare in Britain’ . A five year project (2014-19) which aims to support voluntary sector archives in the preservation and digitisation of their archives and to promote archives as part of the voluntary sector’s wider public benefit responsibility.

Third Sector Impact, a research project bringing together over thirty researchers from 10 European universities and more than 100 stakeholders, was launched January 2014. It aims to understand the scope and scale of the third sector in Europe, its current and potential impact, and the barriers hindering the third sector to fully contribute to the continent’s welfare.

Charity Law and Policy Unit, University of Liverpool. Some publications:

    • Charities and the Contract Culture. Report, July 99, on a year-long research project to identify problems of a legal nature which have arisen for charities as a result of the ‘contract culture’.
    • Legal Issues in Charity Mergers Report, Jan 01, on a year-long research project to identify the legal issues arising in charity mergers and the different responses to them, and to consider the most appropriate solutions to commonly experienced problems.

Joseph Rowntree Foundation carries out some research of relevance. Published 12/3/01: ‘The role and future development of black and minority ethnic organisations‘. This mapping exercise looks at the role of black and minority ethnic-led voluntary and community organisations in England and Wales.

Public Management Foundation Wasted Values: harnessing the commitment of public managers (Nov 99), available from their online book store. A report on research into the goals and motivations of senior public managers. It concludes that public sector managers and their private sector counterparts are motivated by very different things. In June 99, the Foundation undertook a nationwide survey of 400 of the UK’s top public, private and voluntary sector managers. Asked about their goals and about what motivates them to do their job well, managers in the three different sectors gave some revealingly different replies. Voluntary sector managers show a mixture of public and private sector views.

Also see Training – professional development as most of the higher education establishments listed run research programmes to some extent.

Functional Support

Support and development bodies for specific internal sector functions – admin, comms, tech etc.

Function specific (professional) support and development organisations for charities and other voluntary organisations.

Also see: general national bodies, issue-based support.

Finance, Legal and Admin

For Community Accountancy projects dotted around the country, see Accountancy Services page.

  • Association of Charity Independent Examiners. See our Charity Accounts page – this is for those who do, or want to, scrutinise smaller charity accounts to SORP requirements. The Gatehouse, White Cross, South Road, Lancaster, LA1 4XQ, phone 01524 348920, email: info@acie.org.uk
  • Association of Insurance and Risk Managers (AIRMIC) have a special interest group (SIG) for the voluntary sector. Phone 020 7480 7610. The Institute of Risk Management also has a Charities SIG.
  • Charity Complaints Forum Aims to provide support and information for anyone managing complaints within the voluntary sector; and promote the use of complaints handling and information to improve service delivery. Contact Claire Wilson, email: Claire.Wilson@cancer.org.uk
  • There was a Charities Facilities Management Special Interest Group of Upkeep, for those whose work in a voluntary organisation includes dealing with buildings. But info has disappeared from website.
  • Charity Finance Group. Monthly meetings in London, some regional presence; helplines for members on such things as IT and finance, accounting problems, VAT, charity law, investment. Membership from £90. 49-51 East Road, London, N1 6AH, phone 0845 345 3192, email: info@cfg.org.uk There is also a Scottish Charity Finance Group. Community Accounting Network has become a special interest group of CFG, but retains its own identity/website.
  • Charities HR Network. Meets six times a year in central London.
  • Charities Internal Audit Network. Membership (free) is for anyone working, or having an interest, in internal audit and internal control within charities. Email: enquiries@cianonline.org.uk
  • Charity Investors’ Group. Open to investing charities and charity sector investment managers – mainly concentrating on the big players. Focus is on exchange of views and information rather than lobbying.
  • Charities Responsible Investment Network, set up spring 2013 and managed by ShareAction, http://shareaction.org/Charityinvestment.
  • Charity Law Association This is more for charity lawyers, but membership is open to any individual or organisation with an interest in charity law. Subscription from £45.
  • Charities Safety Group Self help and support network for people with health and safety responsibilities.
  • Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply did have a Charity Sector Procurement Group as a Special Interest Group, but no longer any info on website.
  • Charity Tax Group Advice and lobbying on tax issues (including VAT, Gift Aid). Church House, Great Smith Street, London, SW1P 3AZ.
  • FM Charity Network Forum, for facilities managers etc. Website disappeared at spring 2016.
  • Honorary Treasurers Forum (was Charity Treasurers Forum). Set up to provide a source of information, research and knowledge for the treasurers of charities large and small.
  • ICAEW Talk Charity online forum from the chartered accountants body.
  • Institute for Chartered Secretaries and Administrators (ICSA) no longer has information online about a Charity Secretaries Group – it was open to chartered secretaries and others taking on a company secretarial role in voluntary organisations. ICSA does however have plenty of relevant publications.
  • Lawyers in Charities (LinC), previously In-House Charity Lawyers Group, a special interest group of C&I Group.
  • PA to Chief Executives (PACE) Network or charity chief executive assistants. Information exchange, sharing of good practice, newsletters and networking sessions. Contact PACE co-ordinator Diane Bramson, email: , phone 07932 604731.
  • For support and resources for charity trustees, chairs, management committees etc. see Trustee and member resources.
  • Social value/SROI – see Information/Research below.

Funding

  • Association of Charitable Foundations Exists to promote and support the work of UK grant-making trusts and foundations, membership open to all such bodies and some administrative trustees. Web site has guidance notes available for both funders and applicants, and alphabetical list and web links (with basic info) to ACF members. Central House, 14 Upper Woburn Place, London, WC1H 0AE, phone 020 7255 4499, email: acf@acf.org.uk
  • Community Fundraisers’ Forum (started 2007) designed for fundraisers in smaller charities who are working by themselves and need a bit of support. Membership is £10 per year with four meetings a year, email: janerockliffe@wspa.org.uk This may be the same as the IoF special interest group.
  • Institute of Fundraising Park Place, 12 Lawn Lane, London, SW8 1UD, phone 020 7840 1000, email: enquiries@institute-of-fundraising.org.uk. Has various national, regional and special interest groups.
  • Institute of Legacy Management promotes professional standards in legacy administration and provides consultancy, training and support services to its members.
  • London Funders is “open to all London-based local authorities, public, independent and corporate funders and to all charitable funders and investors in the capital’s voluntary and community sector”.

Information, Research, Impact

Communications and Campaigning



Technology

Other

  • Charity Retail Association (was Association of Charity Shops). Brings together over 300 member charities which have about 7,000 charity shops between them. Aims to help member organisations through the sharing of information and representing their interests by lobbying and informing. Has developed kitemark scheme. 5th Floor, Central House, 14 Upper Woburn Place, London, WC1H 0AE, phone 020 7255 4470.
  • Community Transport Promotes safe and efficient use of community and accessible transport.