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Always look a gift horse in the mouth: community organisations controlling assets

The idea of community-based organisations (CBOs) owning or managing physical assets, such as land or buildings, has a long history in many countries. This paper examines policy and practice in the UK where there has been significant interest in this field. A variety of benefits have been attributed to the role of assets including motivating community engagement, providing a vehicle for outsourcing public services, or creating financially sustainable organisations. The empirical research reveals there is a heterogeneous set of CBOs holding assets, but the majority of them are small with few paid staff. The analysis proposes a spectrum of CBO types in the field. It concludes that policy makers will need to recognise that these types are informed by contrasting traditions, ideas and operating logics that affect their different practices and resource dependencies.

Locality Convention 2016: Charities under £1m and social investment

Slides on the findings of our recent study on charities and social investment presented at the Locality Convention 2016.

Head, Heart & Hands Make Collaboration Work

This short conference paper covers ten top tips for partnership building and lessons learned through CollaborationNI

Collaboration NI: Lessons from the evaluation

The characteristics of responsible funding

In October 2015, Ben Cairns spoke at a conference for Scottish funders, sharing IVAR’s learning from over 40 research and evaluation projects for, with and about UK trusts and foundations. The focus of much of this work has been small to medium (£100k to £1m income p.a.) social welfare voluntary and community organisations – organisations working to relieve poverty and disadvantage, tackle injustice, and work for social change. As IVAR marks its fifteenth birthday, we have begun to draw together disparate findings and observations into a commentary about the role and contribution of charitable funder.

UK Evaluation Roundtable 2014

In March 2014, 32 staff from 22 trusts and foundations came together for the inaugural gathering of the UK Evaluation Roundtable. Established by IVAR in partnership with the Center for Evaluation Innovation, the Roundtable aims to help trusts and foundations explore the relationship between evaluation and strategy. This paper outlines findings from our background research on evaluation practices in the 22 UK trusts and foundations participating in the Roundtable.

Inaugural UK Evaluation Roundtable

In March 2014, 32 staff from 22 trusts and foundations came together for the inaugural gathering of the UK Evaluation Roundtable. Established by IVAR in partnership with the Center for Evaluation Innovation, the Roundtable aims to help trusts and foundations explore the relationship between evaluation and strategy. The March 2014 convening centred on a teaching case of Paul Hamlyn Foundation’s Learning Away programme. This report outlines discussions held at the event, covering: the purpose of evaluation; enduring challenges; and action needed to introduce and use evaluation for strategic learning.

New ways of giving by UK Trusts and Foundations

This paper was presented at the 2012 International Society for Third-Sector Research (ISTR) Conference in Siena, Italy. 

In the paper we draw on research with 30 UK trusts and foundations in order to shed light on ‘high engagement funding’ (a cluster term to describe the phenomenon of trusts and foundations providing both funding and additional support to grantees) practices; we do this by looking at why and how such approaches are used and by considering the implications, challenges and benefits of these practices from the perspective of both foundations and their grantees.


We argue that ‘high engagement funding’ might be a more useful concept for debating the relative advantages and disadvantages of ‘more than just money’ relationships. We identify four key features of ‘high engagement funding’:

  1. interest in the whole grantee organisation;
  2. willingness to fund core costs;
  3. a partnership approach – on both sides – to the grantee/funder relationship;
  4. and additional support from the funder (which acts either directly on the grantee organisation or indirectly on the environment in which it operates).