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The third sector in unsettled times: a field guide

Macmillan, Rob and Taylor, Rebecca and Arvidson, Malin and Soteri-Proctor, Andri and Teasdale, Simon (2013) The third sector in unsettled times: a field guide. Working Paper. University of Birmingham, Birmingham.


URL of Published Version: http://www.tsrc.ac.uk/Research/RealTimes/Thethirdsectorinunsettledtimesafieldguide/tabid/1031/Default.aspx


The third sector, understood as a diverse group of charities, voluntary organisations, community groups and social enterprises, is facing a radical upheaval in its multiple political and economic environments. Drawing on data from Real Times, a qualitative longitudinal study of third sector organisations, this paper explores how different case study organisations are affected by and have navigated this shifting context. We explore these questions using a ‘field’-based theoretical perspective on social and organisational life (Bourdieu 2005, Emirbayer and Johnson 2008, Fligstein and McAdam 2012). Fields are seen as arenas within which actors convene to advance their interests and purposes amidst evolving rules and understandings about what the field is, how it operates and what is at stake. Fields are overlapping and nested; constituted at different levels from the third sector, through vertical policy domains down to individual organisations. We explore how our case study organisations enact various strategies and tactics in order to manage this period of economic and political change and maintain or advance their position in a field; a struggle for ‘room’. We focus on three interrelated issues – staff redundancies and organisational restructuring; mergers and acquisitions; and repositioning and branding – and examine how these shed light on the contested nature of fields and the tensions at the heart of organisational change and reproduction.

Type of Work:Monograph (Working Paper)
School/Faculty:Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Social Sciences
Department:Third Sector Research Centre

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Date:01 August 2013
Series/Collection Name:TSRC Working Paper Series
Keywords:Third sector, qualitative longitudinal research, fields, organisational change.
Subjects:H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Related URLs:
Funders:Economic and Social Research Council, Office for Civil Society, Barrow Cadbury Trust
Copyright Holders:Third Sector Research Centre
ID Code:1801

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