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VCSE Data and Insights National Observatory

School: Nottingham Business School


The Covid-19 crisis has identified data poverty as a core weakness for the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) sector. As a recent, landmark report puts it, in “contrast to the private sector” the sector struggles to produce “recognised, reliable, and timely data”, making it “difficult for government to develop long-term strategies that enable the sector to maximise its potential” (Kenley and Wilding 2021:1-2). A key consequence of this is the sector is poorly understood, unable to articulate its needs, understand its strengths and weaknesses and policy-makers, funders and practitioners lack data to decide where to place limited resources. These consequences are particularly acute in an era when the role of VCSEs is critical across many areas of social, health and welfare and community settings, as restrictions on effective government intervention increase.

Addressing the challenge

The VCSE data and insights National Observatory Observatory to provide a one-stop source of interactive intelligence for policy-makers, infrastructure and frontline organisations, and researchers in the VCSE Sector at a national level. It would serve three central purposes. First to create an agreed set of definitions and principles for what constitutes good sector health. The second, based on these definitions is to create the definitive data source, with associated analytical capability, on sector health, demand, and supply, safeguarding and risk, and emerging trends that would be used by policy-makers, infrastructure organisations and practitioners to inform decision-making. Third through this data it would provide opportunities for insights on the management, delivery, and outcomes of VCSE sector and its organisations. Thus the Observatory would act as a hub between key stakeholders in the sector and academics across the university, to help identify, reconceptualise, and solve problems within the VCSE sector.

Making a difference

Good data matters. It shapes how we think about and see the world. It informs decision-making and the visibility of key social issues. The National Observatory aims to develop platforms and tools to provide relevant, timely, and trustworthy information, interactive dashboards and other sources of information than can inform and improve decision-making by policy-makers and practitioners, and thus improve people’s lives.

National Observatory

The Covid-19 crisis has identified data poverty as a core weakness for the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) sector. Whilst there is good work going on, ultimately data is disjointed, fragmented and sporadic.

Find out more about launching the National VCSE Data and Insights Observatory.


Related staff

The National Observatory is currently led by Professor Daniel King who is developing a team of researchers to work on this.

We really welcome working with practitioners and researchers across the sector and other universities.