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August 31, 2021

Another chapter

If anyone writes up the complete history of Scotland’s Third Sector they might consider setting aside a chapter to tell the story of how Third Sector Interfaces came into existence. While no one would sugar coat the early years – CVSs and volunteer centres were forcefully (and unhappily) merged into single entities at the scale of a local authority – many of those early teething problems have been resolved. The impression now is of there being a new sense of purpose across much of the recently formed TSI Network Scotland. This report by Evaluation Support Scotland serves to confirm that impression.

Evaluation Support Scotland

Full report – here

This review aims to better understand of the role of Third Sector Interfaces (TSIs) during the Covid-19 pandemic. It identifies the types of activities undertaken by TSIs during Covid-19, the effectiveness of different approaches and lessons for the future of TSIs. 

There is a Third Sector Interface in every local authority area of Scotland. The TSI model was developed in 2010 and reviewed in 2017. Although each TSI is independent they operate nationally as TSI Network Scotland and have a critical role in supporting the third sector and volunteering through their shared outcome framework.

 TSIs have played many significant roles during the pandemic. They have coordinated the third sector’s crisis response – connecting people, organisations and resources with a focus on key areas such as food, isolation, medicine collection, and parenting support. They have supporting TSOs in challenging times, helping them to access funding and reboot their business models. And they have had a key role in involving the third sector and partners in resetting the agenda both locally and nationally, in areas such as vaccine roll out, economic recovery, and employability. 

Interviews with stakeholders in the six case study areas showed that the work of TSI during the pandemic has been valued. Stakeholders noted that TSIs have a unique contribution, particularly in terms of their relationships with the third sector and their ability to identify and broker new opportunities. 

The review has identified that the way TSIs work is critically important, including the commitment to partnership, working alongside communities and being flexible. They were also helped by the preexisting relationships they had with both the third and public sector. A critical challenge to success was the ongoing disconnect between TSI resource levels and the complexity of the role that were identified in the 2017 review. 

As we transition towards more normal times, there is an opportunity to work differently across the public and third sector. TSIs have a critical role to play in this, with a unique position of knowledge and relationships. This will require continued recognition of the role of TSIs, resources and a continued commitment to changing systems. 

The review has identified five critical recommendations, which are outlined on page 4. 

The review has been funded by Scottish Government and prepared in partnership between Third Sector Interfaces and Evaluation Support Scotland (ESS). The review included a desk review, case studies of six TSI areas, and independent interviews with local partners.