Our work focused on how third sector interfaces (TSIs) can improve their participation in community planning and better represent local third sector organisations.

Third sector interfaces (TSIs) provide a single point of access for support and advice for the third sector within local areas. There is a TSI in each local authority area in Scotland.

One of the TSI’s roles is to represent the third sector in community planning. What Works Scotland worked with the third sector to develop a vision to re-imagine community planning in Scotland.

But the representation role is a challenging one. TSIs grappled with how they could facilitate better participation by third sector organisations in discussing issues and positions, and in how these positions could be represented in a transparent way in various partnerships and community forums.

One way is for third sector organisations to speak on behalf of themselves directly. This is a model that has been piloted by Strive in East Lothian. Strive invited the sector to become delegates in existing community partnerships, taking over Strive’s role in representing the community. The term delegate is used to reflect that individuals have less autonomy and more accountability than representatives.

The role of Strive has then shifted to facilitating and supporting the process, creating appropriate mechanisms to enable third sector organisations to identify themselves and to elect delegates, aiding in the development of a Code of Conduct, hosting quarterly meetings, and providing training to delegates.

The report Third Sector Participation and Representation in East Lothian documents this process, in which Strive, with support from What Works Scotland, opened a conversation with local third sector organisations to discuss effective participation and representation in East Lothian.

“Third sector organisations in East Lothian have now a central role to play in developing, testing and refining these new ideas in practice. As with any new system, especially one that seeks to improve democracy in the sector, the road ahead is likely to be bumpy. But the lessons learned from the STRiVE experience will be of considerable value to other TSIs across the country as they also face the challenge of enabling a more participative and better represented third sector.”

Third Sector Participation and Representation in East Lothian

See more of Strive’s resources for participation and representation

Related resources

See all of What Works Scotland publications and resources, blog and activities about the third sector.