New College this week announced the foundation of the Oxford Institute of Charity (OIC). The culmination of almost three years of discussion and planning, the OIC is a collaborative initiative between the college and Charity Futures, a charity sector think tank.
The Institute is set to open its doors in the summer of 2022 in a purpose-built home on a newly developed part of the college site. Work at the OIC begins next month with the development of a strategic fundraising plan. Before its launch, the Institute aims to secure a £30 million endowment that will provide a sustainable annual income.
The Institute was established to “promote the importance of research and study of study, both at post-graduate and undergraduate level, in universities more generally”, “deliver high calibre academic research to be used by the global community”, and to “develop networks and foster international links”.
Its additional objectives include the digitisation of charity records to further wider research, and the organisation of conferences and summer schools for leading academics, philanthropists, corporate donors, and leaders of civil society from around the world.
Research conducted will take an interdisciplinary approach, drawing on a broad range of academic knowledge and skills. The research will look at issues such as the history of charity, the relationship between charity and politics, and the ethics of charitable governance.
The Director of Charity Futures, Sir Stephen Bubb, will assume the interim role of Acting Director. He will be tasked with commissioning the fundraising strategy, raising awareness of OIC in academic circles and in charities, and working collaboratively with the college to identify and appoint the first Academic Director.
Bubb said: “When there are so many divisions in society, civil society is needed more than ever. And when charities themselves face challenges, research and study of charity is particularly timely.
“The participation of New College in this collaboration is very significant for us. Charity Futures was established to look at the long-term future health of the charitable sector in the UK,” he added.
“My role is to give the Institute a solid foundation from which it can thrive and prosper long into the future. In practical terms this means establishing a firm financial base and securing an inspirational academic leader.”
The Warden of New College, Miles Young, said: “Charity’s important role in our society is often undervalued, and I believe that one cause of that is that it is surprisingly little studied in Universities […] New College was founded as a charitable enterprise by William of Wykeham as far back as 1379, so this does seem an appropriate place to help remedy the academic neglect of the subject.”
Despite its new base in Oxford, the Institute also aims to promote their project in universities throughout the country, as highlighted by Bubb: “although the Oxford Institute of Charity, based at New College will be a research centre we hope that we will also look at the potential for study and teaching, in conjunction with other universities.”
Mr Young told Cherwell that the Institute is “designed to fill a gaping hole”.
The new direction in research is due to a serious lack of academic research into the subject. With most academic effort focused on “the study of giving”, the resulting model of charity remains “poorly explained, with implications for issues ranging from the governance of charity (often poor) to the perceptions of charity (generally weak).” By furthering academic research into relatively unexplored areas, the Institute aims to “promote better, more sustainable, and effective performance of charity in the world.”