UK Data Service data catalogue record for:

Charity, philanthropy and development in Colombo, Sri Lanka

Title details

SN: 851509
Title: Charity, philanthropy and development in Colombo, Sri Lanka
Persistent identifier: 10.5255/UKDA-SN-851509
Depositor: Roderick Stirrat, University of Sussex
Principal investigator(s): Roderick Stirrat, University of Sussex
Sponsor(s): Economic and Social Research Council
Grant number: ES/1033890/1

Subject Categories

Society and culture


Abstract copyright data collection owner.

The collection consists of the following elements: 1. Four sets of survey data covering the charitable activities of households (747 households), 261 private sector businesses and 39 public sector concerns, and 54 charities. 2. Qualitative data consisting of interviews with individual philanthropists, members of formal and informal charitable endeavours, directors of local charities and Sri Lankan branches of international charities, stakeholders within the donor field and local and national government stakeholders. In addition there are interviews with a small sample of the Sri Lankan expatriate community in London. 3. Ethnographic case studies covering two wards of Colombo (one Muslim and Sinhala, and one Tamil), a study of Islamic charitable practices, a study of health, charity and philanthropy, a study of corporate social responsibility activities in Colombo, a survey of charitable activities centred on major Catholic shrines in Colombo, a study of old peoples' homes and orphanages, a study of Colombo’s 200-year old Friend in Need Society and associated materials held in the Sri Lanka National Archive, and a study of Up Country Tamil support organisations in Colombo.

Project description:

This project investigated charity and charitable organisations in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Here, long standing ideologies of giving intermingle, interact and coexist with global ideas about the nature of charity and the relationship between charity and development. Surveys of givers and receivers generated an overall picture of the landscape of charity in Colombo. The second qualitative element of the research project focused on interviewing a smaller sample of donors, charitable institutions and receivers. The third element of the project examined how political and economic change has affected the historical transformations of charity in Sri Lanka. Finally, there was a smaller element in the project which looked at the role of the Sri Lankan diaspora not only in supporting charitable activity in Sri Lanka but also in changing it. The project utilised a 'Stakeholder Response Group' to ensure that the research process was mindful of the needs of the development community. An Inception workshop and End of Project conference focused on the lessons learnt from the project as to how indigenous charity can be encouraged to support development activities. The project produced policy briefs as well as making presentations to major development players.

Coverage, universe, methodology

Time period: 13 December 2011 - 01 June 2014
Dates of fieldwork: 01 April 2013 - 31 March 2016
Country: United Kingdom | Sri Lanka
Geography: Colombo, Sri Lanka
London, UK
Spatial units: Other
Observation units: Events and processes
Families and households
Kind of data: Numeric
Method of data collection: Methods used involved both quantitative and qualitative approaches. As far as the former were concerned, the household survey employed a cluster sampling approach to achieve a representative sample reflecting ethnic and religious factors. Overall the research approached the issues through standard ethnographic techniques, identifying key informants and organisations, and using them and their contacts as a means of expanding the area of coverage. This led to the identification of particular case studies which involved the researchers in core intensive interaction with the charitable field.

Thesaurus search on keywords

View keywords... Hide keywords...

Administrative and access information

Date of release:
First edition: 26 June 2015
Latest edition: 26 June 2015 (minor amendments only)
Copyright: Roderick Stirrat, University of Sussex
Access conditions: One of the key issues which emerged during our work was the salience of religious and ethnic identity in determining the form, scale and use of charitable donations. Religious and ethnic identity is a particularly difficult topic in the context of contemporary Sri Lanka. A civil war lasting over 25 years has only recently come to an end and there are still strong tensions between Sinhala and Tamil speakers, which often spill over into sporadic violence. In the last few months there has been a series of clashes between Buddhists on the one hand and Christians and Muslims on the other, including instances where charity has been the catalyst. Thus for example Christian charity has been linked by Buddhist extremists to what is called "unethical conversions" in the country, leading to attacks on churches and other places of worship. Muslim businesses and community leaders are also attacked for "favouring " members of their own religion over and above others. Meanwhile Sinhala and Tamil charity often has been, and remains, directed towards the support of extremist groups. What we fear is that much of our data could be used by interested parties to further their own ends and exacerbate tensions between communities. The problem is even worse for particular individuals and places. We interviewed some prominent individuals from all communities, and it would be extremely difficult to hide their identity. Similarly, a proportion of our work focused on certain sites where charitable giving is focused and again it would be extremely difficult to hide the identity of these places. Given these issues we feel that redaction of the material would be insufficient in and of itself to avoid these risks in general, and the identification of individuals in particular. In any case the result would be material which was completely worthless to any other researcher as almost every significant element would have to be excised from the material. Furthermore, putting an embargo on our data would be of only limited use: the tensions in Sri Lanka between religious and communal groups have a long history and show no signs of abating. Therefore, any users wishing to access the data must contact the data owner by emailing Roerick Stirrat at as as these files have been set to a higher access level due to sensitive content. In this email please include the reasons why you wish to access the data and your intended outputs. If your request is successful the depositor will contact a ReShare administrator with the users' details and the data will subsequently be released by a ReShare administrator.
Availability: UK Data Service
Contact: Roderick Stirrat, University of Sussex


No previously uploaded files

  (login required)

Upload syntax/code file

Charity, philanthropy and development in Colombo, Sri Lanka

I agree to the terms and conditions *

Confirm new syntax/code file version

A previous version of syntax file "" has already been uploaded and approved.

If you continue with this upload, the previous version of the syntax file will be overwritten with this new version.

This new version of the syntax file will be subject to the UK Data Service approval process before it becomes available for download.

Do you want to continue?


Back to top