Joseph Rowntree Foundation

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) is an independent social change organisation working to solve UK poverty through research, policy, collaboration and practical solutions. JRF aims to inspire action and change that will create a prosperous UK without poverty, where:

  • More people want to solve poverty, understand it and take action.
  • More people find a route out of poverty through work.
  • More people find a route out of poverty through a better system of social security.
  • More people live in a decent, affordable home.

Joseph Rowntree Foundation
Formation1904 (1904)
Official language

JRF uses evidence from research, lived experience, data and analysis to monitor the effects of poverty and hold governments to account, as well as develop credible policy solutions and actions. It is working with private, public and voluntary sectors, and people with lived experience of poverty, to build on the recommendations in its comprehensive strategy – We can solve poverty in the UK – and loosen poverty’s grip on people who are struggling to get by. It is politically neutral and independent from all UK political parties.

Current work

Areas of work cover:

  • cities, towns and neighbourhoods
  • housing
  • income and benefits
  • people
  • society
  • work.

JRF-funded research is available to download free of charge from JRF's website.

Notable reports


JRF was established in 1904 by Joseph Rowntree to understand the root causes of social problems. Joseph was a visionary Quaker businessman and social reformer. Watching his father set-up a York soup kitchen in the mid-1800s helped Joseph to realise that such actions were not comprehensive enough. This led to a shift in the Rowntrees’ social action, from treating the symptoms to addressing the root causes of poverty. Joseph gave away half of his own fortune to set up various trusts; he was committed to understanding the causes of poverty and disadvantage in order to create a better society. He built New Earswick, a village in York, for people on low incomes, giving them access to decent homes at affordable rents.

Joseph’s son, Seebohm Rowntree, was also a pioneering social researcher who undertook one of the country’s first investigations into poverty. Poverty, A Study of Town Life influenced the Liberal Government’s introduction of Old Age Pensions (1908) and National Insurance (1911) as a means of protecting people from insecurity. His further studies of York (in 1936 and 1951) demonstrated the increasing effectiveness of welfare measures in anchoring the citizens of York in times of hardship. Seebohm Rowntree’s surveys were pivotal in a line of intellectual thinking that ended with Beveridge’s Welfare State. In addition his book, The Human Factor in Business (1921), set a standard for various workplace provisions; from pension schemes and industrial regulations to employee education and work’s councils. Such progressive measures led to him becoming an advisor to the Liberal PM David Lloyd George during the First World War. Seebohm helped to design welfare boards in the new state-owned munitions factories.

Both Joseph and Seebohm Rowntree had a clear vision about how to improve people's lives. Joseph outlined these ideas in his 'Founder's Memorandum' - a blueprint for his early charitable work. Although it was written in 1904, many of its aims remain at the heart of JRF’s mission today: carrying out social research, and working to influence society and policy through robust evidence and communication.

See also


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