Duncan Scott – a eulogy

By now many colleagues will have heard the terribly sad news that our colleague and longstanding VSSN stalwart Duncan Scott has passed away. He died on 18th May after a severe stroke.

Duncan was a pioneer and champion of voluntary sector research in the UK, and at the forefront of landmark discussions which led to the formation of VSSN back in the 1990s. He promoted voluntary sector studies in academia, through his long career as a Lecturer and then Senior Lecturer at the Department of Social Policy at the University of Manchester. He researched, wrote and spoke about a wide range of topics, often with a practical focus, including funding voluntary organisations, volunteering and service delivery contracts, social enterprise, rural deprivation and voluntary action and qualitative research methods.

Beyond this, and perhaps more significantly, he was a tireless advocate for community-based research. He recognised the importance of supporting those in voluntary organisations and community groups who needed to get vital research done quickly, but who had neither ready access to all the resources on offer in Universities, nor the sometimes breezy academic confidence about research methods. He played significant advisory and committee roles with, for example, the Institute for Volunteering Research, Greater Manchester Centre for Voluntary Organisation, Third Sector Research Centre and of course VSSN.

Duncan was very supportive of new researchers and doctoral students, finding creative ways to bring people together to discuss common issues and concerns in voluntary sector research. In the early 2000s he convened several significant sessions through VSSN around qualitative research. This drew from and formed the basis of several important publications with colleagues, including ‘Moving Pictures: Realities of voluntary action’ (2000); ‘Close Work: Doing qualitative research
in the voluntary sector’ (2005) and ‘Researching voluntary and community action: The potential of qualitative case studies’ (2005). Duncan was always keen to discuss the messy practice of carrying out research, and often implored colleagues to bring case study research in the voluntary sector alive, to act as witnesses, to ‘show us that you’ve been there!’

Many of us will have worked with or come across Duncan in our research, and will treasure fond memories of his self-deprecating humour, his commitment, his support, gentle challenges, insight and wisdom, and in the end of simply having spent time with him.

To help mark Duncan’s contribution to voluntary sector studies, we have set up a padlet page for colleagues to share reflections. You can access the page by clicking on this link: https://padlet.com/angelaellispaine/DuncanScott. Simply visit the page and click on the + sign to add your comments.

Rob Macmillan
Sheffield Hallam University

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