Forging Voluntary Sector Studies

Meg Wright |

On Thursday 16th November 2023, VSSN was delighted to host an event to consider the way the Welsh and Northern Irish Voluntary Sectors are discussed and researched, and whether that differed in comparison to the rest of the UK.

The panellists agreed that the Welsh and Northern Irish Voluntary Sectors operate in contexts which are fundamentally different to the context in England. This has major policy and practice implications which are currently not thoroughly understood and any existing findings might not yet be reflected in UK wide policy.

Click here for the recording of the discussion:

Next steps:  This event was part of the VSSN event series ‘Forging Voluntary Sector Studies Research Involvement Networks within and across the four nations of the UK’. Look out for VSSN blogs about this event and information about the next event in Northern Ireland, in Spring 2024.

Our wonderful panellists included:

Dr Nick Acheson was lecturer in social policy at ulster University between 1997 and 2015 and Visiting Research Fellow at the Business School, Trinity College, Dublin University between 2015 and 2020. He was a co-editor of Voluntary Sector Review and served as scientific editor for the EU Russia Civil Society Partnership between 2019 and 2020. He published widely on the voluntary sector in Northern Ireland, Ireland and Canada. He is a Board member of Volunteer Now.

Denise Hayward has been Chief Executive with Volunteer Now since August 2017 and prior to that Director of Engagement since 2010. She has extensive experience in supporting volunteer involvement.  She has wide ranging expertise in public and organisational volunteering policy development, volunteering research and supporting good practice in volunteering.  She is experienced in third sector governance issues through many years working at a senior level in the voluntary and community sector.   Denise is an active volunteer for Portadown YMCA.

Celine McStravick is the Chief Executive of NICVA in Northern Ireland. She joined NICVA as chief executive in January 2023. She has key responsibility for engagement with Government Ministers and their departments on policy issues that interest voluntary and community organisations.

Carl Milofsky is emeritus professor of Sociology at Bucknell University.  His doctorate is in Sociology from the University of California-Berkeley. Before coming to Bucknell he taught at Yale University where he was a founding member of the Program on Nonprofit Organizations.  He was editor of the Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly as well as of The Voluntary Sector Review. He is author of Smallville. Institutionalizing Community in Small Town America and co-editor with Ram Cnaan of The Handbook of Community Movements and Local Organizations and a new version, The Handbook of Community Action and Practice.

Dr Amy Sanders is a Research Associate in Aberystwyth University as part of Wales Institute of Social & Economic Research, Data & Methods (WISERD). She is also a trustee of the Voluntary Sector Studies Network (VSSN). Her research interests lie in the intersection between equalities and the third sector and how civil society acts to influence policymaking. She is currently researching (1) how populism and political polarisation impact on local civil society, (2) patronage, elites and power relations in Welsh charities and (3) the developments of contentious repertoires and social mobilisation in climate activism. She completed her Ph.D. at Cardiff University on the engagement of equalities organisations in a Welsh third sector-government partnership. Amy’s previous careers was working towards rights, equality, participation and inclusion in the third sector.

Dirk Schubotz is Professor, School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work at Queen’s University Belfast. His research has focused on children and young people’s experiences and attitudes in all areas of their lives, as well as their rights. The research has also focused on a broad range of issues around sexual health and sexuality as well as sexual and gender identity.