News

Small groups, big issues? Researching local, community-based, and ‘below the radar’ organisations and action

Thursday 23rd May, The Circle, Rockingham Lane, Sheffield City Centre

The next VSSN day seminar will be held in Sheffield and is focused on small charities, community groups, ‘below the radar’[i] organisations, and informal grassroots action. Charities with multi-million pound incomes and global brands largely dominate discussions within the third sector press and drive related policy interventions. In parallel, formally organised voluntary sector service providers have also dominated much academic research. However, the need to pay close attention to small organisations, and the distinctive contributions and value of small groups and movements could not be greater.

We welcome proposals from researchers and practitioners which address these themes and consider the ways that different small organisations organise and work from diverse perspectives. We also welcome presentations related to this theme which will promote discussion around community activism, community development and community organising among different communities.

For example, topics might include the following:

  • How is austerity impacting on small charities and community organisations?
  • How are wider social and political changes affecting small local charities, community groups and new movements (in the UK and elsewhere)?
  • The value and distinction offered by small and below the radar groups
  • Challenges in approaches to studying ‘below the radar’ and grassroots groups
  • ‘Informal’ voluntary action, local support and neighbourliness
  • Relationships between small and large charities

This day seminar will bring researchers together with practitioners working or volunteering for small and community-based organisations and groups, to reflect on the day-to-day challenges faced in such work and action, and help build a collective research and policy agenda in this area.

If you want to contribute?

To submit a proposal to contribute to this seminar – either individually or through a panel session –please provide a short abstract or descriptive summary of between 150 and 300 words of what you would like to present and include your contact details and organisation/group. Please send to Alison Body a.m.body@kent.ac.uk by 1st April.

Please also indicate how your proposal relates to the theme of the day and what presentation format you intend. If you have any questions about the event or want to discuss contributions, please contact us.

[i]For example, see: McCabe, A. (2018) ‘Ten Years Below the Radar: Reflections on Voluntary and Community Action’, TSRC Working Paper 143, November 2018 https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/generic/tsrc/documents/tsrc/working-papers/10-years-below-the-radar-final.pdf

Voluntary Sector and Volunteering Research Conference 2019 – date and location

Happy New Year!

The Voluntary Sector Studies Network (VSSN) in partnership with the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) are delighted to announce the date and location of the Voluntary Sector and Volunteering Research Conference 2019.

The conference will take place at Aston University (Birmingham, UK) on 10th and 11th September 2019.

This is the leading UK-based interdisciplinary research conference for academics, policy makers and practitioners with an interest in civil society, the voluntary sector and volunteering. It is an opportunity to share research and network across different contexts, fields and disciplines from the UK and further afield. It is open to those at any stage of their career, from early-career researchers to those established in their field.

Please do add the dates to your diaries now, and the call for papers will be published in February 2019.

If you would like any more information at this time, please don’t hesitate to contact conference@vssn.org.uk

Kind Regards,

The Conference Steering Group.

Voluntary Sector Review: Call for Practice and Book Reviews Editors

The Voluntary Sector Studies Network (VSSN) and Policy Press invite applications for the positions of Practice Editor and Book Reviews Editor to join the current editorial team for the Voluntary Sector Review from February 2019 to December 2022.

Voluntary Sector Review (VSR) is a journal with a growing international profile that publishes high-quality, peer-reviewed, accessible papers on third sector research, policy and practice.

The new Practice Editor will join an existing Practice Editor, and will focus on editing practice-oriented papers. S/he will work closely with the VSR Editorial Team, the Editorial Management Board and Policy Press. Tasks that the Practice Editor will undertake include:

  • receiving submissions, identifying suitable referees, making editorial decisions on acceptance, revision or rejection in the light of referees’ reports
  • maintaining and further developing the national and international reputation of the journal
  • commissioning articles, encouraging submissions, and supporting authors for the Practice section
  • participating in person or virtually in twice yearly meetings of the Editorial Management Board.

The new Book Reviews Editor will focus on identifying and receiving suitable books for review, inviting and supporting reviewers, and editing reviews. S/he will work closely with the VSR Editorial Team, the Editorial Management Board and Policy Press.

Job Descriptions for both roles can be found here.

The Editorial Management Board of VSR is looking forward to receiving applications from those interested in taking up these positions on the editorial team of the journal from February 2019 for an initial period of three years.

Applications

The deadline for applications is 10th January 2019. Applications should be sent to: d.kamerade-hanta@salford.ac.uk.

Applicants should have experience of research, research methods, academic writing and /or teaching in a relevant field, as well as experience of working or volunteering in the voluntary sector/civil society arena.

All applicants are asked to provide a short CV highlighting relevant experience.

Applicants for Practice Editor should also provide a brief account of their strategic plans to maintain and develop the VSR’s Practice Section.

Prospective applicants are welcome to contact the current Practice Editor (Chris Dayson – c.dayson@shu.ac.uk) and Book Reviews Editor (James Rees – james.rees@open.ac.uk) informally to discuss the roles further.

Prospective applicants may also contact other members of the selection committee:

Daiga Kamerade, Chair of the Editorial Management Board (d.kamerade-hanta@salford.ac.uk)

Rob Macmillan, Editor (rob.macmillan@shu.ac.uk)

Julia Mortimer, Publisher (julia.mortimer@bristol.ac.uk)

Shortlisted candidates will be interviewed by the Selection Committee.

Conference report and presentations – Diversity in the spotlight

The report and all presentations from our recent conference, Diversity in the spotlight: highlighting perspectives on race, culture and migrants, are now available to download.

Thank you to all our speakers and attendees for a very stimulating start to what we hope will be a series of events exploring the marginalisation or absence of diverse groups from voluntary sector research and debates.

VSSN Steering Group and VSR Editorial Management Board nominations

Nominations for places on the VSSN Steering Group and the Editorial Management Board (EMB) of our journal, Voluntary Sector Review, have now been received.

In each case, the number of nominations did not exceed the number of vacant places, so an election was not required.

Click to read the candidate statements for the VSSN Steering Group and Editorial Management Board.

Angela Ellis-Paine, Co-Chair of the VSSN Steering Group:

“We were delighted to receive three nominations for the VSSN Steering Group. All the nominations were from current Steering Group members who had either come to the end of their first term of office or who had previously been co-opted members. You can read their nomination statements here.

With three nominations for three vacancies, the elections were uncontested and all three will be warmly welcomed back on to the Steering Group at our AGM in November. Chris, Chris and Jon have already made considerable contributions to VSSN, and we look forward to continuing to work with them over the next three years”

Daiga Kamerade, Chair of the Voluntary Sector Review Editorial Management Board:

“We received three nominations for the places on the Editorial Management Board: Mike Hemmings (York St. John University, UK ), Rita Mano (University of Haifa, Israel), and Jon Dean (Sheffield Hallam University, UK). You can read their nomination statements here. With three nominations for three vacancies, the elections were uncontested and we look forward to their contribution to the Board over the next three years.”

Call for nominations: VSSN Steering Group and Voluntary Sector Review Editorial Management Group

Would you like to support the work of VSSN more actively? Do you have ideas about how you’d like to see the network develop?

If so, please consider nominating yourself for a place on either or both of:

  • the VSSN Steering Group
  • the Editorial Management Board (EMB) of Voluntary Sector Review, the journal produced by VSSN with Policy Press

It is a self-nomination process; you do not need to be nominated by someone else.

Simply complete the VSSN Steering Group nomination form and/or the Voluntary Sector Review Editorial Management Board nomination form and return by email by 19th October.

You must be a paid-up member of VSSN by 22nd October in order to nominate yourself.  New members are welcome!

If you would like to be more involved but don’t want to join the Steering Group or Editorial Management Board, there are other voluntary roles which are equally valuable and help us develop our networks and activities. For example, we would welcome help with moderating the VSSN email discussion list.  This is an important role but not an onerous one. It would only take a few minutes of your time each week and full training will be available if required.  If you are interested in finding out more about this role please contact me at a.ellispaine@bham.ac.uk.

More information about the roles and the election process here. We look forward to receiving your nomination.

Conference bookings now open, with big discounts for VSSN members!

Bookings are now open for the 2018 Voluntary Sector and Volunteering Research Conference conference, with big discounts for VSSN members.

Organised by VSSN in partnership with NCVO, this conference provides a unique opportunity for academics, policy makers and practitioners from the UK and further afield to come together to share and discuss research that addresses the conference theme, as well as broader issues facing the voluntary sector and volunteering at this time.

This year’s theme is ‘Trust, transparency and accountability of charities and voluntary organisations: challenges for policy, practice and research‘.

Early bird rates now available. Find out more about the conference and book your place here.

Report from Jon Dean: Building bridges: Volunteering Research and Practice Workshop – 7 June 2018

 

During Volunteers Week, the Voluntary Sector Studies Network, the Association of Volunteer Managers, and the National Network of Volunteer-Involving Agencies organised an event focused on bringing university-based volunteering researchers and sector practitioners together. Hosted at NCVO, the five-hour workshop sought to build bridges between these two groups, who, frankly, should have a better connection. Around a dozen presenters, from universities and voluntary organisations, delivered short challenges to the 40 attendees, followed by lots of intense discussion.

 

Helen Timbrell, Executive Director of People and Organisational Development at the Samaritans, perhaps said it best when she directly addressed the need for us all to be a little less comfortable. Charities need to engage with research even if it shows they could be doing their work better, and researchers need to recognise that if their work isn’t made use of, what purpose does it serve?

 

Academic researchers are well-aware that our writing is often obtuse and our findings are hidden away in journals no right-thinking person would ever want to engage with; and charities frequently want a ‘quick win’ in research terms to showcase impact to a funder, rather than completing long-term and thorough investigations. Being honest about these different priorities is vital, especially at a time when both groups are seeing less available resource to devote to research.

 

As a member of the VSSN’s Steering Group, and a researcher focused on charity issues at Sheffield Hallam University, I will be the first to admit that I don’t personally do enough to make any research I do useful for sector practitioners. A lot of it is not always applicable in the day-to-day functioning of charities, focused perhaps on sociological trends rather than specific problem-solving, but talking to practitioners at this event showed a yearning for insight into the challenges the sector will face over the next decade, with the growth of digital and the retirement of the baby boomers the most frequently discussed issues.

 

What was invigorating to see at the end of the event was a commitment to be a bit better in the future. The different priorities will always exist, and they are unavoidable, but many individuals from a variety of organisations left the workshop promising to make some specific changes, such as a promise to invest resources in examining the sector’s failure to embrace greater diversity and what we can do about it, to a commitment to approaching universities for research opportunities. I myself will certainly commit to producing and promoting freely accessible, more practitioner-centred research in future (alongside the dusty journals).

 

The good news is we already know a huge amount about the voluntary sector: around what works and doesn’t work in fundraising; around the motivations behind and benefits of volunteering; and around charity leadership. Rather than re-inventing the wheel and doing the same research again, what events like this one reaffirmed was the need to get that knowledge into the right hands, and the fact that the opportunities to do it already exist. Through social media feeds, discussion lists, direct emails, and more engaged face to face events and conferences like this one, if everyone’s willing to be a little less comfortable, the rewards may well be worth it.

Report from Irene Hardill: Building bridges: Volunteering Research and Practice Workshop – 7 June 2018

Personal reflections

Rather appropriately the Building Bridges volunteering research and practice workshop, co-hosted by the Voluntary Sector Studies Network, Association of Volunteer Managers and the Network of National Volunteer Involving Agencies and supported by NCVO, was held during Volunteering Week. Through their networks the co-convenors attracted a diverse audience united by a commitment to understanding and supporting the growth of voluntary action and a desire to strengthen collaborative working between volunteer managers and researchers.

The atmosphere was incredibly welcoming, I met new people, and met colleagues some of whom I hadn’t seen for several years. I certainly learned a lot. The format of the day facilitated knowledge sharing, and the mobilisation of multiple knowledges. The latter effectively happens when knowledge is co-produced, and knowledge/evidence is presented in accessible formats targeted for specific audiences.

Key messages from the day for me as a university researcher include:

  • The importance of co-producing knowledge, of collaborating from the outset when identifying research questions
  • Of ensuring that research findings are presented available in accessible formats in order to inform decision making.
  • Of thinking of conduits that can be used to ensure that new knowledge is easily and efficiently ‘discovered’ by the sector
  • Of the importance of networks that create the spaces and places for conversations between those committed to supporting voluntary action

Irene Hardill, Northumbria University