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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

Guest blog: Researching what matters to charities and donors

Dr Helen Owen, Research Consultant at Giving Evidence, introduces a new search for ‘unanswered questions’

Though both charities and philanthropy are long-established, the academic study of them is nascent but growing rapidly: new centres have been established in various universities in the UK and beyond in recent years. There is therefore an opportunity to ensure that academic research into charities and philanthropy focuses on the issues which, arguably, are of greatest value to the people it intends to influence: charities, institutional funders, and private donors. But does it do so?

Charity Futures, the new sector think tank led by Sir Stephen Bubb, is launching a major consultation to find out the unanswered questions or topics on which donors, funders and charity leaders most want more research to help them in their vital work.

This is intended to improve the transparency on how research topics are decided. Whereas to date the choice of research topics conducted in the voluntary sector has been largely driven and dominated by the academic community, the consultation is designed to stimulate more/better research of the type that charities, funders and donors would like to see, and thereby to inform and improve their activities.

The consultation, to be carried out by the consultancy Giving Evidence, will invite input from any charity, foundation, public or private donor in the United Kingdom. Through an open ‘crowd-sourcing’ process, including a series of focus groups in London, Edinburgh, Bradford, Manchester and Cardiff, the project will challenge the sector to tell it what research would be of most use.

This approach – of engaging the intended end-users of research in the process of deciding what should be researched – is relatively new to the charity and philanthropy sectors but has proven powerful in other sectors in terms of generating research focused on the issues most salient to its intended users.

The pioneering and rigorous consultation process that Charity Futures and Giving Evidence will be undertaking is based on a process created and used by the James Lind Alliance (JLA) which works in healthcare, to allow patients affected by particular conditions, their carers and doctors to identify and prioritise unanswered questions for further research. For example, the current research on cataracts is heavy on early detection and how to improve management; however, when patients and healthcare professionals were involved in a recent JLA priority setting partnership, the top priority question for this area was how can cataracts be prevented from developing? The potential implications of the findings from this consultation are that more research will be available into the areas that can improve the effectiveness of charities.

The consultation begins this month, with focus groups in May and June. The final conclusions of the study (due in May 2019) will be a prioritised list of research questions which donors and charities have raised. It will be published and available to anybody, including academics, researchers, research funders, donors, charities and policy bodies interested in charities and philanthropy.

The project is supported by a distinguished advisory group of funders, private donors, researchers, charity leaders and umbrella bodies.

If VSSN members have any networks of practitioners that would be interested in participating in the upcoming focus group discussions, please contact Christopher Penny (Christopher@charityfutures.org) for further details and invitations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Call for papers – New Researchers Sessions

2018 Voluntary Sector and Volunteering Research Conference – New Researchers Sessions

The New Researchers Sessions run alongside the annual Voluntary Sector and Volunteering Research Conference, which this year is taking place in London on 6th and 7th September.

The Call for Papers for the New Researchers Sessions is now open. The deadline for submissions is 9th May.

The aim of the sessions is to give new researchers (i.e. those who are new to research or who are new to the voluntary sector) an opportunity to:

  • present their research
  • get constructive feedback in a supportive environment
  • meet other new researchers and network
  • network with established researchers and practitioners

These events are organised by the Voluntary Studies Sector Network (VSSN) and the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO).

The deadline for abstract submissions is 9th May. There is also an opportunity to be considered for the Campbell Adamson Memorial (New Researchers) Prize.

For more information, download the full call for papers.

2018 Voluntary Sector and Volunteering Research Conference – Call for papers

Trust, Transparency and Accountability of Charities and Voluntary Organisations: Challenges for Policy, Practice and Research

Public trust in charities, voluntary organisations and wider civil society is under threat from a perceived lack of transparency and accountability surrounding its work. From the Oxfam scandal, to the failure of Kids Company, and ongoing concerns about fundraising practices, the media gaze and political spotlight is increasingly falling on organisations’ work. This raises some important questions for research on the voluntary sector and volunteering:

  • How is the sector, and civil society more generally, affected by and responding to media and political challenges to become more transparent and accountable?
  • How is public trust holding-up in light of recent events, for individual organisations and the sector as a whole?

Alongside this intensified public attention, the voluntary sector and wider civil society continues to deal with a complex series of challenges associated with rising inequality, material hardship, and multiple disadvantage, whilst campaigning and advocating on behalf of some of society’s most seldom heard voices. This broader context presents, inevitably, opportunities and challenges for the voluntary sector and volunteering, and high quality research and analysis are needed more than ever to help understand these.

The Voluntary Sector and Volunteering Research Conference – organised by NCVO and the Voluntary Sector Studies Network (VSSN) – 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 and the broader issues facing the voluntary sector and volunteering at this time.

Conference details

Location: NCVO Conference Suite, London

Dates
9 May 2018 Deadline for paper proposal submissions
5 July 2018 Early bird rate ends
6-7 September 2018 The conference

How to submit your proposal

All delegates at the conference must pay the conference rates in order to participate, including those presenting a paper.

See the full guidelines and submit your proposal

You don’t need to present a paper to attend. Bookings are not yet open for the 2018 conference but you can register your interest here.

Aims and themes

The conference aims to:

  • Contribute to evidence and theory-building in the field
  • Develop emerging research ideas
  • Inform and be informed by the work of practitioners
  • Inform and influence policy

We welcome submissions for individual papers, panel sessions and workshops. Given the conference theme, we are particularly keen to receive proposals that address issues associated with trust, accountability and transparency, but we do also welcome papers that address a range of issues relevant to volunteering and the voluntary sector. As such, submissions should be also aligned to the following streams:

  1. Civil society, democracy and grassroots voluntary action
  2. Volunteering, participation and social action
  3. Advances in theory and methods
  4. Resourcing the sector: funding, fundraising, philanthropy and social investment
  5. Organisational management and governance, including law and regulation
  6. Historical perspectives on the voluntary sector and voluntary action
  7. Sectoral boundaries: private-voluntary-public sector relations
  8. Understanding, measuring and valuing outcomes and impact

When submitting abstracts, authors will be asked which streams they feel their paper will fit best within. We welcome contributions from a variety of disciplines, including sociology, social policy, politics, psychology, geography, economics, business studies, social anthropology, philosophy and ethics.

Campbell Adamson Memorial Prize

Presenters who submit a full paper prior to the start of the conference will automatically be in with a chance of winning the Campbell Adamson Memorial prize for best paper, which includes a £500 prize.

New researchers

The Conference is an ideal opportunity for new or early career researcher looking to meet, discuss and present their research with other new researchers in a supportive setting. A special series of parallel sessions will be run as part of the conference for ‘new’ researchers. Attendance at this part of the conference is subsidised, and is intended for all early career researchers in the field of voluntary sector studies, whether postgraduate students or working/volunteering in the voluntary sector.

A call for papers for the New Researchers Sessions is also open – details here.

Want to find out more?

Should you have any queries on the 2018 Voluntary Sector and Volunteering Research conference please email us.

 

Youth Action, Activism and Education One-day Conference: Open for Registrations

 

Youth Action, Activism and Education:

Continuities, Changes and Possibilities

9am-4pm

Thursday 15th March, 2018

The Spitfire Ground, St. Lawrence, Canterbury, Kent

Further conference information

 

Youth action, civic activism and education stands at an important crossroads. A number of recent political events across the world have evidenced the importance of, and need for, young people to play an active role in their communities – and to do so in critical and creative ways. While there is now a body of literature which refutes the view that young people are disengaged in political processes, there remain questions about precisely why and how young people experience social action and activism, and whether they do so in equitable ways.

 

Viewing such questions as vital, this free one-day conference will explore international, national and local perspectives on the changing nature of youth action, activism and the associated implications for education. This is a partnership event organised and supported by Canterbury Christ Church University, VSSN and Leverhulme Trust.

 

Places at the conference are limited. To register and save your place, please contact Professor Andrew Peterson (andrew.peterson@canterbury.ac.uk) providing your institutional/organisational affiliation and details of any dietary and accessibility requirements.

 

                   

Call for papers: VSSN Day Conference, May 2018

Developing innovative approaches to tackling complex social problems – opportunities and challenges

VSSN’s next day conference will take place on 9th May 2018, hosted by York Business School, York Saint John University.

Academic and media commentary on charities and civil society organisations often presents a pessimistic view of organisations facing many challenges, whether due to funding constraints, loss of autonomy and public trust, and reputational damage following links to public scandals. While a critical analysis of the voluntary sector role in shoring up competitive and contractual cultures is called for, we also need to recognise that alternative models and initiatives are emerging, especially at grassroots levels.

There are growing pressures on locally based community organisations and social enterprises to tackle increasingly complex social issues, but organisational actors are also active in developing different ways to address these challenges.

This day seminar aims to explore new and innovative approaches which are being put in place to tackle complex social problems, including enduring and increasing poverty and growing inequalities, and the forms and effectiveness of such new approaches.

The seminar will ask how organisations and communities are responding to prolonged public sector funding cuts, austerity and the upheavals caused by political uncertainties, including over BREXIT. It will explore a range of questions, for example:

  • Do new initiatives represent an opportunity to innovate and work together to successfully tackle complex social problems?
  • If so, what initiatives are emerging that present sustainable opportunities for the future?
  • Which initiatives are proving successful and which are not, and why?
  • What challenges do organisations face in developing new initiatives in the current environment?
  • Can successful strategies be replicated in diverse communities and what problems are encountered in achieving this?

 

Abstracts

We welcome contributions from researchers, academics, doctoral students and practitioners from a broad range of fields around innovative initiatives taking place in different communities, and critical theoretical debates on what is happening to voluntary and community sector innovation and enterprise in the current period.

We will be pleased to consider proposals on related topics which may include (but are not limited to) organisations working with diverse groups in the population, for example refugee groups, those facing inequalities due to geography, black and minority ethnic led, women’s and faith-based groups.

Your abstract should outline your proposed paper, showing how the issues you raise will contribute to the themes for the day.

Abstracts of 250-300 words should be sent to: m.hemmings@yorksj.ac.uk by March 12th.

Please also attach contact details.

If helpful, please contact Mike to discuss contributions informally in the meantime.

 

Attending the event

VSSN aims to promote an understanding of the UK voluntary sector through research. The event is aimed at researchers, academics, doctoral students and practitioners in voluntary organisations or foundations interested in the UK voluntary sector. We also welcome policymakers and practitioners engaged in relevant fields. We are always pleased to meet and receive contributions from colleagues in similar settings in other countries. The working language is English.

Booking for the event will open once the programme is finalised.

We look forward to welcoming you at York Saint John University on May 9th 2018.