News

VSSN New Researchers Online Support Session

Thursday 5th May 2022: 1pm-2pm

With our first session of 2022 we’ll continue to offer an informal space for people to bring their interests, questions, successes, and worries. Our definition of ‘new researchers’ is very broad and includes people in voluntary sector organisations who may be embarking on research for the first time as well as academic students who are carrying out research on and in the sector.

You do not have to have attended any of the previous sessions to come along to this one and you also do not have to be a member of VSSN. We do encourage you to join though and you can find out more about that here.

Agenda
• The majority of the meeting will be devoted to sharing with each other
• We’ll also discuss the Voluntary Sector and Volunteering Research conference 2022 – call for papers is out now (see HERE)

Joining information
The session will be hosted on Microsoft Teams. To register please CLICK HERE
For any further information or questions please contact: Daniel.haslam@open.ac.uk

Looking forward to seeing you in May.

Best wishes,

VSSN New Researchers Organising Group.

Steering Group statement on equality, diversity and inclusion.

VSSN Steering Group statement on equality, diversity and inclusion in our work and voluntary sector research

In recent years there has been an increased focus on failures within the voluntary sector to provide a space that is equally accessible for all, free of discrimination, and inclusive of people from different backgrounds. Several research reports into racism in the sector, sexual harassment and gender inequality, barriers to people with disabilities, and the class-based exclusion that takes place, among other issues, have come to the fore. Recent disclosures from leading charities about bullying, racism, and discrimination that have taken place within their organisations show that the sector is frequently not living up to its internal and external expectation as the part of society that should be working to challenge such behaviours.

Voluntary sector research is not immune from these problems. While a great deal of research takes place to illustrate discrimination and exclusion within charities and community organisations, volunteering, charitable giving, and leadership, the make-up of the research environment is not a diverse space. The Voluntary Sector Studies Network exists as a membership body for people in the UK and around the world interested in researching all aspects of voluntary action – running an annual conference and day seminars, publishing an academic journal and blogs, offering grants to fund small research projects, and providing networking opportunities and discussion spaces around related issues.

As the elected Steering Group of the VSSN, we wanted to acknowledge that there is a mismatch between what the wider voluntary sector research community does and who we see at our events and the makeup of our membership. Partly this is because of wider structural inequalities within the field of academia, as university researchers make up a lot of our members and attendees. But we realise there may be many individuals and organisations (especially researchers and practitioners of colour, researchers and practitioners with disabilities, those from the LGBTQ+ community, people from working class backgrounds, and those whose identity intersects across these identifiers, and others) who may not feel that VSSN is a space for them.

We understand that our organisational culture could be off-putting to those not already embedded in it. And we do not always get it right – for example, our annual conference in September 2021 ran over the dates of Rosh Hashanah, thereby excluding members of the Jewish community. This was a poor mistake on our behalf, and we have embedded new processes around the planning of our events to make sure this does not happen again. We will work to ensure that our events are as accessible as possible, and barriers to our community are reduced. We will work to have more direct engagement with people who are not regular attendees of VSSN events, and to support the many variants of voluntary sector research that take place, especially in the UK, where most of our members are from, and our work is located.

Over the coming months, VSSN will be working to implement new ideas as to how to better support and be more inclusive of a wider, more diverse community of researchers, and increase the diversity of our Steering Group. These include, but are not limited to:

– launching an equality and diversity policy which we will hold our actions to, and it will be an expected commitment for those standing for election to the Steering Group to uphold the policy;
– annual monitoring and reviewing of our EDI policies and actions;
– making sure more of our events focus on EDI issues within the sector;
– proactive communications to spread the word of what VSSN does to more individuals and research actors;
– encouraging EDI-focused applications for our annual Development Opportunity Grants funding;
– making our Annual Conference more affordable.

We are a volunteer-run organisation, relying on the time of the Steering Group and associates, and therefore we will not always get it right or be able to do everything as quickly as we would wish. But our core charitable objective is the promotion of public education about the voluntary sector, and we are not doing that if we only speak to certain people and issues.
If you have any questions about this, or would like to discuss it further, please let us know: info@vssn.org.uk.

Our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Policy can be found here

Adapting to Survive or Thrive: Civil Society, the Third Sector and Social Movements in ‘Post-Socialist’ Spaces: call for papers.

Policy Press are marking the 30th anniversary of the end of the Soviet Union with a special issue, find more details about the call for papers from Policy Press here and more infomation on producing papers for VSR on our web site here

All submissions must be received by March 1st 2022.
The the deadline for full papers will be May 31st 2022.

‘Transformational Moments in Social Welfare: What Role for Voluntary Action?’ by Georgina Brewis, Angela Ellis Paine, Irene Hardill, Rose Lindsey and Rob Macmillan.

A new free book is available on Open Access on Open Access from Policy Press which is described below by Marilyn Taylor of the Institute of Voluntary Action Research as

“Thoroughly researched and timely, this book provides a much-needed and welcome historical perspective to debates about the future of welfare in the UK today.”

During the consolidation of the welfare state in the 1940s, and its reshaping in the 2010s, the boundaries between the state, voluntary action, the family and the market were called into question. This interdisciplinary book explores the impact of these ‘transformational moments’ on the role, position and contribution of voluntary action to social welfare. It considers how different narratives have been constructed, articulated and contested by public, political and voluntary sector actors, making comparisons within and across the 1940s and 2010s.

With a unique analysis of recent and historical material, this important book illuminates contemporary debates about voluntary action and welfare.

Updated call for short contributions: understanding the voluntary sector’s role in shaping place, AND, the role of place in shaping the nature of voluntary sector leadership

We warmly invite suggestions for contributions to the first of two workshops supported by VSSN* aiming to shape an emerging agenda on understanding the voluntary sector’s role in shaping place, AND, the role of place in shaping the nature of voluntary sector leadership.We would like to receive contributions for SHORT presentations on the day from BOTH academics and non-academics alike. Please send these contributions to oubs-cvsl.org.uk by end of day on 14th January.

The first event will now take place on 8 March 2022 (online, Zoom) and will be a networking and participative event. The second (ideally face to face, accessible venue TBC) will involve a more structured format, focused on developing longer contributions which might constitute the chapters within an edited book project**. The longer-term vision is to develop a network and produce the book, which might contain a smaller selection of the workshop contributions.

Overall, the questions we want to address are:
• What difference does place make? Which characteristics of a place enable voluntary sector leadership to make a difference?
• What difference does voluntary sector leadership make to place?
• How does leadership influence and shape place through sharing leadership with other actors – formally and informally?

We are interested in discussing how you, through your work or personal engagements, think about how, when and why voluntary sector leadership is influential in some places and not in others. What is it about a place, or place in general, that enables voluntary sector leadership to make a difference? And finally, how does place change as a result?

Our starting point is perhaps best summed up in our recent paper published in Leadership (Rees et al 2021). We argue that voluntary sector leadership is networked and collaborative, and makes a real difference to the nature of activity and outcomes in a place. At the same time, something about the place influences the way the voluntary sector operates, and how it subsequently ‘leads’(or doesn’t) within a place. Our vision of leadership is inclusive and collective, not necessarily hierarchical (although it may be that too). Traditionally, voluntary sector infrastructure plays an important role in local areas, but hasn’t been widely explored in the academic literature (see Dayson et al., 2018). When we talk about ‘leadership’ we don’t mean solely leadership vested in a position or person, but instead advance an account that is relational, is created in a collective context, and is rooted in practice – this account, we believe, fits well with how voluntary sector place leadership actually occurs (see Terry et al., 2019).

To join the workshops:

We want to encourage as many contributions as possible to the first workshop, but in order to ensure it is coherent and useful to everyone, we ask you to submit a brief ‘elevator pitch’describing what you want to talk about. Please send an email to us with approx. 200 words describing your idea, and we will then develop this with you.

Our aim is to have a number of short and lively contributions at the workshop — 5 to 10 minutes each depending on numbers and we especially welcome different formats, including visual and story-telling, as well as allowing extra time for discussion and informal conversation.

Please send the email to oubs-cvsl@open.ac.uk

Best wishes,

Carol Jacklin-Jarvis and James Rees

(CVSL, Open University) (ICRD, University of Wolverhampton)

*This has been made possible thanks to generous support from a VSSN development opportunity grant,
**At this point, we have outline agreement with BUP/PP for an edited book on Place Leadership. We MAY invite contributors to the workshops to contribute individually or together to the book, but we also want it to be collaborative and not to close down other possibilities for publishing or further collaborating.

VSSN New Researchers Online Support Session 8th December 2021 1pm-2pm

In our final session of 2021, we will focus on sharing experiences from the year and look ahead to 2022. We’ll also share some information and feedback about the 2021 Voluntary Sector and Volunteering Research (VSVR) conference and the New Researcher sessions that took place there.

The meetings are an informal and open space for people to bring their interests, questions, successes, and worries. You do not have to have attended any of the previous sessions to come along to this one and you also do not have to be a member of VSSN. We do encourage you to join though and you can find out more about that here.

Agenda
• Introductions, sharing of the good and not so good of the research journey – we usually devote around half of the meeting to this (20-30 minutes)
• Feedback from the VSVR conference and looking ahead to 2022 – what can VSSN do to better support new researchers including in these online sessions (15-20 minutes)
If you’d like to contribute your thoughts ahead of the meeting we’ve also developed a very short survey which you can access here:
• Wrap-up and looking forward to 2022 (5 minutes)

Joining information
The session will be hosted on Microsoft Teams. To register please CLICK HERE
For any further information or questions please contact: Daniel.haslam@open.ac.uk

Looking forward to seeing you in December.

Best wishes,

VSSN New Researchers Organising Group.

Launching UK-CAT

First published 06/07/2021: https://charityclassification.org.uk/blog/2021/10/06/launching-ukcat/

Today we’re launching a new classification of charities in the UK, which aims to help researchers, umbrella bodies and others make sense of the diverse group of organisations that form the voluntary sector. The voluntary sector is defined by shared characteristics – legal form, volunteerism, non-profit distributing – but the sector covers such a wide range of organisations that to understand it you often need to look more closely at various subdivisions. This new classification system – which we’re calling UK Charity Activity Tags (UK-CAT) – adds “tags” to organisations to help understand the work they do, and identify groups of organisations. You can find tags for food banks, for example, or for charities working on rural issues. In all, we’ve created over 250 tags and defined rules for attaching them to charities.

We did this because we found the existing systems for classifying charities weren’t working. The Charity Commission allows charities to select categories when they register, but these categories are very high level and miss out on the detail of what organisations are doing. And the international classification applied by NCVO in the Civil Society Almanac (ICNPO) misses the nuances of a UK context, and includes too many “catch-all” categories. Esmée Fairbairn Foundation funded this project, involving CRESR at Sheffield Hallam University, NCVO, and David Kane, a freelance researcher, to create a new classification.

We’ve described our method in more detail in two previous blog posts: Classifying the charity register and A UK Classification System. In short, we took a sample of over 4,000 registered charities and manually classified each one, creating new tags as we went along and encountered different types of charities. This sample could then be used to generate and test keyword-based rules for automatic classification of charities, as well as training machine-learning models.

We’re launching the results of this project today, after previously presenting it at the Voluntary Sector and Volunteering Research conference in Birmingham earlier in September. You can view the results and download all the data from the project, including a full list of UK charities with the classification system applied. There’s much more detail on the project website, charityclassification.org.uk.

Although we’re launching this today, we don’t consider the job to be finished. We’re well aware that the complexity and variety in the sector makes our task a never ending challenge – so we need your help to make the next version better. The system will also reflect our experiences and biases as researchers and other people will have expertise in the parts of the sector that we have tagged.

We’d love to have your feedback on the classification system and the project generally. This could be feedback on the tags themselves: what tags are missing, what’s the right term to use? Or on how the rules are applied to the charities – are we catching some charities that aren’t relevant? Is a group of charities not getting captured? There’s a feedback form on the website above, or you can email feedback@charityclassification.org.uk.

With over 200,000 active registered charities in the UK, we won’t have got every decision right, or perfectly captured the makeup of the sector. But we hope that UK-CAT will provide a valuable tool for those who want to understand the voluntary sector better.

 

Activism and Voluntary Sector Research: two sides of the same coin or different currencies: Tuesday, 16th November: 11.00-4.00

In this one day on-line event, we will explore the relationship between activism and voluntary sector research. We invite presentation proposals from academia and from practice that illuminate the potential and challenges of integrating personal activism and voluntary sector research. Many voluntary sector researchers are motivated to produce research that contributes to social change and reflects their own commitment to challenge social norms, but institutional pressures, performance measures, and ideas about what constitutes ‘good research’ often mitigate against such integration.

This free event will explore:
• The divide between voluntary sector studies and activist research
• The potential for integrating personal activism and voluntary sector research
• Research methodologies for integrating activism and voluntary sector research
• The challenges of integrating activist goals into a successful research career
• The opportunities presented by the current emphasis on knowledge exchange and research
impact in higher education.

The final programme can be found here: VSSN Day Programme – 16.11.21.

Policy Press have created a special collection of free Voluntary Sector Review articles for the VSSN Activism and Voluntary Sector Research Day Event. These articles are free to access until 30 November. VSSN Day Seminar Nov 2021 Special Collection

Bookings are still open, please use the form below and there is no charge

To become a member of the VSSN network, please go to vssn.org.uk/join.

Online links for the morning and afternoon sessions will be sent one week before the event.

Looking at Emotion and Feelings in Voluntary Sector Work, by Mike Aiken

It simply isn’t true to say that all the best ideas in the voluntary sector start with a few people meeting in a busy café over a coffee and snack. That’s because you also need someone to jot down random ideas on a serviette! Then you need to type in a diary reminder for a Zoom call next week. And don’t forget to email and WhatsApp all the people and networks you’ve ever known who might be interested in the idea.

Well, that is pretty much the back story behind setting up three seminars – held between October 2020 and July 2021 – on the role of emotion and feelings in voluntary action. Our bold idea was to ‘open up the practitioner and academic gaze to the importance of understanding…the realm of feelings and emotion within the practice and research on the community, voluntary and co-operative sector.’ Call it interdisciplinary if you prefer. We certainly had quite a lot to scribble on our serviettes!

But what came out of this series? Certainly, voluntary sector work with refugees and migrants raised complex feelings for many. A researcher might face conflicts between their professional role and their compassion in certain fairly closed institutional settings as Joanne Vincent’s work suggested in our first seminar. In addition, volunteers that generously offered a space for a migrant in their own home might, as Pierre Montforte’s research indicated, also face complex emotional dilemmas.

The ‘workload’ involved in some volunteer activity – from search and rescue operations (highlighted by Craig Needham) to community work in sports clubs (identified by Chris Mills) and sewing clubs (researched by Beverley Gilbert) – can become onerous. But it sometimes involves little emotional support.

Within larger voluntary organisations, long hours of working or volunteering with little supervision can be hard to challenge in the face of the important cause (as Conor Twyford’s work suggested). Meanwhile, leadership issues remained important in Rachel McGrath’s analysis as well as the toolkits and organisational processes to support staff and volunteers discussed by Anne-Marie Greene.

Marilyn Taylor drew attention to emotions in community action and how notions of place and local sensibilities could be in conflict with different ‘rational’ knowledges held by, for example, city developers. Meanwhile Julian Manley, identified and analysed dilemmas within volunteering through the use of psychosocial approaches to the role of affect and vocation.

These three events – kick started by a small grant offered by VSSN – were organised by Vita Terry, Mike Aiken and Julian Manley with administrative support from Alina Belousova. With the outbreak of the Covid virus in March 2020, the whole series went on-line but still attracted over 80 attendees in total. These included researchers and practitioners from the UK, Ireland, mainland Europe, USA, Canada, New Zealand and beyond.

For those who weren’t able to take part in the live events, some videos and programme notes have been made available on the VSSN website. Do check them out here: https://www.vssn.org.uk/video-archive/emotion-and-feelings-in-voluntary-sector-work-seminars/].

There is clearly a lot more that we can learn from cross-disciplinary approaches involving voluntary sector work and the psychosocial realm of feelings and emotions. So we are hoping to follow up the seminars with publications that have emerged from this work. Watch this space! Meeting up to develop further collaborations between practitioners and researchers across these fields could also offer us important learning.

So, when you next go for that inspirational coffee in a busy cafe, don’t forget to carry a pen and find a serviette!

Successful development opportunity grants about to go live!

We are proud to announce the results of the latest round of development opportunity grants 2021. The successful proposals are described below and we encourage members to get involved in the activities and contact those delivering the projects.

Susanne Martikke: Acknowledging complexity, learning from failure – Greater Manchester Third Sector Research Network event about evaluation and learning

Evaluation and learning is a dominant form of research in the voluntary sector (VCSE) and directly relates to practice and the relationship between organisations and funders. GMCVO worked with six members of the Greater Manchester Third Sector Research Network to develop a proposal for an event that aims to start a dialogue between researchers and practitioners about the potential of moving beyond presenting polished accounts of success stories towards a nuanced appreciation that every successful project contains elements of potential or real failure. While the current funding environment incentivises a focus on successes, there is reason to believe that real learning not only about what works but how it works will only be unlocked when more attention is paid to the complexity involved in voluntary sector delivery. Doing so may not only benefit VCSE delivery, but also the field of voluntary sector studies.

The full-day event, which is currently envisaged as a face-to-face event in spring 2022, will have a Greater Manchester focus and will bring together VCSE practitioners and researchers from frontline organisations and support organisations with funders and commissioners. It will aim to include both VCSE managers and frontline staff, as well as volunteers and people accessing VCSE services.

The event will combine open and entertaining presentations about learning from failure on the one hand and smaller working groups where experiences and approaches to integrating a learning culture into daily work can be discussed in a protected atmosphere. Providing a safe space will encourage participants to reflect about the problem-solving that is inherent in delivering projects in order to begin developing their own stories about “failure”.

Dr. Carol Jacklin- Jarvis and Dr. James Rees: Voluntary Sector Place Leadership: setting the agenda and sharing knowledge between practice and academia

We will use the VSSN Development opportunity grant to hold two exploratory knowledge exchange workshops on the topic of Place Leadership. Rather than following a conventional conference format with separate presentations, these workshops will draw on insights from knowledge exchange theory to model a format that gives equal space to story-telling from the front line and theoretical insights, with the aim of generating new knowledge for practice and academia. We plan to hold these face to face in the East and West Midlands of England in early 2022, but we will move them online if necessary. We will advertise the events widely within our own academic networks as well as through VSSN, NAVCA and other voluntary sector networks in order to attract practitioners to explore their experiences and challenges in shaping place and to reach academics with an interest in bringing a theoretical perspective to the topic. Ultimately, we hope the workshops will lead to an edited book and we have been in discussion with Policy Press about this.

Emily Lau: A short documentary on the value of place leadership in small communities by Food Friends

Food Friends will use the VSSN Development grant to film a short documentary about the value of place leadership in small communities. During the pandemic, Food Friends a small project tackling poverty and isolation was able to pivot its operations to work with other food projects, secure emergency funding and work with some of those most vulnerable in their community. Lessons learned from the way local project leaders and small organisations responded during the crisis are important for planning and funding projects into the future.