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Volunteering in Health and Social Care: making a difference in a complex landscape of rising demand. Call for papers

Call for papers: Voluntary Sector Studies Network (VSSN) Day Conference, 19th May 2020

This event has now been postponed hopefully to the date of the usual autumn event in November.   Please look out for further developments.

Volunteering in Health and Social Care: making a difference in a complex landscape of rising demand.

VSSN’s next day conference will take place on 19th May 2020, hosted by the Institute for Volunteering Research at University of East Anglia in Norwich. We will explore volunteering in health and social care, considering the opportunities and challenges encountered in a complex landscape of rising demand and the difference volunteering makes in this context.

Pressures are growing on volunteer-involving organisations, locally-based community organisations and social enterprises to respond to increasing and diverse demands for volunteers to provide health and social care services. These range from national newspaper campaigns to recruit large numbers of new volunteers for a variety of new tasks and settings, to the current drive for social prescribing and increased community involvement.

This day conference specifically aims to explore:

  • the current context of volunteering in health and social care,
  • the current policy drivers
  • new and innovative approaches now being promoted to deal with demand,
  • what difference volunteering makes to health and social care, volunteers, volunteer involving organisations and wider society.

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: j.grotz@uea.ac.uk by March 13th 2020.

Please also attach contact details.

If helpful, please contact Jurgen Grotz j.grotz@uea.ac.uk to discuss contributions informally in the meantime.

We are also happy to accept poster proposals, if you wish to submit a poster please contact Jurgen on the email address above.

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.

Bookings will open shortly and the normal costs for day seminars will apply: £35 for members, £70 for non members and £25 for non members without institutional support.

We look forward to welcoming you at the University of East Anglia on May 19th 2020.

WISERD hosts successful conference with VSSN

During November Wiserd hosted a joint day conference with the Voluntary Sector Studies Research Network entitled ‘Civil society in the four UK nations: past, present and future challenges’. The day included a diverse range of papers from academics and third sector organisations. The first session presented research findings on civil society and the state across time and territories. Irene Hardill (Northumbria University) and Rob Macmillan (Sheffield Hallam University) presented ‘Moving frontiers: Voluntary action and social welfare’ exploring and comparing dominant discourses from the 1940s and 2010s on the shifting relations between the state and civil society. Hannah Ormston from the Carnegie UK Trust introduced the recent report ‘Carnegie UK Trust: The Enabling State’. This compared approaches to public policy-making in the nations of the UK and found the devolved legislatures involved a complex process of learning and dissemination but also enabled generally more favourable developments in Wales and Scotland in relation to civil society than those in England. Other presentations included analysis of changing governance and voluntary sector engagement in Wales (Amy Sanders Cardiff University, WISERD) and in Scotland (Jane Cullingworth University of Glasgow), highlighting the complex trade-offs many voluntary organisations have to negotiate as they seek to influence government.
Rich insights were shared in the panel discussion, ‘Community action in local places – Building leadership and leading change’. James Rees (University of Wolverhampton) highlighted the importance of relational networks within civil society in generating place leadership. This theme was picked up by Dr Sarah Lloyd-Jones, who outlined the Rank Foundation funded project ‘The Llechi, Glo a Chefn Gwlad (Slate, Coal and Countryside) partnership’ which will work with 9 community organisations to support the development of local leaders. Finally within this Panel, Sue Denman (Solva Care and Solva Community Land Trust) and Jessie Buchanan (Trecadwgan Campaign Group) provided rich evidence of how community ownership and delivery of social care can grow through local community action.
The initial afternoon panel focused on the ‘politicisation/ de-politicisation and/or re-politicisation of children and young people’s voluntary action’ and considered how this group engages in voluntary action. Contributions from Alison Body (University of Kent), Esther Muddiman (WISERD, Cardiff University) and Emily Lau (Canterbury University), highlighted the importance of how we involve children and young people and its subsequent impact on ongoing civic action. Rich empirical data demonstrated the role of schools and families in both facilitating and shaping values and action by young people.
The final panel reflected on lessons from practice, with contributions on ‘the impact of government initiatives to end rough sleeping on voluntary sector organisations across England, Wales and Scotland’ (Mike Hemmings York Saint John University); ‘Tensions from volunteer befriending inside a British immigration detention centre’ (Joanne Vincett Open University); and ‘Welsh Town Twinning: A future for civil society across borders, or the end of association?’ (Bryonny Goodwin-Hawkins Aberystwyth University). Joanne Vincett described the tensions negotiated by the volunteers she studied, as ‘quietly advocating’. This term captures a key theme emerging from the day, highlighting how voluntary organisations are continually challenged to find ways to advance their actions whilst maintaining working relationships with the institutions of government.

VSSN and VSR election results

VSSN is delighted to announce the results of recent elections for the VSSN steering group and the Voluntary Sector Review Editorial Management Board (EMB).

 

For the steering group:

 

  • Jane Cullingworth was re-elected
  • Vita Terry was elected
  • Jurgen Grotz was elected

 

For the EMB:

  • Feilim OhAdmaill was re-elected
  • Joanne Vincett was elected

 

Congratulations to the successful nominees and thank you to everyone who stood for election, it is much appreciated. We would also like to thank again retiring steering group members Linda Milbourne and Mike Woolvin and retiring EMB member Eddy Hogg for their huge contributions.

NCVO has just published the NRS best paper blog

NCVO has just published the NRS best paper blog.

Emily Lau, winner of the New Researchers Prize at this year’s Voluntary Sector and Volunteering Research Conference organised by VSSN and NCVO, is a lecturer at the Faculty of Education, Canterbury Christ Church University. She is completing her PhD in Education looking at young people and their experiences of social action. At the VSVR conference in September, she presented her paper which looks at how universities have a vital role to play in creating spaces where young people can actively explore their own role in civil society.

Young volunteers and social action: The task for universities, the voluntary sector and communities

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.

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.