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Voluntary Sector Studies Network (VSSN) Online Day Conference: Volunteering in a Global Pandemic

VSSN Spring Day Conference Report: Volunteering in a Global Pandemic

This year’s Voluntary Sector Studies Network (VSSN) Spring day conference was hosted by the Institute for Volunteering Research at University of East Anglia in Norwich, hosted in collaboration with the International Association for Volunteer Effort (IAVE) and the International Forum for Volunteering in Development (FORUM) and the Third Sector Research Centre (TSRC).

The focus of the day was ‘Volunteering in a Global Pandemic’. Dr Carol Jacklin-Jarvis, Director of the Centre for Voluntary Sector Leadership in the Faculty of Business and Law at the The Open University, and VSSN Steering Group member, wrote the following:

In this extended day event VSSN researchers and practitioners from the UK heard directly from volunteer-involving and volunteer support agencies around the globe, with presentations from the Americas, Asia and the Pacific region, and Africa and Europe.  The inclusion of different voices from so many different contexts highlighted the impact of volunteering during the pandemic on a vast range of challenges.  From India, we heard about the role volunteers played in supplying oxygen. From Peru, we heard about the support that volunteer psychologists gave to women in domestic abuse situations.  From Trinidad and Tobago, we heard about the development of a volunteer e-mentoring service.  There were multiple stories from around the globe of voluntary action in local communities to provide food, assuage loneliness, and provide a support structure to meet local needs.  Indeed, it was this everyday and yet extraordinary, often informal and self-organised local community support that was perhaps the most dominant theme of the day – described by one participant as ‘love in motion’

A second theme was the implications for volunteering support and infrastructure organisations of this growth in informal community-based voluntary action – in a context where many more formal volunteer-involving organisations have had to limit their services due to lockdown.  Several participants reflected on how their organisations might harness the growth in community-based, neighbourly action, but also recognised that the relationship between community action and the formal part of the sector is by no means straightforward.  In the words of one of our participants, there is a ‘fine line between encouragement and interference’. Understanding and working along that fine line in very different contexts poses a challenge for volunteer alliances and infrastructure agencies.  Participants talked about the importance of the  ‘volunteering ecosystem’, ‘tendrils of association’, the ‘intersectionality of formal and informal’, and the enabling environment, but also reflected on very different political contexts and the impact of those contexts on structuring support to volunteers.  An example was the discussion of national volunteer strategies (or their absence) and differences in regulation.

A third significant theme was the role of digital in enabling volunteering during the pandemic and the importance of digital for the future of volunteering.  Digital technology makes things possible and engages people in new ways (as our global discussion illustrated).  Tech enables a ‘mobility of knowledge’ and participants gave examples as to how volunteering activity developed and grew through, for example, social media, and online volunteering. However, tech can also marginalise, and this needs working through in the future to ensure a move to digital does not further exclude those who are already marginalised.  In one example, we heard about partnerships between business and schools to give children access to technology, but it’s not clear whether such partnerships will continue beyond the pandemic.

The final theme of the day was partnerships and collaborative working.  We heard of great examples of collaboration between volunteers and business, and volunteer-involving organisations and government.  But this was where the darker side of pandemic volunteering also emerged – the absence of government support in some cases and the failure of centralised volunteering schemes; gaps between government and sector-led support and services; and questions about the legitimate role of volunteers in state welfare.

This was an extraordinary day – hearing directly from people involved in making volunteering happen around the globe.  It reminded us all of the kindness and generosity of so many during the pandemic, but, looking ahead, also posed important questions for research and practice – about the future of community-based volunteering and its relationship with formalised volunteer-involving organisations; the role of volunteering in future state welfare; and the shape of future volunteer infrastructure.

The panellists were kind enough to record position statements which are available to view here, which helped us get the conversation started. They are very powerful, so we encourage you to view them if you are interested in diverse perspectives about the role of volunteering in a global pandemic.

Seminar 3: Emotion and Feelings in Voluntary Sector Work: Thursday 1st July (10am – 12.30pm) 2021 Register now!!

Here are the details for the third and final seminar in our series. Emotion and feelings in community, voluntary and social enterprise sector work! It will run 10 – 12.30 am on Thursday 1st July. Join us, contribute to the discussions, and make contact with other people in a wider network who are interested in these themes

Please register, whether as a presenter or a participant, with the link below to confirm your place. It’s free! But you’ll work hard! Follow this link to register:

These seminars are organised by: Dr Vita Terry, Dr Julian Manley, Dr Mike Aiken and Alina Belousova and funded by the Voluntary Sector Studies Network. (


Marilyn Taylor (Visiting Research Fellow, I.V.A.R) has a long track record of research in relation to community policy and practice and has published widely on this subject for academic, policy and practice audiences. Her work has included: evaluations of several national community programmes; research with IVAR on place-based funding and small charities; and acting as a learning partner for the Community Organiser Programmes.

Julian Manley (UCLAN, Preston) researches human relations and social innovation from a psycho-social perspective.

Report on Emotion and Feelings in Voluntary Sector Work Second Seminar (April 2021)

How do emotions and feelings interact with our work in the voluntary and community sector? The second of three seminars on this theme, funded by VSSN, took place on the 13th April 2021 via Zoom. This provided a space for 24 researchers and practitioners – from the UK and beyond – to share and discuss our work in this area.

The seminar began by reflecting on the wide range of contributions from the first seminar in October 2020. Vita Terry pointed to learning from a practical tool developed by the National Trust to support the experiences and emotions arising from volunteers’ engagement. Further, volunteers’ emotions within settings as varied as the emergency coast guard, associational golf clubs and sewing groups was noted. Emotions within leadership roles and explorations through story telling processes were also noted.

Joanne Vincett’s (Liverpool John Moores University) published research has previously examined issues such as researcher self-care and compassion fatigue. Her session ‘Choosing to reach beyond academic goalposts: Ethnographer as compassionate advocate inside an immigration detention centre’ developed these understandings further in relation to experiences of migrants.

Meanwhile, Pierre Monforte (University of Leicester) presented on-going work on ‘When Refugees Become Family Members: Private Hospitality and Affective Responsibility within Refugee Hosting Initiatives in Europe.’ Pierre’s research, drawing on insights from Derrida’s work and Berlot, pointed to how compassion and hospitality relate to inclusion and exclusion: hospitality can be seen as conditional.

Marilyn Taylor, Houda Davies and Vita Terry (Institute for Voluntary Action Research, London), drew on learning from recent – and highly topical – research with voluntary sector leaders in relation to ‘Emotion and wellbeing in voluntary sector organisations’.

Mike Aiken, Vita Terry and Julian Manley presented a working paper to offer an initial orientation to some of the theory behind the complexities and dynamics of emotion as a causative force within voluntary action.

The seminars also provided open spaces for discussions between participants. Hence, in the plenaries participants raised issues concerning the absence of informal spaces for discussion of emotions in the age of Zoom meetings brought on by Covid-19. Processes for discussion on IT platforms could be seen as less conducive to the emotional. Swift and important decisions taken by voluntary sector leaders in ‘emergency situations’ may have been crucial. But this process may also lead to a longer term loss of voice for some volunteers. The differences between paid staff and volunteers in relation to spaces for expressing emotions was cited. A slower reflective approach can produce important ‘ah hah’ moments of insight. However, the pressures by government and other funders towards ‘professionalisation’ could squeeze out the spaces for expressing the emotional.

Dr Vita Terry, Dr Mike Aiken, Dr Julian Manley and Alina Belousova devised and organised these sessions to open up spaces for discussing the complexities in the interaction between emotions and feelings within voluntary and community sector work. The final seminar in this series, drawing from research and practice in a multi-disciplinary way, will take place in early summer 2021. We welcome suggestions and comments on themes and contributions.

Check out the VSSN website for the announcement of joining details for the third and final seminar in the series ‘Emotion and Feelings in Voluntary Sector Work’ due in early summer 2021.

This seminar series was conceived, organised and facilitated by Dr Vita Terry, Dr Mike Aiken, Dr Julian Manley & Alina Belousova. It was made possible by the generous support of the Voluntary Sector Studies Network (VSSN). Watch out for details of session 3 in early summer – and your chance to submit a paper or presentation or workshop (on-line).

New round of Development Opportunity Grants

Applicant guidelines: VSSN development opportunity grants

2021-2022 Call Outline

The Voluntary Sector Studies Network invites applications from members for proposals to support and develop an idea or activity that will benefit voluntary sector studies in the UK. The grant encourages using creative approaches using multi-media (such as podcasts, film/ animation) or can be used to fund seminars, workshops, roundtables, webinars and other activities linked to research, learning and teaching. The main focus will be to bring individual researchers and/ or practitioners and/or policy makers together to create a dialogue on a voluntary sector and volunteering related issue. In particular, we encourage applications that will provide on-going dialogue. In June 2020, we were proud to announce that three proposals were awarded grants covering topics on women leaders experience of Welsh sport, emotion and feelings in voluntary sector work, and training for small charities in making no/low budget films which led to developing an online course.

Eligibility and suitability

Successful applicants will be expected to:

Ensure that the proposed activities are undertaken and the grant is spent within 12 months of the notification of the award. However, any events should not be held in May, September or November due to potential clashes with key VSSN events and conferences;

Ensure the date of activities does not clash with any major religious holidays that could exclude participation;

Publicise their event as widely as possible, including through VSSN channels e.g. newsletter, discussion list and website;

Write a short report for the grants committee and a public facing note or blog after the event for the VSSN website;

Use this as an opportunity to advertise the VSSN to potential new VSSN members (including marketing via other channels, distribution of VSSN leaflets, use of VSSN logo, etc.)
Advertise the activity using the VSSN account;

Consider the venue/ location of the event to widen the reach of the audience, except where proposed activities are for a pre-specified group of people;

To follow applicable Covid 19 government guidelines when planning an activity.

Application procedure

Applicants for the development opportunity grants are required to fill out the application form either online or download and email to . The application form asks for details of the applicants involved (name, role, institutions), and a clear outline of the activities proposed, purpose of these selected activities, rationale for this proposal and timescale. Please include a provisional budget providing a breakdown of anticipated costs (e.g. travel, venue and equipment hire, editing etc.) and whether any other funding has been applied for or received from other sources. These costings need to justify the proposed activities. We do not expect applications to include costs for time for employed members, but would be happy to discuss this matter for exceptional circumstances such as for the self-employed or students for up to half of the bid amount.

You may bid for an amount up to £750 and can bid as an individual or as a group (although there will need to be a lead on the application as the main contact who will be responsible for the small grant). The cut off point for funding applications is a combination of how much money we have earmarked in the annual budget for the programme (£2,000 for 2021-22) and the application quality. The lead applicant must be a member of VSSN. If the application involves a group please specify the reason for this collaboration. The deadline for applications is Wednesday 9th June 2021.

If you are interested in using an alternative medium application e.g. video please do get in touch. Please send your application or any enquiries to

Selection process

The VSSN development opportunity grant assessment panel will consider all applications that have been submitted for call (applications submitted outside of this period will not be reviewed). Successful applications will be expected to provide a short end of funding award report on the activities, a version of which will be published on the VSSN website. We will announce the successful applicants end of July 2021.


Unless there are exceptional circumstances (in which case please get in touch with us to discuss), we expect that you will be responsible for paying upfront costs, reclaiming these from VSSN no later than 6 months after the activity (and preferably by the 31st July 2022). Payment will be made on receipt of both a breakdown of costs with associated receipts/invoices, and a short report of your activity.

New Researchers Online Forum

27th April 2021: 1pm-2pm

This session is a continuation of those run during 2020 which were aimed at providing a supportive environment online for new researchers. It is an opportunity to share information and experiences with others new to the field of voluntary sector research. The VSSN New Researchers Organising Group also attend to provide their advice and support.

It’s 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.

As this is our first session of 2021 the first half will be devoted to supportive conversations between attendees, including introductions, sharing of interests, and current work – bring along something that you’d like to talk about related to your research, a tricky issue, question, or problem and we’ll be able to discuss it together.

With the call for papers having gone out for the VSSN conference in September ( we also want to give some time to discussing any ideas that attendees may have for contributions to the conference. The New Researcher conference sessions are always really positive so we would encourage everyone to think about getting involved.

We will also spend some time talking about what attendees would like to see from these informal sessions and what the next one could focus on.

The session will be hosted on Zoom. To register please visit:

For further information please contact:

Looking forward to seeing you on the 27th of April!

Best wishes,
VSSN New Researchers Organising Group.

Emotion and Feelings in Voluntary Sector Work Seminar 1

Thank you to all the presenters at the October 2020 seminar. If you were not able to attend the event and see the brilliant presentations, not to worry the videos are available here:, including:

‘Emotions in Managing Volunteers’ and toolkit ‘Working with Volunteers’ developed with the National Trust. Professor Anne-Marie Greene, University of Leicester School of Business.

‘Building workplace democracy: leadership as embodied dissent’. Conor Twyford, Wellington Sexual Abuse HELP Foundation.

‘Women Leaders and Philanthropy’ Paper and Panel discussion. Rachel McGrath, Northamptonshire Community Foundation.

‘Frustrated by ‘moaning members’: a study of volunteers in associational golf clubs’. Chris Mills, Manchester Metropolitan University.

‘Emergency volunteers: how to help those who help us’. Craig Needham, H M Coastguard and Bournemouth University.

‘Examining the motivations and emotions linked to the formation of a Voluntary sewing group formed in response to Covid-19’. Beverley Glibert, University of Worcester.

‘Storytelling, Strategies, and Success: The Case of the Reproductive Rights Movement in Ireland’. Dr. Sheila Cannon, Alexandra Lamb and, Dr. Paloma Raggo, Trinity College Dublin, Carleton University, Carleton University.

‘What is it like to volunteer? A Phenomenological insight, investigating the relationship between volunteers and their organisations.’ Carol Hebden and Dr Paul McDonald, Newman University.

Emotion & Feelings in Voluntary Sector Work: April 2021 No 2 of 3 seminars

Emotion and Feelings in Voluntary Sector Work:
Second of Three seminars (now via Zoom)
April 13th (10am – 12.30pm) 2021

This is to let you know about the second of three seminars examining the role of emotion and feelings in Voluntary Sector work. This event, will run on the morning of 13th April 2021 from 10 am – 12.30 pm (British Summer Time) and will, due to current Covid restrictions be held via Zoom. We aim to provide space for developing the discussion on practice and research insights into the role of emotion and feelings in any aspect of voluntary and community work.

The overall aims of this three seminar programme are to:
• Illuminate the role of emotion and feelings within Community/Voluntary/Social enterprise (CVS) work,
• Provide explorations from research and practice,
• Explore cross-over work between practitioners and researchers in a multi-disciplinary way from two arenas: (a) Community Voluntary Social enterprise action and (b) the affective realm of feelings and emotion,
• Explore cross-over work between practitioners and researchers from two arenas: (a) CVC action and (b) the affective realm of feelings and emotion.

The story so far
The first session, on the 22nd October 2020 brought together an exciting group of more than 30 practitioners, researchers and academics from the UK, Ireland, New Zealand, Canada, USA and western Europe. We examined issues such as: volunteers in emergency situations, compassion fatigue and emotional intelligence, the role of storytelling in our work, workplace democracy and embodied dissent, and the role of women leaders and affective responsibility within refugee initiatives.

The next step

Our second session in April aims to extend and develop the discussion on these and other themes relating to emotion and feelings in Voluntary Sector Work. There will be a particular focus on examining our practice in relation to emotion and feelings in our voluntary work. Hence, we welcome back researchers and practitioners who attended session 1 as well as those who were not able to attend but wish to share and analyse their experience in this field.

Format and scope
We will be pleased to see you – as a participant or presenter – at this second of three seminars on the April 13th 2021 (10 – 12.30 pm British Summer Time). There will also be a welcome back to people – from four continents – who came to seminar 1 and a big ‘hi’ to new people.
The session will start with a brief introduction from the organisers. We’ll point to some key headlines from the first seminar, back in October, and some reflections to kick of this second seminar.

We are delighted to be joined by two exciting speakers:

Joanne Vincett (Liverpool John Moores University) who will talk about ‘Choosing to reach beyond academic goalposts: Ethnographer as compassionate advocate inside an immigration detention centre’.

Pierre Monforte (University of Leicester) will discuss ‘When Refugees Become Family Members: Private Hospitality and Affective Responsibility within Refugee Hosting Initiatives in Europe’

We’ll have plenty of time to discuss the issues around emotions and feelings in voluntary sector work further in Zoom breakout rooms. This offers you a chance to contribute and reflect on your own professional or academic experience small groups or the whole group.

Register now to take part
Please register your interest for this seminar, whether you are a presenter or a participant via this link

Due to the current Covid restrictions this seminar will take place via the Zoom conferencing programme. We will provide separate ‘rooms’ for small group discussions as well as a welcoming space for the whole group sessions.

We welcome those who took part in Session 1 as well as new participants! Bring your coffee or snack for the breaks!

Thanks to our sponsors! This event is made possible by the generous support of the Voluntary Sector Studies Network.

Women leaders in Welsh Sport online results & feedback presentation and Q&A – Philippa Davies

You are invited to attend a one-hour online session on Monday 26th April 2021 1pm-2pm on the findings of recent research into women leaders’ experience in Welsh sport. The session is aimed at all current, past and aspiring Welsh sport leaders and aims to be useful to both your organisation and the wider sector in understanding and promoting women’s representation in Welsh sport. To register your attendance please follow the link at the end of this email. Please share this email invite and link with your board members, executive leadership and any other colleagues who may be interested.

This session will start with a 30-minute presentation from Philippa Davies on the results of doctoral research conducted on women leaders’ experience in their sport leadership roles in Wales. There will then be 30 minutes of time available for any questions or comments on the research results.

The results presentation will include:
– Women sport leaders’ experience in their roles
– Factors which advantage women leaders
– Factors which disadvantage women leaders
– Differences in women leaders’ experience between sports

A bilingual written report on the results of the research will be made available to sport leaders in Wales following the session.

You are invited to a Zoom meeting.
When: Apr 26, 2021 01:00 PM London

Register in advance for this meeting:

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

Income Tax Relief on Annual Subscriptions

Members will be pleased to know that they can now claim tax relief on their membership subscriptions as from the 3rd December 2020. VSSN’s name will now appear in the list of approved bodies on Gov.UK. ( Remember to claim it when completing your tax returns.

Lockdown number 3

Just to keep you all up to date – the VSSN office is open and operating as usual to provide support for members. A programme of events is being organised by the Steering Group for 2021 and our research repository is available for members to keep recording the work you’re all producing during this time to be shared with others. Please get in touch if we can help.