News - 3. page

VSSN’s repository for research on Covid-19 and voluntary action

As part of VSSN’s goal to help maximise the visibility and impact of Voluntary Sector focussed research, we are collating research projects which focus on VCS and volunteering responses to, recovery from and implications of the COVID-19 pandemic. We have had a great response, and there are 18 studies to explore on this page.

If you would like your project to be visible on the VSSN website, please fill in the form here. It would be great to hear about projects in development as well as those in progress, as this should help to reduce any risk of duplication and open up possibilities of collaboration.

Read more and submit your research project here.

Voluntary Sector Review Call for Research Notes: COVID-19 and voluntary sector

Call for Research Notes

COVID-19 and voluntary sector

Voluntary Sector Review (VSR) invites original research notes on COVID-19 and voluntary sector for a rapid publication in early 2021.

The COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly altered many aspects of voluntary sector: disruption to normal life, social distancing and lockdown measures, furlough, job losses and economic crisis have profoundly affected how voluntary sector organisations operate and individuals’ volunteering and donating behavior both in short- and long-term. There is an unprecedented and immediate need for up to date evidence and new theoretical understanding of the current situation, yet the scientific research and publication of findings as a full paper can take a long time. To address this need, Voluntary Sector Review is experimenting with research notes as a new format of publication. We invite scholars from across the globe to submit short research notes on their ongoing research related to COVID-19 and voluntary sector. We are looking for research notes with promising empirical research findings as well as theoretical discussions that help to understand the potential consequences of the current COVID-19 pandemic for voluntary sector. We seek research notes that make a clear and original contribution.

The research notes can include research outputs that cannot be considered as full research or methodology articles. For example, but not exclusively, they can present intriguing initial and/or time-sensitive results and observations,  advance a new idea, theoretical perspective or methodological approach, describe new data available for other scholars or publish a brief summary of a study that is usually difficult to publish (e.g. with non-significant results).

Submission deadline is October 30th, 2020. We invite research notes of short to medium length (2,000 to 4,000 words). Research notes may follow a less strict paper structure than full papers but still need to make a valuable contribution to the study of voluntary sector.  They must have an abstract and must use referencing and follow VSR manuscript formatting guidelines. Please type ‘Research Note’ at the top of your manuscript, then submit it through Editorial Manager, as a ‘Research article’.  All research notes will undergo a fast track peer-review. A selection of 3-5 notes will be published in March 2021 issue and the rest scheduled for publication in next issues.

For pre-submission queries, prospective contributors are encouraged to contact the corresponding editor Dr. Daiga Kamerāde:

Online forum for new researchers – How to disseminate your research findings

Online forum for new researchers – How to disseminate your research findings

Thursday, September 24 from 1-2pm   

Our next session for new researchers will focus on ways to disseminate research findings beyond journal and book publication – this will include social media, blogs, posters, videos and building networks.  This will be an open forum for new researchers in the field of voluntary studies and voluntary action hosted by Vita Terry, Jon Dean and Jane Cullingworth from VSSN’s steering group.  We have two fabulous speakers:

Please note, you do not need to be a member of VSSN to participate – however, we do encourage you to join VSSN.  VSSN is a membership driven organisation that relies on its members for support.  Membership offers a number of benefits and is on a sliding scale; you can find out more here.

Zoom link:

Please contact Jane Cullingworth at for more information.

Emotions and feelings in voluntary sector work: Explorations from research and practice  

Call for papers for the first seminar to be held on 10.30am – 4.00pm, 22nd October 2020

 We are grateful for a small grant from the Voluntary Sector Studies Network (VSSN) to organise a series of events we are running from autumn 2020 on the role of emotions and feelings within voluntary sector work: in community, voluntary, social enterprise or co-operative settings. This may be in the UK, elsewhere in Europe or the world.

About the seminar series

This series seeks to bring together the community, social and psychological realm. The aim of these seminars is to explore the effect and role of emotions and feelings in the Voluntary Sector. Seminars will address this by considering cross-over issues through informed discussion, gaining perspectives from speakers with professional knowledge and co-learning through small group work, involving practitioner experience and research insights. These can later lead to articles, blogs or web posts in academic or practitioner journals. You are welcome to come as a participant or presenter.

Location and on-line

The three seminars will be in Preston (10.30am – 4.00pm, 22nd October 2020), Bristol or south west (March 2021) and London (June 2021). In view of current restrictions due to the Covid-19 virus, all three events will happen on-line and include a mixture including face-to-face events if, or when, Covid-19 restrictions are lifted.

To register your place at the first seminar on the 22nd October please complete the form on Eventbrite as numbers are limited.

How to keep in touch

If you have any questions the seminars please contact the initial planning group now: Dr Mike Aiken (Brighton), Dr Vita Terry (London) and Dr Julian Manley (Preston)

Guide to submitting a proposa

1. Aims and initial themes

The aims of these seminars are to encourage joint work and the sharing of insights between the sometimes separate arenas of the social (community, voluntary, social enterprise, co-operative work) with the psychological (the affective realm of emotions and feelings).

Attention to the psychological and the social is also important for workers and volunteers operating in tough urban/ rural communities facing daily anxiety in fragile organisations. The daily stresses and tensions of managers facing tough work, performance targets and disadvantaged communities may present splitting denial and other defences as survival strategies. For example, the entrepreneurial founder of a much praised project may feel locked into a role where their exit may lead to project closure. Trustees can face decisions that conflict with their values and beliefs.

2. Intended participants

2.1     Researchers, practitioners, activists, academics, policy makers and funders engaged in the Community, Voluntary and Co-operative sector (CVC sector – including voluntary, community, social enterprise or co-operative action).

2.2     People active in social, psychosocial or critical perspectives related to the affective realm – of feelings and emotions – within local communities.

2.3     Foundations, funders and local policy makers.

3. About your theme and contribution

Your contribution to the day seminars could be presenting a paper; organising a panel of speakers; facilitating a discussion, workshop or roundtable; analysing a particular situation. You can also contribute as a participant without presenting

Your theme may be a starting question/puzzle or dilemma; or a link to a theoretical framework or debate or contemporary or historical situation, or a cross-disciplinary insight, or international perspective that links to voluntary, community, social enterprise or co-operative action.

You may wish to start by exploring a key topic/puzzle/dilemma relating to work you have been involved in, or affecting practitioners or contemporary practice within voluntary, community, social enterprise or co-operative action.

Participants are welcome to draw from different disciplinary backgrounds (social theory, sociology, psychology or therapeutic studies, women’s studies, post-colonial studies etc) as long as there is a link to voluntary, community, social enterprise or co-operative action.

4.  The format for the session 

Your contribution could be:

4.1     a presentation (with space for questions and discussion)

4.2     a panel with 2 or 3 speakers

4.3     a workshop or carousel format with participants moving between tables that    highlight different questions

4.4     a short informal 10 minute input on a key issue or vignette

4.5     any other format you wish to propose (please advise, or discuss with us).

Please note your panel, presentation, workshop or other format should also allow time for some discussion, interaction, or questions. In total your slot should be either 30 or 40 minutes (that includes at least 10 minutes for questions/discussion.  You can also propose a short 10 minute slot for presenting a key issue/dilemma that you have encountered in your work that you feel needs researching further.

5. Outcomes from the seminars

The outcomes from the seminars may develop during the series. These may include:

5.1     Plans for joint articles (academic but also practitioner journals or magazines (including Voluntary Sector Studies, Civil Society, Organisational and Social Dynamics); contributions to the VSSN annual conference in September 2021; and to VSSN day seminars

6. Ethical considerations and questions

The organisers are mindful of the sensitive nature of research and personal experience that may be shared within these seminars. Customary support practices and ethical procedures will therefore be adopted to offer safe and confidential spaces where appropriate.

7. Timings

If you would like to submit a proposal for the 22nd October please send an abstract of no more than 250 words to Dr Mike Aiken: or Dr Vita Terry: The deadline for abstracts is the 1st September and we will aim to let you know if you are successful by the 24th September.


Reminder: Covid-19 and voluntary action research repository

As part of VSSN’s goal to help maximise the visibility and impact of Voluntary Sector focussed research, we are collating research projects which focus on VCS and volunteering responses to, recovery from and implications of the COVID-19 pandemic. We have had a great response, and there are 18 studies to explore on this page.

If you would like your project to be visible on the VSSN website, please fill in the form here. It would be great to hear about projects in development as well as those in progress, as this should help to reduce any risk of duplication and open up possibilities of collaboration.

Read more and submit your research project here.

Duncan Scott – a eulogy

By now many colleagues will have heard the terribly sad news that our colleague and longstanding VSSN stalwart Duncan Scott has passed away. He died on 18th May after a severe stroke.

Duncan was a pioneer and champion of voluntary sector research in the UK, and at the forefront of landmark discussions which led to the formation of VSSN back in the 1990s. He promoted voluntary sector studies in academia, through his long career as a Lecturer and then Senior Lecturer at the Department of Social Policy at the University of Manchester. He researched, wrote and spoke about a wide range of topics, often with a practical focus, including funding voluntary organisations, volunteering and service delivery contracts, social enterprise, rural deprivation and voluntary action and qualitative research methods.

Beyond this, and perhaps more significantly, he was a tireless advocate for community-based research. He recognised the importance of supporting those in voluntary organisations and community groups who needed to get vital research done quickly, but who had neither ready access to all the resources on offer in Universities, nor the sometimes breezy academic confidence about research methods. He played significant advisory and committee roles with, for example, the Institute for Volunteering Research, Greater Manchester Centre for Voluntary Organisation, Third Sector Research Centre and of course VSSN.

Duncan was very supportive of new researchers and doctoral students, finding creative ways to bring people together to discuss common issues and concerns in voluntary sector research. In the early 2000s he convened several significant sessions through VSSN around qualitative research. This drew from and formed the basis of several important publications with colleagues, including ‘Moving Pictures: Realities of voluntary action’ (2000); ‘Close Work: Doing qualitative research
in the voluntary sector’ (2005) and ‘Researching voluntary and community action: The potential of qualitative case studies’ (2005). Duncan was always keen to discuss the messy practice of carrying out research, and often implored colleagues to bring case study research in the voluntary sector alive, to act as witnesses, to ‘show us that you’ve been there!’

Many of us will have worked with or come across Duncan in our research, and will treasure fond memories of his self-deprecating humour, his commitment, his support, gentle challenges, insight and wisdom, and in the end of simply having spent time with him.

To help mark Duncan’s contribution to voluntary sector studies, we have set up a padlet page for colleagues to share reflections. You can access the page by clicking on this link: Simply visit the page and click on the + sign to add your comments.

Rob Macmillan
Sheffield Hallam University

Development grant projects about to go live!

We are proud to announce the results of the latest round of development grants which are all described below and we encourage members and others to get in touch with those delivering the projects and to get involved.

Mike Aiken, Vita Terry and Julian Manley:  Emotions and feelings in voluntary sector work: Explorations from research and practice

We would like to thank VSSN for the small development grant we have been awarded which will support us to set up a series of events from autumn 2020 on the role of emotions and feelings within voluntary sector work. This series seeks to bring together the community, social and psychological realm. Several of us in VSSN and beyond have already been discussing these cross-disciplinary themes as they affect – or intersect with – our existing research. The aim of these seminars is to explore the cross-over issues through informed discussion, gaining insight from speakers with professional insight and co-learning through small group work, involving practitioner experience and research insights.

The three events will potentially be held in Preston (provisionally 20th or 22nd October 2020), Bristol or South West (March 2021) and London (June 2021). However, in light of the current restrictions due to Covid-19 we will hold a mix of on-line and face-to-face events if or when restrictions are lifted.

The initial planning group is composed of Dr Mike Aiken (Brighton), Dr Vita Terry (London) and Dr Julian Manley (Preston). We will set up a distribution list shortly but if you would like to be kept in touch, or contribute and suggest themes please contact us:

Dr Mike Aiken on or Dr Vita Terry on


Tot Foster, Open University:  Small charities use of video

There are so many barriers to small charities engaging with video, not the least lack of time and money. Yet the rewards can be great – enhancing social media presence, recording and communicating impact. This development grant will be spent on a day long training session for ten small charities in making no/low budget films. As part of her PhD Tot Foster developed a new design-based approach to video production, tailored to small charities. The feedback from the training will inform the next iteration of the production process which will then be converted into an online course such as a MOOC.  The training will be offered later this year to a network of London charities under the umbrella of the digital skills organisation Superhighways. If face to face is impossible then the grant offers an opportunity to deliver and evaluate an early version of the online course.


Philippa Davies, Cardiff University: Women leaders’ experiences of gender (in)equality in Welsh sport leadership

The main focus of my proposal is to share the results of my research, which examines women leaders’ experiences of gender (in)equality in Welsh sport leadership, back with the Welsh sport sector, and in particular, Welsh sport leaders. One of the main reasons I researched this topic, was to share anything useful back with the sector to hopefully help women and men sport leaders. I aim to share the results by creating a bi-lingual report which provides an overview of the results and also deliver seminars to present the results and answer any questions (either in person, or due to the current situation by webinar).

I hope to work with leaders within the sector to ensure as many sport leaders (both voluntary and paid), who would wish to, will be able to attend (whether in person or remotely). I am so excited to have the grant which means I can make sharing back the results a more impactful, professional and, hopefully, a useful process for the sport sector.

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.


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: by March 13th 2020.

Please also attach contact details.

If helpful, please contact Jurgen Grotz 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.