1st December 2010

Esmée Fairburn Foundation, London, London , United Kingdom

The snow was blocking the train lines and there were arctic conditions in places. Despite this over 50 people were present at the VSSN Day Seminar which was held on the 1 December 2010 – with standing room only at times. The Institute for Voluntary Action Research (IVAR) was pleased to host the event with thanks to Esmée Fairburn Foundation for providing us with a comfortable room with a startling view over London.

Here are a few reflections from those who attended and took part:

‘…the Conference was fantastic: the venue and food was great and I loved the programme – particularly the section for New Researchers… it was always one of the original intentions of VSSN to encourage new researchers to present.’

Andri Soteri-Proctor (University of Birmingham)

‘…a good mix of presentations and a chance to meet some new people and catch up with some I hadn’t seen for ages…I was particularly interested in the various insights on ‘the Big Society’. Alongside this, the presentations on volunteering and volunteer management reminded me that, while the political context may change, questions about volunteer involvement and the position of their managers are ongoing. Some things change; others remain the same!’

Romayne Hutchison (IVAR)

‘As an international visitor, attending the VSSN event was an excellent opportunity to network with experienced and emerging UK voluntary sector researchers. A great balance of topical and longer-term research projects. An interesting and thought provoking insight into the current challenges for the UK voluntary sector. Impressed so many people made it through the snow and transport chaos, and a warm welcome was provided by the hosts and colleagues.’

Karen Smith (Victoria University of Wellington)

‘It was great to be in a room full of supportive people involved in wrestling similar crocodiles to me. The Big Society session was especially fascinating and illustrates how much things are in flux and up in the air. By contrast it was wonderful to speak to a colleague from Birkbeck teaching community development over lunch. After all the Big Society talk that felt really grounding.’

Sanjiv Lingayah (London School of Economics)

‘The event was extremely interesting but I particularly enjoyed the plenary session on the Big Society. It made me think about the emerging discourses in a different way and I now want to explore in more detail what it may mean for the Voluntary Sector.’

Ellen Hawkins (Sheffield Hallam University)

Thanks to all those who submitted abstracts. There was double the number of possible papers for the event so we were not able to offer everyone a slot. At this event we aimed to offer spaces for researchers in both academic and practitioner settings, to new and emerging scholars, and to international contributors. If you were unlucky this time please do submit again. Also please book early to avoid disappointment. The next VSSN Day Seminar will be organised by Chris Cornforth (our VSSN chair) and colleagues at the Open University on Thursday 19th May 2011.

Our presenters and panel members included Janet Newman (The Open University), Pete Alcock (University of Birmingham) and Karl Wilding (NCVO) on the Big Society. Bryan Collis (Wales Council for Voluntary Action) presented an account of ‘The Credit Crunch, Recession, Recovery and Public Sector Cuts: effects on third sector organisations in Wales.’

Chris Cornforth (VSSN chair) kicked off VSSN seventh AGM where we heard of the considerable achievements of the year. The successful launch and first three issues of the VSSN journal is a major step forward steered by Peter Halfpenny. We were all encouraged to seek subscriptions from our libraries and organisations and also to seek additional members from the research and practitioner community in this sector. Further details including the formal AGM papers, agenda and Chris’ informative presentation slides are available here.

After a sumptuous lunch and frantic networking we heard Rob MacMillan (University of Birmingham) on ‘Transforming the Voluntary Sector: a perpetual work-in- progress machine?’. We were pleased to welcome Karen Smith (Victoria University of Wellington) who presented her research in progress on ‘Falling into a Career in the Voluntary Sector: Career pathways and identity of volunteer managers in New Zealand.’ Three new and emerging scholars presented short papers. ‘On Our Doorsteps: Neighbourly relations between campus and community’ by Ceri Davies (University of Brighton); ‘Contextualising Partnerships for a Developing Third Sector: Case study on developments on researching networked NGO practices in Bulgaria’ by Mariana Bogdanova (Cass Business School)’ and Eddy Hogg (Northumbria University) on ‘The Demographic Opportunity: Volunteering in older age.’

Thanks also to all those who chaired session: Ben Cairns (IVAR), Margaret Harris (IVAR), Véronique Jochum (NCVO), Andri Soteri-Proctor (University of Birmingham), Colin Rochester (Roehampton University). Diana Wray, Eliza Buckley (IVAR) along with William Ackah (Birkbeck) helped in organising and setting up with Sonia Liff (VSSN Office). Many people helped us tidy the room at the end!