22nd November 2018

The Bond Company, Birmingham , United Kingdom

Abstracts and programme available here

Conference report available here.

Speakers’ presentations available below.

This was the first of what we hope will be a series of seminars aiming to address the continuing marginalisation or absence of diverse groups from voluntary sector research and debates.

In 2013, Birmingham’s Third Sector Research Centre discussed the absence of Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) voices in voluntary sector research and in prominent debates concerning the sector at regional and national levels (Ware, 2013). However, even when such discussions take place, Witter (2017) observes how few individuals from minority ethnic groups have been present to explore issues which are about them.  As Etienne’s (2016) research demonstrates, minority ethnic voices are seriously underrepresented among academic researchers and in policy making circles, yet play a hugely significant role among community groups and in activism. Phillimore and McCabe (2015) also note that BAME organisations often exist largely below the radar and the dominant discourse of the UK’s voluntary sector.

As UK society becomes increasingly diverse and more globally connected, this creates new and distinctive challenges in how the voluntary sector – its research, policies and practices – respond to different needs and better represent the wider population. Yet, despite recognition of the lack of research in this field which addresses difference and diversity, there has been little recent challenge to the status quo and a dominant discourse which neglects significant voices. This needs to change.

Despite freezing weather and the street disruptions from the HS2 construction, most of our 30 or so delegates made it to our canalside room provided by the Bond, Birmingham, for a very stimulating day of presentations and discussions.


Asif Afridi, Birmingham Race Action Partnership

Race equality and the voluntary sector: learning from the inquiry into the future of civil society

Palmela Witter, independent researcher, London

Black youth and loss of trust: how can black women community activists create a platform for change?


Liz Bailey, TSRC, University of Birmingham

Women doing it for themselves: 1980s community organisation amongst black women’s groups in Bethnal Green

 Abi Woodward, CRESR, Sheffield Hallam University

Understanding the power of the ‘informal sector’: Exploring the lived experiences of Pakistani Muslims in Sheffield


Mike Aiken with colleagues from the Pledge Against Charging campaign, Sussex

Making a pledge: exploring the process of coalition building to defend health care rights in a hostile environment    

Lucy Mayblin, University of Sheffield

Asylum and Refugee Support in the UK: Civil Society Filling the Gaps?



Proposed seminar/discussion series

This is the first of what we hope will be a series of seminars and/or discussions, in which some absences in the debate around issues concerning difference and diversity can be explored with the aim of challenging the current orthodoxy of research in the voluntary sector field.

We welcome proposals to host future seminars or roundtable discussions which will facilitate further debate on different aspects of diversity and inequalities and might focus, for example, on gender, on sexual identities, on disabilities, on emotional labour or other related issues. We recognise the intersectional nature of these debates as well as the diverse aspects.

Working with participants we hope to draw together some of the threads from all the seminars and discussions in a paper or papers following the seminars.

To discuss the possibility of hosting or co-hosting an event in this proposed series, please contact Linda Milbourne l.milbourne@bbk.ac.uk