22nd November 2018 (All Day)


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Diversity in the spotlight: Where are diversity and inequalities in voluntary sector debates and research?

First seminar: “Highlighting perspectives on race, culture and migrants in research and community settings”

This is 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.

This seminar will focus on race, culture and migrants both in research and community settings. It is being organised in conjunction with members of community groups and held in Birmingham city centre. Key speakers will be announced nearer the date.

Call for contributions

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.

We welcome presentations which address these themes, which introduce diverse perspectives to the voluntary sector research field and which explore experiences of BAME and migrant groups (including refugees, asylum seekers and economic migrants). We also welcome presentations inspired by different approaches and methods, such as visual and narrative research, and which will promote discussion around the inclusion of community activism, community development or community organising on these themes.

For example, inputs might include tackling the following questions:

  • Are there unique experiences that BAME or migrant voluntary sector organisations bring to the debate?
  • What issues concerning racial, cultural or migrant diversity do powerful voices in voluntary sector organisations and research settings need to address?
  • How does racial and ethnic discrimination intersect with other structural discriminations, and what are the effects within the voluntary sector?
  • How can debate and research move thinking forward, whether in research, policy or practice? What issues do we need to address?

If you wish to present a paper, make a visual or narrative input to the day, or contribute as a group, please provide a short abstract or descriptive summary of what you would like to present – of between 150 and 300 words – to explain how it relates to the theme of the day and what presentation format you intend. Please also indicate your organisation/group and contact details.

Please submit your summary to execofficer@vssn.org.uk  by 28th September 2018.

You can download this call for contributions here.

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.

Alongside proposals for this first seminar, we also 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