22nd November 2016

Third Sector Research Centre, University of Birmingham, Birmingham , United Kingdom

This VSSN Day Conference on youth social action brought together students, academics, voluntary sector practitioners and youth workers for a day of discussion and sharing ideas. The Seminar was hosted by the Third Sector Research Centre (TSRC) in association with the #iwill campaign as part of #iwill week, and was held at the University of Birmingham.


With such a positive response to the call for papers, the decision was made to fit five papers into the agenda, rather than having a keynote speaker. Following short introductions by Angela Ellis Paine (VSSN) and John Mohan (TSRC), and Emma Taylor-Collins (#iwill campaign), Sarah Mills and Catherine Waite delivered the first paper presenting their findings from a research project on the National Citizen Service (NCS). They introduced the concept of ‘brands of youth citizenship’ to discuss the state’s promotion of youth citizenship, framed as cultivating a ‘generation’ of young citizens, and also about what ‘nation’ means for NCS when it doesn’t operate in Wales or Scotland. They also highlighted the hidden costs of social action programmes, from travel to projects – especially in rural areas – to expectations about parents being able to afford ingredients for a cake sale, or being able to take sponsorship forms into work.


Next up was James Davies, who presented his findings from his doctoral research on young people and volunteering in Glasgow. James talked about how young people cited building relationships, gaining a sense of pride in helping others, and increasing their confidence as benefits of volunteering. There was some discussion about what ‘confidence’ really means to young people, illustrated by James’ examples of young people saying that after volunteering they felt confident enough to make a doctor’s appointment, or go to the hairdresser’s, for example.


After the VSSN AGM and a networking lunch, Ali Body and Eddy Hogg kicked off the afternoon session with their paper on their research with young people who had 10 years previously been involved with a housing association charity. Following earlier discussions about the cost of volunteering, Ali and Eddy talked about the difficulties some young people had in moving on from the charity, or transitioning from a beneficiary position to a volunteer position.


The next paper was delivered by Katherine Smith. She talked about her work evaluating a youth board at a housing association, finding that young people on the board increased their involvement in their communities since being on the board, and that their work on the board had a positive impact on the housing association’s organisational development. She also talked about young people being politically engaged, but voting less than older generations.


In the last paper, Janet Batsleer presented some early findings from her research with young women involved in online activism. She talked about discourses around the ‘good girl’, and what that means for expectations of young women’s participation in society. Her research highlighted the costs of online activism as emotional labour, particularly when the activism stems from personal experiences of vulnerability, and how this relates to the ease of telling your story online.


Finally, we heard from Vidal Kumar from vInspired, who thanked the speakers and talked about the need within the youth sector for practitioners to listen to, reflect upon and use the findings from research in this space to inform their practice. As members of the #iwill campaign’s evidence steering group, Vidal and Emma will be taking this back to the evidence group to think about ways to make more of the research that’s going on.


Bookings are closed for this event.