New Researchers Online Forum

27th April 2021: 1pm-2pm

This session is a continuation of those run during 2020 which were aimed at providing a supportive environment online for new researchers. It is an opportunity to share information and experiences with others new to the field of voluntary sector research. The VSSN New Researchers Organising Group also attend to provide their advice and support.

It’s an informal and open space for people to bring their interests, questions, successes, and worries. You do not have to have attended any of the previous sessions to come along to this one and you also do not have to be a member of VSSN. We do encourage you to join though and you can find out more about that here.

As this is our first session of 2021 the first half will be devoted to supportive conversations between attendees, including introductions, sharing of interests, and current work – bring along something that you’d like to talk about related to your research, a tricky issue, question, or problem and we’ll be able to discuss it together.

With the call for papers having gone out for the VSSN conference in September ( we also want to give some time to discussing any ideas that attendees may have for contributions to the conference. The New Researcher conference sessions are always really positive so we would encourage everyone to think about getting involved.

We will also spend some time talking about what attendees would like to see from these informal sessions and what the next one could focus on.

The session will be hosted on Zoom. To register please visit:

For further information please contact:

Looking forward to seeing you on the 27th of April!

Best wishes,
VSSN New Researchers Organising Group.

Emotion and Feelings in Voluntary Sector Work Seminar 1

Thank you to all the presenters at the October 2020 seminar. If you were not able to attend the event and see the brilliant presentations, not to worry the videos are available here:, including:

‘Emotions in Managing Volunteers’ and toolkit ‘Working with Volunteers’ developed with the National Trust. Professor Anne-Marie Greene, University of Leicester School of Business.

‘Building workplace democracy: leadership as embodied dissent’. Conor Twyford, Wellington Sexual Abuse HELP Foundation.

‘Women Leaders and Philanthropy’ Paper and Panel discussion. Rachel McGrath, Northamptonshire Community Foundation.

‘Frustrated by ‘moaning members’: a study of volunteers in associational golf clubs’. Chris Mills, Manchester Metropolitan University.

‘Emergency volunteers: how to help those who help us’. Craig Needham, H M Coastguard and Bournemouth University.

‘Examining the motivations and emotions linked to the formation of a Voluntary sewing group formed in response to Covid-19’. Beverley Glibert, University of Worcester.

‘Storytelling, Strategies, and Success: The Case of the Reproductive Rights Movement in Ireland’. Dr. Sheila Cannon, Alexandra Lamb and, Dr. Paloma Raggo, Trinity College Dublin, Carleton University, Carleton University.

‘What is it like to volunteer? A Phenomenological insight, investigating the relationship between volunteers and their organisations.’ Carol Hebden and Dr Paul McDonald, Newman University.

Emotion & Feelings in Voluntary Sector Work: April 2021 No 2 of 3 seminars

Emotion and Feelings in Voluntary Sector Work:
Second of Three seminars (now via Zoom)
April 13th (10am – 12.30pm) 2021

This is to let you know about the second of three seminars examining the role of emotion and feelings in Voluntary Sector work. This event, will run on the morning of 13th April 2021 from 10 am – 12.30 pm (British Summer Time) and will, due to current Covid restrictions be held via Zoom. We aim to provide space for developing the discussion on practice and research insights into the role of emotion and feelings in any aspect of voluntary and community work.

The overall aims of this three seminar programme are to:
• Illuminate the role of emotion and feelings within Community/Voluntary/Social enterprise (CVS) work,
• Provide explorations from research and practice,
• Explore cross-over work between practitioners and researchers in a multi-disciplinary way from two arenas: (a) Community Voluntary Social enterprise action and (b) the affective realm of feelings and emotion,
• Explore cross-over work between practitioners and researchers from two arenas: (a) CVC action and (b) the affective realm of feelings and emotion.

The story so far
The first session, on the 22nd October 2020 brought together an exciting group of more than 30 practitioners, researchers and academics from the UK, Ireland, New Zealand, Canada, USA and western Europe. We examined issues such as: volunteers in emergency situations, compassion fatigue and emotional intelligence, the role of storytelling in our work, workplace democracy and embodied dissent, and the role of women leaders and affective responsibility within refugee initiatives.

The next step

Our second session in April aims to extend and develop the discussion on these and other themes relating to emotion and feelings in Voluntary Sector Work. There will be a particular focus on examining our practice in relation to emotion and feelings in our voluntary work. Hence, we welcome back researchers and practitioners who attended session 1 as well as those who were not able to attend but wish to share and analyse their experience in this field.

Format and scope
We will be pleased to see you – as a participant or presenter – at this second of three seminars on the April 13th 2021 (10 – 12.30 pm British Summer Time). There will also be a welcome back to people – from four continents – who came to seminar 1 and a big ‘hi’ to new people.
The session will start with a brief introduction from the organisers. We’ll point to some key headlines from the first seminar, back in October, and some reflections to kick of this second seminar.

We are delighted to be joined by two exciting speakers:

Joanne Vincett (Liverpool John Moores University) who will talk about ‘Choosing to reach beyond academic goalposts: Ethnographer as compassionate advocate inside an immigration detention centre’.

Pierre Monforte (University of Leicester) will discuss ‘When Refugees Become Family Members: Private Hospitality and Affective Responsibility within Refugee Hosting Initiatives in Europe’

We’ll have plenty of time to discuss the issues around emotions and feelings in voluntary sector work further in Zoom breakout rooms. This offers you a chance to contribute and reflect on your own professional or academic experience small groups or the whole group.

Register now to take part
Please register your interest for this seminar, whether you are a presenter or a participant via this link

Due to the current Covid restrictions this seminar will take place via the Zoom conferencing programme. We will provide separate ‘rooms’ for small group discussions as well as a welcoming space for the whole group sessions.

We welcome those who took part in Session 1 as well as new participants! Bring your coffee or snack for the breaks!

Thanks to our sponsors! This event is made possible by the generous support of the Voluntary Sector Studies Network.

Women leaders in Welsh Sport online results & feedback presentation and Q&A – Philippa Davies

You are invited to attend a one-hour online session on Monday 26th April 2021 1pm-2pm on the findings of recent research into women leaders’ experience in Welsh sport. The session is aimed at all current, past and aspiring Welsh sport leaders and aims to be useful to both your organisation and the wider sector in understanding and promoting women’s representation in Welsh sport. To register your attendance please follow the link at the end of this email. Please share this email invite and link with your board members, executive leadership and any other colleagues who may be interested.

This session will start with a 30-minute presentation from Philippa Davies on the results of doctoral research conducted on women leaders’ experience in their sport leadership roles in Wales. There will then be 30 minutes of time available for any questions or comments on the research results.

The results presentation will include:
– Women sport leaders’ experience in their roles
– Factors which advantage women leaders
– Factors which disadvantage women leaders
– Differences in women leaders’ experience between sports

A bilingual written report on the results of the research will be made available to sport leaders in Wales following the session.

You are invited to a Zoom meeting.
When: Apr 26, 2021 01:00 PM London

Register in advance for this meeting:

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

Income Tax Relief on Annual Subscriptions

Members will be pleased to know that they can now claim tax relief on their membership subscriptions as from the 3rd December 2020. VSSN’s name will now appear in the list of approved bodies on Gov.UK. ( Remember to claim it when completing your tax returns.

Lockdown number 3

Just to keep you all up to date – the VSSN office is open and operating as usual to provide support for members. A programme of events is being organised by the Steering Group for 2021 and our research repository is available for members to keep recording the work you’re all producing during this time to be shared with others. Please get in touch if we can help.

IVR hosts free half day on line seminar

IVR hostS free half day online webinar

On 20 November 2020, IVR hosted a free half day online webinar for the Voluntary Sector Studies Network with fabulous speakers from Newman University, Leeds Beckett University, UEA and from volunteer involving organisations in Norwich. Volunteering in Health and Social Care in the context of COVID-19: making a difference in a complex landscape of rising demand. We’re delighted to provide the recording from session one and session two of this event.

Please use the links below:

Reflections on the New Researchers Support Sessions

In light of the COVID pandemic, VSSN decided to expand its support to new researchers, with new regular online sessions held to provide space for people to connect and provide peer support.  The sessions were hosted by Steering Group members Vita Terry, Jane Cullingworth, and Jon Dean. Sessions were held across the Spring and Summer, with around a dozen attendees each time from across the UK and Europe, drawing in people who had not participated in VSSN before. Sessions focused on peer support in a pandemic, how to publish from your PhD (with Chris Dayson, SHU), and how to disseminate your research findings (with Emily Dyson, IVAR and Nic Dickson, Uni of Glasgow).

Here, one regular attendee Karin Biermann (doctoral student at Alpen-Adria-Universität Klagenfurt) reflects on the process.


What a difference it makes: Reflections on new researcher peer support

Karin Biermann

My mind map of doubt: Am I smart enough to undertake a doctorate? And if I am, is my area of interest exciting and influential? If it is, will I find a supervisor and be accepted into a university? And if admitted, have I the stamina and resolution to finish?

And on it went.

Doctoral studies are long and mentally, emotionally, and socially challenging, and in moments of self-doubt, there is the half-hope that there is a good reason not to start at all. Self-doubt acts as a process of self-deselection before and during the doctoral course.

The extent post-graduate students are orientated into and supported throughout their studies depends upon their institution’s history and resources, including access to networks such as Vitae. Yet, even if an offering were made to all students, doctoral studies are not homogeneous. Variations exist in the stages, years, intensity and flexibility, and according to location and subject. The process is complicated, living it is stressful and lonely, and social and collegial support offer essential counterbalance (Hazell et al. 2020). The question is, where can newcomers find encouragement, especially when their institutions fail to facilitate.

Enter another mind map doubt: picturing myself amongst the ‘next generation’ researchers featured in the university websites. This is confronting as I am, by all yardsticks, of mature age, meaning from a previous generation. Search engine results for “young researcher” compared to “new researcher” illustrates the point (for the daring, search “old researcher”, or look at images of “early career” or “early stage” researchers). Thankfully, VSSN did not make this stereotyping faux pas.

I was aware of VSSN, and its publication Voluntary Sector Review, and here is where the forum steps in. To be clear, I was a student, not a researcher in any stage or phase; researcher is a new identity. Luckily for me, the forum name – new researcher – clearly identifies the target audience, making joining-in accessible and transitioning to a researcher-identity possible, albeit a work-in-progress.

The first seminar in my first doctoral semester explored how history has led science being different from other dialogues, such as lobbyism, propaganda, or the trending term, ‘fake news’. History shapes the paradigms of science and knowledge as do the rules, norms – including stereotypes – and ethics of the institutions which cultivate them. In turn, the paradigms and the institutions set the stage for how science is scientifically communicated, even to non-scientific communities.

In recent VSSN new researcher forums, a raft of communication and dissemination alternatives have been presented. Not unexpectedly, getting articles published in academic, peer-reviewed journals to showcase science to the scientific community was a key topic. However, bringing science to a broader audience was covered by book writing and publishing and, in another session, tailoring reports and presentations to practitioners and policymakers, including internet and social media. To show that science is not only stuffy theories and formats, using innovative methods for collection and dissemination was made wonderfully clear by PhD student Nic Dickson presenting her The Art of Reconnection project.

What makes the forums unique is the down-to-earth, and welcoming exchanges within the group, notwithstanding the challenges of interpersonal communication in an online world. We come together because of an interest in civil society, a sphere with mutual support as one of its pillars, not an interest in a discipline. The group meet as peers, although, I must admit, referring to distinguished and accomplished researchers as peers may take a little getting used to. Presentations are a mutually respectful interaction within a small and at-ease group, not a top-down transfer of information from an expert other.

In my first doctoral seminar, Professor Matthias Karmasin encouraged us to read “Re-thinking science” as a critique of science and its relationship to society: ‘The more open and comprehensive the scientific community the more socially robust will be the knowledge it produces’ (Nowotny et al. 2001, p.258). Although the authors are making a larger point, the quotation allows peer support, such as VSSN’s, to be appreciated as more than a mutual exchange but as a precondition for generating valuable science.

Thank you, Vita, Jane, Jon and all my ‘peers’ for your contribution.


Hazell, C.M. et al. (2020). Understanding the mental health of doctoral researchers: a mixed methods systematic review with meta-analysis and meta-synthesis. Systematic Reviews [Online] 9.

Nowotny, H. et al. (2001). Re-Thinking Science: Knowledge and the Public in an Age of Uncertainty. Malden, MA: Polity Press.




Success of our first on line Voluntary Sector and Volunteering Research Conference

Voluntary Sector and Volunteering Research e-Conference 2020

For two days over 7th-8th September the annual Voluntary Sector and Volunteering Research (VSVR) Conference was held online. For more than 20 years the National Council of Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) has partnered with the Voluntary Sector Studies Network (VSSN) to run this conference and this year the Birmingham Voluntary Sector Centre for Voluntary Action (BVSC) also joined this collaborative effort.

The theme of this first e-conference was ‘‘Times like these’: Researching civil society responses to and recovery from COVID-19’ and we were really pleased at the response from practitioners and academics presenting up-to-date research on the current situation and recovery from the pandemic. The programme comprised two plenaries and two sessions on each of four themes, a session with the Editors of Voluntary Sector Review and two book launches.

Professor Tracey Coule and Associate Professor Chris Dayso launched the conference by considering theoretical frames to consider civil society’s responses to Covid-19. Themes that emerged included the way we frame civil society-government relationships and mutual aid groups, which indeed became recurring themes throughout the conference. These themes, as well as how civil society organisations have reformed and changed their practice, were also carried forward to the plenary on Day 2 with presentations by Karl Wilding (NCVO)   Anna Fowlie (Scottish Council of Voluntary Organisations) Brian Carr (BVSC) & Affan Cheema (Islamic Relief Worldwide). Carolyn Cordery who chaired the session ably assisted by Jon Dean.

A focus on volunteer mobilisation to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic brought papers from England, Scotland, Wales and British Columbia. And, while much mobilisation depends on organisations, the pandemic has seen returns to neighbourly volunteering and the geography of voluntary action being disrupted. The second volunteering session focused more on the experience of volunteering during the pandemic, from volunteer and organisational perspectives .

Philanthropy, fundraising and funding issues were the topic of session 1a and to some extent the cross-cutting issues in Session 3b. The research presented in these sessions was very varied, considering issues such as financial vulnerability and good grant making, the effects of furloughing on fundraisers, as well as governance, the role of local infrastructure and how social services data can help researchers understand Covid-19 responses.

As Covid-19 has had such a huge impact on society, it was unsurprising that two sessions discussed research taking ‘micro, meso and macro perspectives’ on voluntary organisations and Covid-19. Again with papers from England and Scotland, these sessions considered responses from local and national organisations working with homelessness, criminal justice, poverty and community businesses, as well as highlighting the lived experience of people.

Picking up the theme of mutual aid, two sessions considered both the conceptual insights and those from the frontline. These focussed on such issues as democratic participation, the influence of international responses on local mutual aid groups, neighbourhoods and umbrella organisations.

While we missed being able to chat to each other and presenters physically, as we would have done in a physical conference, the e-conference was a great experience and opportunity to share cutting edge research with a wider range of people than would otherwise have been possible, both engaging people who are physically distant from the UK and through social media. The sessions were recorded and can be found at: The next VSVR Conference is scheduled for 6th-7th September 2021 in Birmingham. We hope to see you there!