Debate on the Future of Volunteering: Optimists vs Pessimists
Ockenden, Nick; Rochester, Colin (2015)

At the moment there seem to be two mutually exclusive views about volunteering in the social policy arena: it’s the best of times – more people volunteering, new opportunities for volunteering created by the the gaps in public services left by the retreating state, new and exciting programmes to support new forms of volunteering – or it’s the worst of times – the proliferation of vanity programmes, privatisation of programme delivery, fundamental lack of understanding of the nature of volunteering, attempts to link compulsory volunteering with receipt of state benefits and the hollowing out of volunteering infrastructure.

In view of its timing at a critical period just after the parliamentary election, this seminar will open with a debate. Nick Ockenden from IVR/NCVO will introduce the case for optimism and Colin Rochester of Practical Wisdom R2Z and the LSE will outline the case for pessimism. The debate will draw on a straw poll of VSSN members and supporters and will be open to vigorous participation by attendees.


Nick Ockenden is the Head of Research at NCVO, where he leads a team of 12 researchers. The NCVO research team includes the Institute for Volunteering Research, a world-class agency on volunteering which has undertaken hundreds of evaluations and impact assessments of volunteering programmes since it was established in 1997, within the UK and globally. His team also produces key outputs such as the annual UK Civil Society Almanac, the most comprehensive source of data and analysis on trends and characteristics of the sector. Nick’s particular research interests are focused on volunteering within small, community-based organisations and environmental and conservation volunteering. Outside of NCVO, Nick is a board member of the Social Research Association, vice chair of ARVAC, a Visiting Fellow at Northumbria University, and a volunteer at London Zoo.

Colin Rochester is a co-founder of Practical Wisdom R2Z and a Visiting Senior Fellow in the Department of Social Policy at LSE. Colin has worked in and with the voluntary and community sector for forty-five years as a practitioner, consultant and academic. He has made important contributions to the knowledge base on the voluntary and community sector and volunteering. He has written and edited numerous books, articles, chapters, monographs and reports. His latest book, Rediscovering Voluntary Action: The Beat of a Different Drum (Palgrave Macmillan) was published in December 2013.

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