Volunteering and the Voluntary Sector Review #volunteersweek

It’s #volunteersweek 1st – 12th June and to celebrate we’re making our Voluntary Sector Review (VSR) journal completely FREE to view and read for the entire 12 days! Simply click here to access the journal – happy reading!

We’ve also asked one of the journal editors, Bernard Harris, to share his thoughts how the Voluntary Sector Review has offered a crucial space for analysis and review of the sector in the six years since it first published…


Bernard Harris, co-editor of Voluntary Sector Review

Volunteers’ Week highlights the role which volunteering plays in contemporary life. Volunteering is seen as an important activity in its own right and as a way in which individual citizens can contribute to the welfare of others.

The ‘voluntary sector’ is seen as a partner to statutory services and – in some quarters, at least – as an alternative to them, and the boundaries between the voluntary and private or commercials sectors have become increasingly porous.

The importance of the role played by volunteering and the complex nature of the voluntary sector reinforce the need for independent critical analysis of the many different activities which these terms cover.

A unique space

The Voluntary Sector Review provides a unique space for this analysis. It presents the results of the latest academic research alongside discussions of new policy initiatives and contributions from practitioners commenting on practical developments within their own organisations and the sector more generally.

When the Review was launched in 2010, the founding editors explained that ‘the journal will include contributions on definitional and theoretical debates; management and organisational developments; financial and human resources; philanthropy; volunteering and employment; regulation and charity law; service delivery; civic engagement; industry and sub-sector dimensions; relations with other sectors; social enterprise; and evaluation and impact’ (Peter Halfpenny et al., ‘Editorial’, Voluntary Sector Review, 1 (1), 3-4). The importance of all these issues is as great today as it was when these words were first written.

In the six and a half years since its foundation, the journal has published ninety separate research articles, 63 policy and practice papers, three review articles and 42 book reviews.

It has welcomed contributions from newcomers to the field as well as long-established pioneers and has covered a variety of different topics, ranging from government-charity relations (including a number of early articles on the much-fêted – and possibly ill-fated – ‘ Big Society’) to analyses of faith-based organisations, donor motivations, voluntary sector regulation and the expansion of social enterprises.

A ‘critical friend’

One of the journal’s greatest challenges has been the need to avoid the ‘trap’ of ‘assuming that the sector is necessarily always a “good thing”’. As the editors observed in 2011, ‘this trap is particularly difficult to avoid for those who are drawn to researching the sector because of their commitment to … it’ (Peter Halfpenny et al., ‘Editorial’, Voluntary Sector Review, 2 (1), 3-4). However, as the original editors also recognised, we can only perform our role as a ‘critical friend’ if this trap is overcome.

Although the journal has covered a wide variety of topics since it started, it is clear that some issues have continued to receive rather more attention from our authors than others. At the end of 2014, the Editorial Management Board reviewed the range of topics which had been addressed in the journal over the years and noted a number of areas which had rarely been addressed.

These included such issues as membership and local associations, black and ethnic minority voluntary organisations, the voluntary sector’s response to migration and its role in promoting social cohesion, gender issues relating to the voluntary sector, international non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and the impact on the sector of social media and other technologies.

As we look forward to the journal’s next six years, we hope to see more researchers addressing these issues and publishing their findings in the Voluntary Sector Review.

Bernard Harris, University of Strathclyde, UK. is co-editor of Voluntary Sector Review, alongside colleagues Nick Acheson, Trinity College, University of Dublin, Ireland and Rob Macmillan, University of Birmingham, UK

Don’t forget VSR is FREE to read for the whole 12 days of #VolunteersWeek so why not take a look here? Or if 12 days simply isn’t long enough (and we agree it probably isn’t!) why not click here to arrange a free institutional trial of the journal?

Interested in submitting to the journal? Please do take a look at our ‘instructions for authors’ here and to find out more about the journal just click here

The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are solely those of the original blogpost authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the Policy Press and/or any/all contributors to this site.

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