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Celebrating the 10-year collaboration between Voluntary Sector Review, the Third Sector Research Centre and the Voluntary Sector Studies Network

John-Mohan-resized

John Mohan

By John Mohan, Director of the Third Sector Research Centre, University of Birmingham, celebrates the 10 year collaboration between Voluntary Sector Review, the Third Sector Research Centre, University of Birmingham and the Voluntary Sector Studies Network.

To mark the anniversary, John has curated a free article collection featuring key articles from the last ten years. 

Despite the considerable efforts of many individuals and organisations to establish academic research centres in the voluntary sector field in the UK, it was only in 2007-8 that significant investments were made by the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and other funding partners in the research and evidence infrastructure for this field.

Ten years ago, in the Third Sector Research Centre (TSRC) at the University of Birmingham we were in the first phase of hiring staff, setting our course for a decade of highly-productive research and knowledge exchange. In parallel, Policy Press and the Voluntary Sector Studies Network (VSSN) were in discussions about creating a journal to provide an outlet for the growing body of research in the field. As Peter Halfpenny, Voluntary Sector Review’s (VSR) first editor, acknowledged in the first volume of the journal, the voluntary sector research and practitioner community owe a great deal to Policy Press for taking the risk of launching the journal in the midst of a recession. In TSRC we were pleased to be able to support this initiative, providing some resources from our core funding to assist with the start-up costs of the journal and, until 2013, the cost of administrative assistance. Since then VSR and TSRC have worked closely together and numerous TSRC staff, in an individual capacity, have contributed to the journal’s editorial board.

TSRC staff and students have also, of course, made a number of contributions to the journal and we are very grateful to Policy Press for drawing these together and making them available in this free-to-access collection of our work, to mark our tenth anniversary. The articles cover some of the core themes of TSRC’s work. Our substantive focus is primarily on the roles, resources and relationships of third sector organisations, broadly defined to include charities, social enterprises, and grassroots or below-radar organisations. This collection firstly includes over a dozen research papers on topics including:

♦ the nature of the third sector, including contributions on its definition, its character as a “distinctive” area of social life, the extent or otherwise of “hybridity” in third sector organisations, and understandings of the “Big Society” policies of the Coalition government;

♦ the measurement and classification of third sector activities, including micro-mapping methods for identifying “below-radar” organisations, delimitation of distinctive subsets of the sector such as environmental third sector organisations, or reviewing the strengths and weaknesses of local listings of voluntary organisations as research sources;

♦ discussions of how organisations perceive and experience change, including examples of organisational failure, responses to emerging changes in public service markets, or perceptions of their operating environment;

♦ contributions to debate about the impacts of the third sector, such as controversies about Social Return on Investment (SROI) methods, or uncertainties about the impacts of volunteering on individuals.

The journal of course provides an outlet not only for conventional research articles; it has a particular mission, which TSRC shares, to engage with policy and practitioner communities. In a fast-moving policy environment, the emphasis on shorter contributions, providing accessible summaries of the implications of research for policy and practice, is very important. TSRC has provided a number of such contributions which reflect on, for example:

♦ the nature of capacity-building, which has evolved considerably since the era of the Labour governments;

♦ the ways in which organisations might respond to challenges of measuring impact, or the practical implications for the sector of relatively abstract findings (e.g. relating to volunteering and employability);

♦ the character of public service reforms, such as personalisation in social care markets, commissioning and market stewardship in particular fields of activity, the “right to request” policies whereby organisations are “spun out” of core public services into new organisational forms, or social investment policies.

This free-to-access collection includes papers by the core academic staff of TSRC but it also reflects contributions from early-career staff and students. Many of these – over 15 at the last count – have moved into more established academic and practice positions in the field. It is to be hoped that they, and their successors, will take the work of TSRC forward and contribute towards the further development of VSR as a key academic outlet in this field.

A message from Julia Mortimer, Journals Director, Bristol University Press and Policy Press

Julia MortimerOn behalf of everyone at Policy Press I’d like to thank the TSRC for their support for Voluntary Sector Review and their continuing dedication to research and knowledge exchange in third sector studies. 2019 is the joint 10th anniversary of the TSRC and VSR, and a great opportunity to celebrate some of the contributions which helped shape the journal from its earliest days and develop its mission from supporting research and knowledge exchange in third sector studies in the UK, to helping to build links between researchers, policymakers and practitioners internationally.

 

 

A message from Jane Cullingworth, Co-Chair Voluntary Sector Studies Network (VSSN)

Jane Cullingworth Dec 17On behalf of VSSN, I would like to wish TSRC a happy 10th anniversary! Ten years is an impressive milestone, particularly in the current climate. TSRC has been and continues to be an important part of the voluntary sector research community. Through its research and knowledge exchange activities, it has facilitated a deeper understanding of the UK sector. We would like to acknowledge the key role that TSRC played, with VSSN, in supporting the establishment of VSR – particularly through the funding of early administrative support and ongoing contributions to the editorial team, pool of reviewers and article submissions. Thank you and Happy Anniversary.

 

Voluntary Sector Review article collection – Free to access until 30 April 2019

Research articles:

2018
Mohan, J; Yoon, Y; Kendall, J; Brookes, N (2018) The financial position of English voluntary organisations: relationships between subjective perceptions and financial realities. Voluntary Sector Review, Volume 9, Number 3, pp. 233-253

2015
Harflett, N. (2015) “Bringing with them personal interests”: the role of cultural capital in explaining who volunteers, Voluntary Sector Review, 6, 3-19.
Mullins, D, Jones, T (2015) From ‘contractors to the state’ to ‘protectors of public value’? Relations between non-profit housing hybrids and the state in England. Voluntary Sector Review, Volume 6, Number 3, pp. 261-283
Phillimore, J, McCabe, Angus (2015) Small-scale civil society and social policy: the importance of experiential learning, insider knowledge and diverse motivations in shaping community action. Voluntary Sector Review, Volume 6, Number 2, pp. 135-151

2014
Damm, C (2014) A mid-term review of third sector involvement in the Work Programme. Voluntary Sector Review, Volume 5, Number 1, pp. 97-116(20)

2013
Arvidson, M, Lyon, F, McKay, S, Moro, D (2013) Valuing the social? The nature and controversies of measuring social return on investment (SROI). Voluntary Sector Review, Volume 4, Number 1, pp. 3-18
Clifford, D, Geyne-Rajme, F, Smith, G, Edwards, R, Büchs, M,  Saunders, C (2013) Mapping the environmental third sector in England: a distinctive field of activity? Voluntary Sector Review, Volume 4, Number 2, pp. 241-264
Ellis Paine, A, McKay, S, Moro, D (2013) Does volunteering improve employability? Insights from the British Household Panel Survey and beyond. Voluntary Sector Review, Volume 4, Number 3, pp. 355-376
Macmillan, R (2013) ‘Distinction’ in the third sector. Voluntary Sector Review, Volume 4, Number 1, pp. 39-54
Macmillan, R (2013) Decoupling the state and the third sector? The ‘Big Society’ as a spontaneous.Voluntary Sector Review, Volume 4, Number 2, pp. 185-203

2012
Alcock, P, Kendall, J, Parry, Jane (2012) From the third sector to the Big Society: consensus or contention in the 2010 UK General Election? Voluntary Sector Review, Volume 3, Number 3, pp. 347-363
Mohan, J (2012) Entering the lists: what can we learn about the voluntary sector in England from listings produced by local infrastructure bodies? Voluntary Sector Review, Volume 3, Number 2, pp. 197-215
Scott, D, Teasdale, S (2012) Whose failure? Learning from the financial collapse of a social enterprise in ‘Steeltown’. Voluntary Sector Review, Volume 3, Number 2, pp. 139-155
Soteri-Proctor, A, Alcock, P (2012) Micro-mapping: what lies beneath the third sector radar? Voluntary Sector Review, Volume 3, Number 3, pp. 379-398

2011
Buckingham, H (2011) Hybridity, diversity and the division of labour in the third sector: what can we learn from homelessness organisations in the UK? Voluntary Sector Review, Volume 2, Number 2, pp. 157-175(19)
Mills, A, Meek, R, Gojkovic, Dina (2011) Exploring the relationship between the voluntary sector and the state in criminal justice. Voluntary Sector Review, Volume 2, Number 2, pp. 193-211
Teasdale  S, McKay  S, Phillimore J, Teasdale N (2011) Exploring gender and social entrepreneurship: women’s leadership, employment and participation in the third sector and social enterprises.  Voluntary Sector Review, Volume 2, Number 1, pp. 57-76

2010
Alcock, P (2010) A strategic unity: defining the third sector in the UK. Voluntary Sector Review, Volume 1, Number 1, pp. 5-24
Teasdale, S (2010) Explaining the multifaceted nature of social enterprise: impression management as (social) entrepreneurial behaviour. Voluntary Sector Review, Volume 1, Number 3, pp. 271-292

Policy and practice contributions

2017
Dayson, C, Ellis Paine, A, Macmillan, R, Sanderson, E (2017) Third sector capacity building: the institutional embeddedness of supply. Voluntary Sector Review, Volume 8, Number 2, pp. 149-168

2016
Harlock, J, Metcalf, L (2016) Measuring impact: prospects and challenges for third sector organisations. Voluntary Sector Review, Volume 7, Number 1, pp. 101-108

2015
Livingstone, I, Macmillan, R (2015) More than a provider: the voluntary sector, commissioning and stewardship for a diverse market in criminal justice. Voluntary Sector Review, Volume 6, Number 2, pp. 221-230
Walton, C, Macmillan, R (2015) What’s the problem? The role of diagnosis in building the capacity of voluntary and community organisations. Voluntary Sector Review, Volume 6, Number 3, pp. 325-332
Buckingham, H, Jolley, A (2015) Feeding the debate: a local food bank explains itself. Voluntary Sector Review, Volume 6, Number 3, pp. 311-323

2014
Kamerāde, D, Ellis Paine, A (2014) Volunteering and employability: implications for policy and practice. Voluntary Sector Review, Volume 5, Number 2, pp. 259-273

2013
Macmillan, R (2013) Demand-led capacity building, the Big Lottery Fund and market-making in third sector support services. Voluntary Sector Review, Volume 4, Number 3, pp. 385-394

2012
Miller, R, Hall, K, Millar, R (2012) Right to Request social enterprises: a welcome addition to third sector delivery of English healthcare? Voluntary Sector Review, Volume 3, Number 2, July 2012, pp. 275-285

2011
Dickinson, H and Miller, R. (2011) GP commissioning: implications for the third sector, Voluntary Sector Review, 2(2), 265-273.
Macmillan, R (2011) ‘Supporting’ the voluntary sector in an age of austerity: the UK coalition government’s consultation on improving support for frontline civil society organisations in England. Voluntary Sector Review, Volume 2, Number 1, March 2011, pp. 115-124

2010
Westall, A (2010) UK government policy and ‘social investment. Voluntary Sector Review. Volume 1, Number 1, pp. 119-124
Harlock, J (2010) Personalisation: emerging implications for the voluntary and community sector. Voluntary Sector Review, Volume 1, Number 3, pp. 371-378
Alcock, P (2010) Building the Big Society: a new policy environment for the third sector in England. Voluntary Sector Review, Volume 1, Number 3, November 2010, pp. 379-389

 

The role of co-production in research and practice

author

Aksel Ersoy

Aksel Ersoy, editor of The impact of co-production, discusses the debate around the ways public engagement can go beyond a simple consultation and how it can be ‘relevant’ in the academia.

“This topic is particularly essential for those who seek economic justification for universities’ actions and research agenda as opposed to academics working especially in the Arts and Humanities divisions.

As a response to this challenge, the mechanisms for measuring and embedding ‘community-oriented impact’ have begun to take hold through the Research Excellence Framework (REF) and bodies designed to support universities in their public engagement strategies such as the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE), The Wellcome Trust, Catalyst Public Engagement Beacons, and embedded university public engagement departments in the UK. New funding streams have opened-up like the Research Council UK (RCUK) Connected Communities programme, designed to promote collaborative endeavours and co-production between academics, artists, public service providers and a range of community groups.

“It not only encourages participants to engage with politics indirectly, but also puts human empathy, spirit and value back into research”

One of the main reasons why we are witnessing new forms of understanding and acting that are being invented within the UK is related to the ambiguous nature of the impact agenda and how it makes academics to act in more prescribed ways. While performance indicators are highly problematic in the context of uncertainties and public cuts, there is a general consensus amongst practitioners and academics that we should pay more attention to governance practices that are engaged in reformulating power structures.

Within this framework, co-production remains as an experiment for communities, universities as well as public authorities as it provides inclusive and practical guidance by facilitating learning. The term is now being cast as a new methodology in which communities can be engaged in policy development, delivery and research. It not only encourages participants to engage with politics indirectly, but also puts human empathy, spirit and value back into research. However, the question of who is advocating this is still a question mark. Commercial consultants, professional associations, client groups, chief executives, think tanks are all a part of this process.

More importantly, the concept is very essential as it can contribute to the creation of alternative urban visions which would stimulate longer term transformations while contributing to sustainable urban development. Although universities are one part of these discussions, their role is getting more prominent as they can be seen as a bridge between citizens, public institutions and community organisations.

The Bristol Method, which came out of the European Green Capital Partnership Award in 2015, is an excellent example for this kind of setting. The Bristol Green Capital Partnership module that has been established as a result of the Award is seen as a vehicle that would lead to drive change towards becoming a more sustainable city over the next decades.

“Discussions on coproduction reveal that we still have not reached a consensus on the difference between coproduction of research and coproduction of public services.”

The coproduction discourse has replaced long tradition of partnership and contractualism, and it is interested in exploring how new arrangements can be established in new ways in new times. Individuals and groups have turned to co-production owing to the fact that it is presented as offering an efficient solution to a range of political tensions associated within the complex social, political and economic orders of advanced liberal societies and it is functioning as a particular form of regulation. Moreover there is a need to move towards exploring more democratic involvement which not only generate change in policy processes but also empower community-oriented practices.

Discussions on coproduction reveal that we still have not reached a consensus on the difference between coproduction of research and coproduction of public services. In fact, there is a constant iteration between these two different but connected arenas. While coproduction of services remains as the successor of the long tradition of partnership and contractualism, and it has been used to explore how public services are delivered in new ways in new times, coproduction of research raises concerns about inclusion and uses different ways with which to leverage experiences of people or institutions in diverse constituencies. It raises the question of how we do what we do. It offers an opportunity to explore process-oriented research without pre-supposing the outcomes of those engagements. Nevertheless, it would be a mistake to think that there is no difference of substance amongst the groups or networks of people who are studying coproduction of research.

Coproduction brings in hard questions that we need to be grappling with in terms of us shifting our thinking. It’s a transformation of experience into policy or a transformation of research into action and change. However, instead of intellectualising the concept, it should be celebrated without asking how change happens. This would stop academics finding community organisations to identify what to work on in response to a funding opportunity and encourage engagement and collaboration as a core part of knowledge practices at universities. Otherwise, there might be a danger of doing it wrong.”

The impact of co-production [FC].jpg

The impact of co-production edited by Aksel Ersoy is available with 20% discount on the Policy Press website. Order here for £21.59.

Find out more about impact, influence and engagement at Policy Press here.

Policy Press newsletter subscribers receive a 35% discount – sign up here.

The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are solely those of the original blog post 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.

Why we need social entrepreneurs

Chris Durkin, co-author of Social entrepreneurship; A skills approach, reflects on his experience of redundancy and how the uncertainty it brings is representative of life in the ‘gig economy’. He highlights the urgent need to teach new skills, creativity and resilience and how social entrepreneurs can show us the way.

Christopher Durkin

I have been very lucky throughout my working life and only recently experienced the indignity of being made redundant. What was apparent was that redundancy has a formality, which goes through various stages – notification, ‘consultation’ and final notice – a process that involves you in attending various meetings, both as a group and as an individual.

What sticks out for me on a personal level was that throughout the process there was a high level of uncertainty, a complete loss of confidence and a feeling of anger, loss and failure; feelings that are both natural and individual.

Continue reading ‘Why we need social entrepreneurs’

Co-creating impact: why universities and communities should work together

Kate Pahl and Keri Facer, authors of Valuing interdisciplinary collaborative research, discuss the value of co-production and collaboration between academic researchers and community projects. 

Valuing Interdisciplinary Collaborative Research will be launched at the Co-Creating Cities & Communities Summer Event today in Bristol #ahrcconnect #citiesandcoms2017 @ahrcconnect

Kate Pahl

Keri Facer

“Increasingly, universities are being asked to work with communities in more inclusive, collaborative and ethical ways, but their processes and practices are often overlooked, particularly within the arts and humanities.

University ways of knowing and doing are only one part of research and new conceptual tools are needed to make sense of this. This makes for a new and exciting research landscape.

“Impact isn’t just about academics doing brilliant, original research… impact is co-created.”

The ‘impact’ agenda needs to shift to recognise the nature of ‘co-produced impact’. That is, impact isn’t just about academics doing brilliant, original research which is written up in articles and then re-produced in different forms to a grateful community which draws on this research.

Instead, impact is co-created. People have ideas, in communities and in universities and they work on these together, bringing different knowledges and practices to those questions and ideas. This then produces a different kind of knowledge – richer, more diverse, more carefully located in real and everyday contexts and more relevant.

Connected Communities

The Connected Communities (CC) programme, headed by the AHRC cross-research council, has funded over 300 projects, worked with over 500 collaborating organisations and over 700 academics from universities across the UK, on topics ranging from festivals to community food, from everyday creativity to care homes, from hyper-local journalism to community energy.

‘Valuing Collaborative Interdisciplinary Research’ (Policy Press 2017), the latest volume in the Connected Communities book series, brings together a number of diverse and rich research projects that range from community evaluation, to how community values play out in collaborative research, how decisions on heritage should be made, and on what artists do when they work with academics and communities together with the role of performance in highlighting community concerns.

Many different people contributed to the projects ranging from people from the Heritage Lottery Fund and The Science Museum, to people working within communities as well as within universities.

facer-blog-pic

Some themes which emerge in the book include translation, co-production, dialogic modes of research and tacit and embodied knowledge. A key theme is the nature of knowledge and its production practices . Ways of capturing everyday knowledge, through stories, maps, material objects, conversations and performances, are discussed and considered.

In the book we attempt to map this new world out. We offer a set of helpful ideas and ways forward to articulate what is needed to do this sort of work. We argue that projects like this need to include an element of productive divergence.

“Perhaps if this kind of research was funded more often, surprises like the recent election result wouldn’t have come as so much of a shock.”

The projects are often grounded in the world materially and objects play a strong part. They often involve mess, uncertainty, complexity and a focus on practice and involve translating across different fields, as well as stories as a mode of exchange. Many of the projects draw on tacit and embodied learning that were informed by arts methodologies as well as ideas from sensory and phenomenological perspectives.

Perhaps if this kind of research was funded more often, surprises like the recent election result wouldn’t have come as so much of a shock. Universities need to become more attuned to the voices of communities, to their accounts of what is important and necessary to research. The Connected Communities programme and this book make a start in redressing the balance.

 

Valuing interdisciplinary collaborative research edited by Keri Facer and Kate Pahl is available with 20% discount on the Policy Press website. Order here for £19.99.

Find out more about impact, influence and engagement at Policy Press here.

Policy Press newsletter subscribers receive a 35% discount – sign up here.

The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are solely those of the original blog post 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.

Is it time to rethink concentrated poverty, the service hub and the sink estate?

In today’s guest blog author and academic Geoffrey DeVerteuil shares his views on the importance and value of inner city communities and the attendant support organisations around them as a positive force for transformation…

Geoffrey DeVerteuil

Geoffrey DeVerteuil

There has been a longstanding tendency in the popular imagination that condemns the spatial concentration of poverty and its attendant landscapes and services.

In the US, this has been particularly dominated by the African-American ghetto and its hyper-segregation of poor Blacks to inner-city neighbourhoods, leading to failed lives, institutions and places.

In the UK, where poverty and race are less concentrated, fears have been stoked in the wake of the 2001 unrest in northern cities and the 2005 terrorist attacks, producing reports (Cantle, Philipps) that ultimately warned about the over-concentration of poor minorities, that in effect Muslims in particular were creating ‘parallel societies’ not so far removed from the American context.

Scatter the poor

Continue reading ‘Is it time to rethink concentrated poverty, the service hub and the sink estate?’

Power to the people? The renewed importance of localism in England today

In her new book Locating Localism: Statecraft, citizenship and democracy academic and today’s guest blogger Jane Wills, takes a thorough look at the history and geography of the British state, its internal divisions of political power and the emergence of localism as a new form of statecraft. In the aftermath of the EU referendum and the rapid appointment of Theresa May as Prime Minister Wills explains why now more than ever the localism debate needs to be brought to the fore….

Jane Wills

Jane Wills, Queen Mary, University of London

In her speech on the steps of Downing Street on 13th July 2016, our new Prime Minister, Theresa May, promised to govern in the interests of the whole country, staking her tent on the middle ground.  In committing to govern in the interests of the many not the few she promised to “do everything we can to give you more control over your lives”.

This call for ‘control’ played large in the EU referendum as well. The leave campaigners argued that it was time to ‘take back control’ and now Theresa May is promising to ‘give us control’. There are few details about what this control will look like but in many ways the language is in keeping with debates that were already well underway. Continue reading ‘Power to the people? The renewed importance of localism in England today’


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