Posts Tagged 'Big society'

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

 

Volunteers Week: The Future of Volunteering?

Continuity and change in voluntary action RGB

Out now

This Volunteers Week, Rose Lindsey and John Mohan, co-authors of ‘Continuity and change in voluntary action’, part of the Third Sector Research Series and out now, look at the impact of political rhetoric and public attitudes on volunteering on levels of engagement.

Voluntary action has been a hotly-contested topic over the last 30 years. The International Labour Organisation sees it as an “essential renewable resource” for society. Margaret Thatcher, in her famous speech to the Women’s Royal Voluntary Service, anticipated a demographic dividend from the retirement of active baby-boomers. Subsequent governments promoted voluntary action not only for its direct benefits (e.g. providing services) but latent impacts (e.g. on social capital, health and employability). The most recent manifestations of pro-voluntarist arguments have been the “big society” of David Cameron and the “shared society” of Theresa May. However, to what extent have several decades of such arguments and policies had impacts on levels of engagement?

There is certainly evidence that volunteering is a renewable resource if we look at statistics about the proportions who volunteer. These have remained steady for some 35 years, albeit with some fluctuations (a recession-induced decline and a short-term boost after the 2012 Olympics). Yet, despite Thatcher anticipating a significant increase in proportions of people volunteering, this hasn’t happened. Nor does it look as if the expansion of higher education – known to be a strong predictor of volunteering – has had much effect.

“…while many people dip into and out of volunteering, voluntary action is dominated by a small core of long-term volunteers.”

Our research demonstrates that while many people dip into and out of volunteering, voluntary action is dominated by a small core of long-term volunteers. In the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS) –  the only significant longitudinal study asking questions about volunteering –  very small proportions of the population report volunteering in every survey wave. In a 12 year period (1996-2008) most people reported only intermittent volunteering. We can interpret this evidence in both a positive and negative light. For example, if we consider individuals’ contributions over their life courses, a much greater proportion of the population is involved in volunteering than is revealed by one-off cross-sectional surveys. The more challenging issue for voluntary organisations, however, concerns whether and how they can sustain that involvement over time.

When considering this question, it is useful to have insights derived from people’s own understandings of volunteering. We use extensive qualitative material from Mass Observation, tracking individuals’ accounts of the place of voluntary action and unpaid work in their lives. The material offers rich insights into writers’ individual trajectories into and out of volunteering, the social networks through which they became involved, their motivations, attitudes, and their views as to what voluntary action can and cannot do. Most strikingly, when asked about their involvement in unpaid work, or activities in their community, what they discuss first of all is unpaid care for relatives or neighbours. People prioritise what’s closest to home. This is hugely important in the context of great pressures on the social care system:  the prioritisation of unpaid care will limit the time and capacity that individuals have to engage in voluntary action in other parts of their communities.

“People prioritise what’s closest to home.”

Writers also exhibited a strong sense of scepticism about the conditions under which the public are asked to engage in voluntary action. Some writers articulated this very forcefully; for example one writer’s sole response,  to a question regarding whether she had heard of the “Big Society” was to write in uppercase letters:

“I HAVEN’T GOT A CLUE WHAT IT MEANS. NOBODY I’VE SPOKEN TO DON’T KNOW EITHER. IF IT’S ABOUT OUR PM SAYING WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER, IT’S A LAUGH”.

Other respondents articulated a sense of exhaustion – “my days of volunteering for anything are over” – and concern that calls for more volunteering would widen disparities between communities. There were also concerns iterated in the 1990s and again in the 2010s, about funding cuts and volunteers substituting the work of paid-staff. In this context, writers repeatedly argued for clear demarcation between what is the responsibility of public authorities to provide, and what should be expected of communities.

There is long-run stability in engagement, which is positive news. But given these strong views, and the recognition that the greatest burden of voluntary effort is being shouldered by relatively small subsets of the population, our study points to clear limits as to how far we might expect to increase engagement in volunteering further.

Continuity and change in voluntary action RGB

Continuity and change in voluntary action by Rose Lindsey and John Mohan with Elizabeth Metcalfe and Sarah Bulloch is available with 20% discount on the Policy Press website. Order here for just £60.00 or see more from the Third Sector Research Series.

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

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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.

After ‘big society’

Colin Miller and Gabriel Chanan

Colin Miller and Gabriel Chanan

What kind of phoenix will arise from the ashes of the big society?  (We don’t think the phrase merits capitals as it’s not really a coherent programme, just a loose idea.) As a government theme  it lasted about two and a half years. It was pretty well pronounced dead by a number of national charities at the end of 2012, as it became clear that the voluntary sector was declining alongside the public sector, rather than growing to take up the slack. Donations had declined and a number of charities were collapsing. Arguably the original idea was not, or shouldn’t have been, mainly about the big charities to start with, but about the majority of the voluntary sector – the small, locally autonomous community groups. But these have declined as well, as local authority cuts have decimated small grants, community work support, community centres, libraries and other facilities on which the groups depended.

The big society theme does have a legacy: the Community Organisers scheme run by Locality; legislation encouraging communities to try to guide the siting of local building development (‘neighbourhood plans’) and to take over local public services and amenities; and Big Society Capital, the bank created from dormant accounts to invest in social enterprises. ‘Invest’ is the operative word. Community organisations which can’t, or don’t want to, operate as businesses aren’t in the running.

Rethinking community practice

Rethinking community practice

In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, where the big society never established a serious foothold, community development (CD) has gained increased vigour as it has striven to adapt to the additional pressures of austerity. CD also struggles on in England, despite being decimated by the Coalition government: it is maintained by some local authorities, voluntary organisations and other bodies which realise that community input and local services stand or fall together, not in competition. ‘Asset based’ CD is gaining some ground, and many rural areas are still benefiting from the surge in Community Led Planning over the previous decade, a programme led by Action for Communities in Rural England. There remains wide interest in community empowerment and engagement, and many local government officers, along with other service providers, remain personally committed to finding effective ways of working with communities. But it is disheartening, when you have spent the day working with an officer on how to get better community engagement, to be told that their role is about to be made redundant.

The reorganised health service recognises the necessity for community involvement but hasn’t yet found an effective way to integrate it into policy. The health agencies can’t succeed without a massive shift of care from institutions to community settings. And the Mid Staffordshire hospital scandal shows that an absence of community voice is literally fatal – allegedly over 1,000 preventable deaths at the hospital because individual complaints were not taken seriously. Public services necessarily have to be delivered by specialist expertise, but inspectorates and local government alone are not enough to ensure accountability to, and collaboration with, users. It needs a system of flexible, resident-led, cross-sector and cross-issue neighbourhood partnerships to join up professional services and living communities. The big society’s neighbourhood planning groups are too limited in scope and powers, but could be a foothold for a more comprehensive vision. We’ve tried to outline such a vision in Rethinking community practice.

Rethinking community practice is available with 20% discount from www.policypress.co.uk

DEBATE: A Big Society needs an active state

The Policy & Politics Blog features debates from recent issues . An extract is below, then please click on the link at the end to download the full article. Policy & Politics is the leading journal in the field of public policy with an enviable reputation for publishing peer-reviewed papers of the highest quality .

DEBATE: A Big Society needs an active state

Helen Sullivan

The state has become unfashionable again in the United Kingdom (UK). Following a brief flirtation with it as an agent for good under New Labour, the current financial crisis and the ideological preferences of the coalition government mean that the state is now regarded at best as an outmoded way of meeting needs, and at worst a block to citizen action, business entrepreneurship and efficient service delivery… Read the rest of this article by downloading the pdf (free).

The Conservatives and the future of social welfare

Under David Cameron’s leadership, prior to the 2010 general election the Conservatives sought to present a more ‘compassionate’ or ‘progressive’ face than under his immediate predecessors, with more socially liberal and inclusive rhetoric, and an emphasis upon the Party being more socially representative in its membership and particularly within parliament.

Since the election however, despite the necessity of forming a coalition with the Liberal Democrats, arguably the position of the Conservatives (and the government as a whole) has hardened significantly, not only with regard to reducing the deficit, but also across whole swathes of social policy. The government’s changes to social security, reforms of the NHS, changes to education, and proposals for ‘localism’, all have major implications for the ways in which services are delivered and experienced by individuals, and these are in addition to the likely impacts of substantial cuts in public expenditure.

Should the Coalition government persist until 2014 it seems probable that the shape of welfare services will be considerably different from now, with a smaller role for the state and a larger role for the private sector and potentially for social enterprises and the voluntary and community sector, although Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ remains amorphous, and its future uncertain. It is important, therefore, that we seek to understand what the provision of social policy could and should look like in the future.

Hugh Bochel, author of The Conservative Party and social policy, publishing this month

Community development and civil society

The coalition government’s implementation of Cameron’s idea of the ‘big society’ has, to date, been minimal. If the government does develop policies based on the idea they will, at some point, have to ensure that it connects with the principles and practice of community development. Given that the government now has an Office for Civil Society (replacing the Office for the Third Sector) it will also have to make sense of the concept of civil society.

Use of the term ‘civil society’ has increased noticeably in western Europe in recent years. Often this has resulted from observing how ‘civil society’ in central and eastern European countries has been fundamental to political and social change. ‘Civil society’ is a necessary condition for ensuring lively, strong and participatory democracy. This is the territory explored in Community development and civil society.

In the book, Ilona Vercseg and I make the case for community development being an essential component of efforts to build a stronger ‘civil society’. She and I met through a European network of community development organisations and we collaborated on a number of exchanges and conferences in Hungary, other parts of central and eastern Europe and the UK. She and her husband were central to the setting up of the Hungarian Association for Community Development (HACD) at the time of the fall of the Communist regime at the end of the 1980s. It went from strength to strength and remains active. Its work provides many of the examples and principles discussed in the book. The Hungarian material is placed alongside an analysis and critique of community development in the UK context. The latter includes chapters on regeneration, social control and community care.

The process of understanding nuanced meanings of key concepts – and of translating them accurately – has been challenging. If, however, we succeed in clarifying the specific contribution that community development can make to building civil society then the patience and effort will have been worthwhile!

Paul Henderson is co-author of Community development and civil society


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