John Mohan, Director of the Third Sector Research Centre, University of Birmingham, celebrates the 10 year collaboration between Voluntary Sector Review, the Voluntary Sector Studies Network and the Third Sector Research Centre, University of Birmingham.
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 PressOn 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)
On 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
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
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
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)
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
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
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
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
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
Harlock, J, Metcalf, L (2016) Measuring impact: prospects and challenges for third sector organisations. Voluntary Sector Review, Volume 7, Number 1, pp. 101-108
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
Kamerāde, D, Ellis Paine, A (2014) Volunteering and employability: implications for policy and practice. Voluntary Sector Review, Volume 5, Number 2, pp. 259-273
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
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
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
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