Friday, 1 April 2011

Big Society’ Joint Research Project – Interviewees Required

BVSC is currently engaged in a research project with Newman University College, the purpose of which is to critically examine the current government policy of ‘Big Society’, how this fits into the development of the voluntary and community sector’s relationships with government over the past 50 years, and what it means for the future of the voluntary sector in Birmingham.

The research will be published in the summer and we hope that it will provide some practical observations – beyond political rhetoric – about the threats and opportunities that current government policies offer our sector. Is the ‘Big Society’ really something different, or just more of the same?

The research will examine three periods of recent voluntary sector history, focusing – wherever possible – on Birmingham.

We are now looking for interviewees who are willing to volunteer to speak to Newman University College research staff about one (or more) of three historical periods.

Initial interviewees must be senior staff or trustees within voluntary organisations in Birmingham, or long-term volunteers with a significant breadth of knowledge. Those interviewed will be asked to share their unique experiences and perspectives on these periods of time, and their honest reflections on the concept of ‘Big Society’, and – if possible - any real historical evidence which they feel might be relevant (for example, archive reports of their organisation’s work.)

If you are interested in participating - or you know someone who would be suitable - please contact the researcher(s) whose period you are most able to contribute to, using the email addresses indicated below. They will then get back in touch to arrange an appropriate time to speak to you.

Please note, it is unfortunately not possible to provide recompense for your time, although the time commitment required will be short and full credit will be given to you and your organisation in the final report. Please make your approaches by Friday 29th April, to enable adequate time to arrange interviews and complete the write-up during May.

1960-1979: The (Re)discovery of poverty and inequality. This period is characterised by the emergence of several important sociological studies relating to poverty and inequality, and will examine the voluntary sector’s role in tackling these issues. Did you work for a key campaigning organisation during this time? Did you or your colleagues get involved in key political “movements”? What was the environment of Birmingham’s voluntary sector like during this period, and what did it mean for the sector’s independence? Please contact Terry Potter: t.potter@newman.ac.uk

1979-1997: The battle for social justice. This period saw much of the voluntary sector become more overtly partisan by advocating for the rights of the oppressed, and was characterised by oppositionalism to several key government policies. Alongside this, alternative models of delivery emerged, such as debt advice centres, patient groups, tenant groups etc. The latter part of the period saw a growing reliance on local authority funding, and the first moves from maily grant regimes to Service Leveal Agreements. What did this mean for voluntary action? Were you active in the sector during this period? What are your observations? Please contact Graham Brotherton: g.brotherton@staff.newman.ac.uk

1997-2011: From independence to...? This recent period saw the sector gain a voice at the “tables of power”, and specific government commitment to an enhanced relationship with voluntary agencies through the Compact. But was this a real gain for the voluntary sector, or were we seduced by the State? What have been your experiences of the “professionalisation” of the sector? What issues of governance did these new political initiatives bring? What were the positive and negative effects of the emergence of “commissioning”, and where has it led us? Whether active during this period in a large voluntary organisation or a small community group – your views are welcome. Please contact Christina Hyland: c.hyland@staff.newman.ac.uk

With thanks in advance,


Brian Carr


Chief Executive


BVSC, The Centre for Voluntary Action
138 Digbeth
Birmingham B5 6DR


0121 678 8801 - direct line


0121 643 4343 - reception

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