Setting the volunteering research agenda for 2015: Some thoughts on Evolve 2014

IVR was out in force at NCVO’s Evolve conference this week. There was plenty of thought provoking discussion, not least about the role of research. Heading towards an election year there is a need for research to be both reactive, capturing the state of the sector in the current climate, and proactive, playing a role in setting the agenda going forwards.

For me a major talking point related to this came from Dawn Austwick, the new chief executive of the Big Lottery Fund. Dawn talked about the need for data and research in the sector to be brought together more.

At IVR, we store all our own research reports in our open access online evidence bank and our colleagues in the NCVO research team make various data available online. But something that we in IVR have not perhaps done enough in the past is to pull research from multiple research projects into short accessible briefings and disseminate them more widely. Recent and on-going projects at IVR have included the work of many different types of volunteers: those enabling community management of heritage assets, supporting museums, providing support in care homes. Other work has looked at volunteering by ex-offenders, as well as the processes and experiences of young people creating their own social action projects. We will be presenting on many of these projects in early September at the 20th VSSN research conference in Sheffield. We will also look to bring together the learning from these projects by theme, for example producing a briefing paper summarising all our recent work relating to volunteering infrastructure, another on our work relating to youth social action.

Because we have perhaps often fallen into the trap of predominantly disseminating to research audiences, which are important to us, at the expense of doing so to the sector at large. This is the reason IVR ran a workshop on one of our current projects (Volunteering for Stronger Communities) at Evolve, the first time IVR has presented at the event. The project looks at volunteering locally in the current economic climate and it was really useful to present it to a non-research audience. If you want a copy of the draft summary document please contact us. There is still time to feedback on the research and help us shape our recommendations. We will also be submitting this summary to NAVCA’s independent commission on the future of local infrastructure, an important evidence gathering enterprise, which remains open until June 27.

What do you think?

So, do you agree that there is a need to bring data and research together more? If so, how do we as researchers and as a sector respond to that?

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Avatar photo Andy Curtis was senior research officer at NCVO's Institute for Volunteering Research.

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