Upcoming research: What the sector’s new researchers have in store for us

Joni Browne worked at NCVO’s Institute for Volunteering Research until December 2014. Joni has now left NCVO but her posts have been kept here for reference.

“It was so well organised and welcoming, and such a great way to enable new researchers to introduce their work in a wider but very supportive environment”

This is just one of the many positive comments we received from attendees at our recent two-day new researchers’ sessions. The sessions aim to give new researchers (new to research or new to the sector) a space to present their work, get constructive feedback from others in a supportive environment, network and hopefully make a few friends.

This year the new researchers’ sessions ran parallel to the 20th Voluntary Sector and Volunteering Research Conference (VSVR), organised by VSSN, NCVO and IVR. Although the events are separate, lots of VSVR delegates attended the new researchers’ event (of their own freewill!), which is testament to the quality and diversity of the work being covered, and also recognition that those new to the field have something (including new ideas and a fresh perspective) to offer and teach more experienced researchers.

This year we had a record-breaking 21 new researchers submit papers.  There was a mix of papers, with authors at different stages of their projects, investigating a range of issues in the voluntary sector and volunteering, and using a variety of methodologies. Although the papers were diverse, they all explored implications for practice and policy, and were all of an exceptionally high standard.

The full papers will be available on the VSSN website soon.

Here are three papers which sung to me

1. ‘Intervals: addressing misleading methods of measuring the economic value of volunteering’

Jakub Dostál and Marek Vyskočil, Masaryk University

This paper is clearly-written, well-argued, and very relevant to the sector (at IVR we get many enquiries about calculating the economic value of volunteering).  Consequently, this was the unanimous winner of the Campbell Adamson ‘best new researcher paper’. It is well worth taking a look at Jakub and Marek’s full paper, as well as the researchers’ blog post, ‘Five things you need to know about calculating the economic value of volunteering’.

2. ‘Big Data and the charitable sector: Research implications’

Diarmuid McDonnell, University of Stirling

The paper gives an overview of the challenges, benefits and potential of Big Data – another relevant topic for the sector. I found it particularly useful to hear about the criticisms of Big Data and some of the issues which need to be considered when analysing them.

3. ‘The role of brand and social context in the choice of charitable organisation

Sarah Mitchell, Henley Business School

Mitchell, a marketeer, spoke about the relationship between the ‘b-word’ (brand) and volunteering. This thought-provoking paper is a great example of how the voluntary sector can benefit from being open-minded to looking to, and learning from other disciplines.

…and the rest

Other topics covered in the sessions included impact measurement, public service motivation, volunteering in UK Higher Education, knowledge management, and lived experiences of volunteers, to name just a few.

Thank you to all those who attended, and we look forward to seeing all new researchers again next year for more interesting presentations and lively, thoughtful discussion.

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