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Reasearch conference guidance

The call for proposals has now closed

Aims of the conference

The conference aims to:

  • contribute to evidence and theory-building in the field
  • develop emerging research ideas
  • inform and be informed by the work of practitioners
  • inform and influence policy.

This year, we are focussing on the following themes.

1. Civil society and democracy: ongoing challenges and opportunities

  • What are the challenges faced in maintaining and supporting democratic participation for civil society?
  • Are different forms of activism, community and voluntary organising, and collaborative working creating spaces, new alliances and alternative ways of working?
  • What are, and should be, the roles of the organised voluntary sector in these?

2. Volunteering and participation: present and future

  • How is volunteering and participation changing?
  • What are the new challenges and opportunities in volunteering?
  • How are technologies impacting on the way people get involved?

3. New methods, new data: what are the opportunities and challenges presented in research data and methodology on the sector?

  • What are the new and innovative methodologies for research on and with the voluntary sector and volunteers
  • What potential does open/big data hold for researching the sector?
  • What are the methodological (including ethical) dilemmas that we encounter when undertaking research in these fields?

4. Grassroots voluntary activity: past perspectives and new forms

  • How can we understanding and learn from grassroots campaigns and local alliances?
  • What gaps are there in our understandings of grassroots voluntary activity?
  • What are the new and emerging forms of grassroots voluntary activity?

5. Navigating the funding landscape: funding, fundraising and philanthropy

  • How have organisations navigated a complex and changing funding landscape?
  • What can research tell us about the changing nature of fundraising from individuals?
  • What new models of funding are there, and how widely are they ben applied?

6. Voluntary sector governance and management: new challenges and responses

  • How far is governance in and of the sector fit for purpose?
  • What are the relationships between governance, transparency and public trust?
  • Is governance becoming a more central concern for voluntary organisations, and what are the implications of this?

7. Advancing theoretical debates: old ideas, new directions?

  • What theoretical lenses can help inform our understanding of the voluntary sector and voluntary action?
  • What can we learn about theory from diverse disciplinary perspectives?
  • Where is there more work to be done in theory building in volunteering and voluntary sector research?

8. What’s new? Historical perspectives on the voluntary sector and voluntary action

  • What can a historical perspective add to our understanding of the current state of the sector?
  • What is new about the challenges facing the sector?
  • What can we learn from the past that will tell us about what will happen in the future?

9. The role of the voluntary sector in a new world of public services

  • How is the voluntary sector involved in the transformation of public services in different areas and across different fields, and what are the lessons from this?
  • What new models of funding and delivery are being developed, and are they effective?
  • How are voluntary organisations embracing this change, and what are the challenges associated with it?

Please remember the above list is only indicative. We welcome proposals on all topics relating to the voluntary sector and volunteering.

Conference sessions


Session description


Individual paper

Grouped by theme, these will include several 15-20 minute paper presentations, followed by discussion.

A 400 to 600 word summary of your proposed paper.

We welcome submissions discussing preliminary findings and completed projects. References are not needed at this stage.

Panel session

A series of linked papers or, for example, a round-table discussion of a topic or research introduced by a panel of commentators.

Please submit a list of the panel members, with a 400-600 word proposal providing an overview of the topic to be discussed and the contributions to be made by each panel member.

For a series of linked papers, the proposal should include brief abstracts for each contribution.


If your submission is successful, you will be asked to send a 2,500-4,500 word paper for inclusion in the conference proceedings. We will advise on the format of the paper when we confirm acceptance of your abstract. Papers presented in parallel sessions will be made available online during the conference.

9 May 2016 Proposal of 400-600 words to be submitted
3 June 2016 Notification of accepted submissions
17 July 2016 Full paper of 2,500-4,500 words and a short 150 word abstract to be submitted for the conference proceedings

If your proposal is accepted you still need to book a place at the conference. We will contact you about payment.

The Campbell Adamson Memorial Prize

Each year NCVO awards a prize for the best paper submitted to the conference, in memory of the late president of NCVO’s advisory board. All papers submitted by the deadline will be considered.

The prize will go to the paper that best meets the criteria of:

  • research quality
  • relevance to practice or policy
  • accessibility of style and approach.

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