2019 Voluntary Sector and Volunteering Research Conference

A civil society for the future: setting the agenda for the voluntary sector and volunteering research in the 2020s

Increasingly the voluntary sector and volunteering are viewed through the lens of ‘civil society’ and the past 12 months have witnessed considerable public and political debate about how civil society can be at the heart of the changes needed to ensure that all communities can thrive. This includes how to strengthen social value within communities, how civil society can revitalise and enhance democracy, and the potential for reshaping state-civil society relationships.

These debates present opportunities and challenges for civil society actors and for research undertaken on, with and for them. Each year, the Voluntary Sector and Volunteering Research Conference - organised by the Voluntary Sector Studies Network (VSSN) and the National Council of Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) - provides a unique opportunity for academics, policy makers and practitioners from the UK and further afield to come together to share findings and discuss the implications of research. This year the conference - hosted by Aston University Business School - will focus on ‘a civil society for the future’

Conference details

Date 10–11 September 2019
Location Aston University, Birmingham, UK

Aims and themes

We welcome submissions for individual papers, panel sessions and workshops. Given the conference theme, we are particularly keen to receive proposals offering critical reflections on the future of civil society, but we welcome submissions that address a range of issues relevant to any aspect of the voluntary sector and volunteering, including:

  1. The Conference Track - Critical Reflections on Civil Society
  2. Democracy and grassroots voluntary action
  3. Diversity, race, (in)equality and inclusion
  4. Volunteering, participation and social action
  5. Advances in theory and methods
  6. Funding, fundraising, philanthropy and social investment
  7. Organisational management and governance, including law and regulation
  8. Historical perspectives on civil society, the voluntary sector and volunteering
  9. Civil society at the boundaries: relationships with the state and/or private sector
  10. Measuring civil society: outcomes, impact and social value
  11. New researchers stream.


2019 Voluntary sector and volunteer research conference programme 

Highlights in this years’ programme include:

  • an opening plenary in which Asif Afridi, brap and Rob Macmillan, Sheffield Hallam University will discuss their visions for the future of civil society and consider the implications for research.
  • a plenary panel of three civil society leaders and policy makers – Andrew Purkis, Debra Allcock Tyler, and Alice Wilcock – will provide some personal reflections on the future of civil society.
  • a World Café session on the future of civil society research, during which participants will have an opportunity to meet and share ideas with new and experienced researchers in their field.
  • six parallel sessions of papers, panels and workshops across the ten core Conference Streams.
  • the largest ever New Researchers session, with 20 participants from a range of institutions and disciplines.


All delegates at the conference must pay the conference rates in order to participate, including those presenting the paper

Delegates must book onto the conference via the Aston Business School websiteThe early bird rate deadline is 12 July. 

Delegate type Early bird rate (until 12 July) Standard rate Conference dinner
Two-day member rate £285 £310 included
Two-day non-member rate £375 £400 included
One-day member rate* £175 £200 £35
One-day non-member rate £240 £265 £35
New researcher stream* (FULL) £100 £100 included

*To qualify for the member rate or the the subsidised rate for the New researcher stream, delegates must be members of either VSSN or an institution which is a member of NCVO.

New researchers

The conference is an ideal opportunity for new or early career researcher looking to meet, discuss and present their research with other new researchers in a supportive setting. A special series of parallel sessions will be run as part of the conference for ‘new’ researchers. Attendance at this part of the conference is subsidised and is intended for all early career researchers in the field of voluntary sector studies, whether postgraduate students or working/volunteering in the voluntary sector.

Applications are now closed, but information about the new researchers stream is available for attendees.

Want to find out more?

Should you have any queries on the 2019 Voluntary Sector and Volunteering Research conference please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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