Voluntary Action Paradigms in Wales and Northern Ireland

On Thursday 16th November 2023, the Voluntary Sector Studies Network hosted an event to consider the way the Welsh and Northern Irish Voluntary Sectors are discussed and researched, and whether that differed in comparison to the rest of the UK. 

Dr. Amy Sanders, a Wales Institute of Social & Economic Research, Data & Methods (WISERD)  academic based at the Centre for Welsh Politics and Society (CWPS), participated as one of the panellists.

Dr Sanders was able to draw on both her current research about elite volunteering roles within Welsh charities (Aberystwyth research team: Jesse Heley & Flossie Caerwynt) and her research on how civil society respond to populism and polarisation (Aberystwyth research team: Michael Woods, Rhys Dafydd Jones, Flossie Caerwynt). 

She also drew heavily on her previous research about the relationship between the voluntary sector and Welsh Government. All three research projects are funded as part of the civil society research advanced by the WISERD. 

The event was chaired by Dr Carol Jacklin-Jarvis, Chair of VSSN and Dr Jurgen Grotz, who is a trustee of VSSN and organised the event. Other panel members included Professor Carl Milofsky who is emeritus professor of Sociology at Bucknell University, and has edited both the Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly and the Voluntary Sector Review; Professor Dirk Schubotz from the School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work at Queen’s University Belfast; Dr Nick Acheson, who has published widely on the voluntary sector in Northern Ireland, Ireland and Canada. He is a Board member of Volunteer Now; Denise Hayward who is the Chief Executive with Volunteer Now; Celine McStravick is the Chief Executive of NICVA in Northern Ireland. Dr Christala Sophocleous from Swansea University Department of Social Policy was also a panel member. Her contribution was made in advance due to unforeseen circumstances.

The panellists agreed that the Welsh and Northern Irish Voluntary Sectors operate in contexts which are fundamentally different to the context in England. This has major policy and practice implications which are currently not thoroughly understood and any existing findings might not yet be reflected in UK wide policy. Moreover, whilst some commonalities were identified between the Welsh and Northern Irish counterparts, there were stark differences in how the voluntary sector has been shaped by contemporary political developments. 

The recording of the discussion is due to be made available on the VSSN website. This event was part of the VSSN event series ‘Forging Voluntary Sector Studies Research Involvement Networks within and across the four nations of the UK’. The next event will take place in Northern Ireland, in Spring 2024.


Dr. Amy Sanders ams48@aber.ac.uk


Voluntary Sector Studies Network