SEPTEMBER 2020: ‘Times Like These’: Researching civil society responses to and recovery from COVID19
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 Export to Your Calendar 9/8/2020 to 9/9/2020
When: Tuesday, September 8, 2020

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‘Times Like These’: Researching civil society responses to and recovery from COVID-19

Voluntary Sector and Volunteering Research e-Conference 2020


COVID-19 has caused exceptional upheaval and loss across the world. Complex changes to how people live, work and socialise have been implemented at unimaginable pace. The crisis has had massive ramifications for the voluntary sector and volunteering. With the exception of some high-profile successes, much fundraising activity has dried up, many voluntary organisations have seen their incomes plummet and are having to furlough staff and cut services, at a time when the need for their services has increased exponentially. Organisations have been working and collaborating in ways which did not previously seem possible. There has been an up swell of mutual aid and local community action in the immediate response to the crisis, while national calls for volunteers have led to huge numbers registering to offer help. Meanwhile, government support has been seen by many as slow and insufficient in scope and scale and debates about when ‘recovery’ will begin or what it will involve are only just getting started.


Wider long-term debates about the sector’s responses to a wide set of social challenges, its position as an innovator and as a potential leader of social change, continue to play on against the backdrop of the lockdown and health crisis. Philanthropic responses to the outbreak and its consequences have already been both celebrated and critiqued – as society reengages with debates over the balance between welfare delivered by public or private means. And volunteering and mutual aid efforts have highlighted the emergence of longer-term issues around volunteer management, social capital, and community.


This year the Voluntary Sector and Volunteering Research Conference will run, in a much modified format, on 7 and 8 September 2020 as a free two-day e-conference. The focus will be on discussing current research and big ideas on civil society responses to and implications of COVID-19. Curated sessions on philanthropy, the voluntary organisations, volunteering and mutual aid, will be organised alongside plenary sessions. The aim is to bring together researchers and practitioners to explore what we’ve learned from this crisis, and what it means for the future of civil society.


Keynote speakers include Karl Wilding (NCVO), Anna Fowlie (SCVO), Brian Carr (BVSC), and Nasar Haghamed (Islamic World Relief), with more to be announced soon.


Programme summary

7 September 2020

1000-1100          Day one opening plenary session

1130-1300          Philanthropy, fundraising, funding and COVID-19

1400-1530          Mutual aid, communities and COVID-19


8 September 2020

1000-1100          Day two opening plenary panel of voluntary sector leaders

1130-1300          Volunteering and COVID-19

1400-1530          Voluntary and community organisations and COVID-19



Programme detail

7 September 2020

1000-1100          Day one opening plenary keynote session


1130-1300          Philanthropy, fundraising, funding and COVID-19

There has been intense comment and focus on private individuals’ responses to the coronavirus pandemic, especially in relation to giving. From the efforts of wealthy mega-philanthropists, some of whom have refocused their resources on funding the search for vaccines or other public health measures, to the everyday fundraising of individuals, for all types of charities who have been unable to fundraise in their usual way due to social distancing and the cancellation of major events. In this session, we would welcome contributors who want to assess any element of this huge gamut of activity. Issues to explore may include: What does the response to Captain Tom Moore’s fundraising for NHS charities say about the current relationship between giving and state funding? Should the crisis give us pause to reconsider the role the philanthropy of the super wealthy plays in our response to crises? How have funders (foundations and others) responded to the crisis? And to what extent have voluntary organisations experimented with different forms of fundraising, and what issues have these raised? Short research papers or contributions, on these topics and similar, are very welcome.


1400-1530          Mutual aid, communities and COVID-19

We are interested in contributions that explore the nature and impact of the response to the COVID 19 pandemic at a community or neighbourhood level. This includes the range of informal support that has been provided, for example through mutual aid groups, as well as initiatives by more established and formal community-based organisations. Contributions could discuss findings or emerging findings of research projects. They could also draw out theoretical thinking about how we might understand the response, or they might be based on insights from employees or volunteers working on the frontline during the crisis. We are also interested in contributions that explore what role community-level support might play in the recovery from the pandemic, and what hyper-local voluntary and community action might look like in the future.



8 September 2020

1000-1100          Day two opening keynote session


1130-1300          Volunteering and COVID-19

We are interested in contributions based on research (completed or in progress, empirical or theoretical) on a range of topics related to volunteering during and after COVID-19. This could include the impact of the lockdown and social distancing on existing volunteers, the mobilisation of volunteers through national volunteering schemes such as the NHS Responders scheme but also on a local level through informal networks and community groups, the experience of volunteers during the crisis, the use and development of online volunteering, and the wider impact of COVID-19 on the future of volunteering.


1400-1530          Voluntary and community organisations and COVID-19

We invite proposals about the impact of the pandemic on voluntary, faith and community organisations.  Topics could include leadership, management and coordination of services during the crisis; engagement with statutory and community partners including grassroots initiatives; changes in the level and nature of service demand; the impact on immediate and longer-term funding, sustainability and workforce; the impact of technology on relationships and service delivery; sector wide campaigning responses; differential impact based on organisational size and sector; and opportunities for future delivery models.  Contributions can be based on research that is completed or in progress, empirical or theoretical.


Getting involved


The e-Conference will held over zoom and will be free to join, but registration is essential. For further information on registration can be found here


If you would like to discuss your research on one of the four panel sessions, please email us with 100-150 words outline what you might contribute to one of the four panel leads below:


-          Philanthropy, fundraising, funding and COVID-19: Jon Dean and Carolyn Cordery (via:

-          Mutual aid, communities and COVID-19: Chris Dayson and Veronique Jochum (via:

-          Volunteering and COVID-19: Angela Ellis Paine and Veronique Jochum (via:

-          Voluntary and community organisations and COVID-19: Jane Cullingworth and Sophie Wilson (via:

Within the 150 words, submitted outlines should include: title, contributors names and affiliations, brief outline of themes to be covered, brief details of methodology/forms of evidence being drawn upon.

We welcome proposals from researchers (new and old!), practitioners and indeed anyone who has evidence to share on how civil society is responding to and impacted by COVID-19. The deadline for expressions of interest is 5pm on the 30 June 2020.

The exact format of each of the four sessions will depend upon the nature of the proposals we receive, but are likely to involve short presentations from each of the speakers and a discussion across participants. 

Contact Us

International Society for Third-Sector Research
5801 Smith Avenue
McAuley Hall, Suite 245
Baltimore, MD 21209

Tel:   410-735-4221
Fax:   410-735-4201

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