What is to be Done? Universities and the voluntary and community

What is to be Done?
Universities and the voluntary and
community sector working together
to support working class
communities: The role of research
Roger Green
Department of Social, Therapeutic, and
Community Studies
University of London
The Context
The Context
David Harvey in his book
‘The Enigma of Capital and the Crises of Capitalism
 Noted that the
capitalist system
experiences regular
implosions whereby
working class
communities are
decimated and people
are often in danger of
losing everything.
The Reality?
the reality is the Coalition
governments austerity
that is witnessing local
authorities up and down
the country in financial
local services
experiencing massive
cuts to services
voluntary and community
sector facing the choice
of either becoming
business facing social
enterprises or going out
of business!
A question?
So what is the role of the university in supporting
the voluntary and community sector,
their staff,
and the communities they work with
during yet another crisis of capitalism?
Do universities have a role in the communities they
are located?
 Universities – are
 They employ local people.
 Universities are physical
resources located in
 Universities operate within
specific social, economic and
political community
 Universities have both a
social and community value
over and beyond their
economic value.
 Universities are part of Civil
 Students….and some staff
often and learn live locally.
An example: Goldsmiths, University of London
Located in New Cross,
London Borough of
Lewisham and surrounding
boroughs have some of the
highest levels of social &
economic deprivation.
Long tradition of working
and researching with local
Commitment to social
justice; engaging with
political and social realities;
supporting social change;
informing and shaping social
Many of its courses and
professional training such as
community development and
social work reflects this.
The Research Project
 The research looked to understand the impact on
South London’s voluntary and community
organisations and the groups and communities they
work with of……
 the Tory led Coalition government’s attack on the
welfare state, its massive cuts in public and local
government expenditure, and its general class biased
economic austerity programme.
The Research Report: ‘Working Together’
Engaging with London’s Voluntary and Community Sector: A
Community Scoping Study
Email me for a copy: [email protected]
Aims of the Study
To undertake a
community based
scoping project across
South London looking at
what were the current
concerns, issues and
needs of voluntary and
community sector
To understand to what
extent recent policies
and changes in funding,
have impacted on these
To consider how the
Department of Social and
Therapeutic Studies at
Goldsmiths could
To what extent was
Goldsmiths currently
engaged with its
How we did it!.....A participatory research
“Do not monopolize your knowledge nor impose arrogantly
your techniques but respect and combine your skills with
the knowledge of the researched or grassroots
communities, taking them as full partners and coresearchers…”
(Fals-Borda, 1995)
The methodology: Research with the Community
Participatory action research approach.
Focus of the research was equally determined by the
research participants.
‘Community walkabout’ around South London.
Interviews took place with staff, trustees, volunteers
and service users from 103 organisations across the
South London boroughs.
Attendance at community forums and meetings.
Street conversations with 62 members of the public.
informal discussions with over 50 Goldsmiths staff,
students and their representatives.
A Few Key Findings
Some of the Key Findings 1
 Organisations being affected disproportionately by the worsening
financial climate, and the speed and scale of cuts in public
 Cuts in local authority funding support - staff redundancies, reduced
services and projects closing.
 Much less reliance on traditional sources of funding.
 Move from ‘grant dependency models’ to ‘entrepreneurial business
models’. Expected to become business facing and/or social
 Increased community demand for services, rising costs. Community
needs increasing.
 Organisations under the threat of losing their premises or being
required to pay market rents.
Some of the Key Findings 2
 Organisations working with minority groups felt discriminated
 Organisations continually require new evidence - information
and data – to support funding bids.
 Wide range of research support needed by most organisations.
 Negative view of Coalition government’s ’Big Society’
concept/policy and Localism agenda.
 Majority of community organisations had little or no contact
with Goldsmiths.
The need for research support
The need for research support
Majority of community organisations had only a small number of paid staff and
relied heavily on volunteers.
A result of this is that they do not have the necessary in-house research capacity,
research skills, and resources or access to research training.
Often they are not aware of existing research findings in their area of service
This results in a wide range of challenges organisations including:
Inadequate monitoring of their service (s) and projects lacking robust evaluation.
Lack of clarity as to contractual targets/outputs being met.
Services promoting inclusiveness but not undertaking any real monitoring of users.
Unmet community needs not being recorded.
Funding applications not supported by research evidence resulting in unsuccessful applications
for continuation or new funding
Research skills deficit.
The Community event
 Aim of building
greater university
and community
 Attended by
representatives from
across South
London’s voluntary
and community
sector, and
Goldsmiths staff.
Ideas from the Community Event
 The community and voluntary
sector and Goldsmiths to work
more closely with each other.
 Research activity, support and
collaboration should be the
focus of this collaborative
 A research centre based at
Goldsmiths should be the
driver of this.
 A stakeholder group meeting
to meet to progress the idea
of a research centre.
A new research centre based at Goldsmiths is now being
established that will support the voluntary & community sector in
some of South London’s most disadvantaged communities.
Goldsmiths is significantly improving its general community
engagement practice and policies with local voluntary and
community organisations and the communities they work with.
Developing community/university collaborative partnerships community access - supporting community action research
projects - developing new community networks.
A number of collaborative pilot community research projects
initiated by voluntary and community organisations based on
community needs have commenced eg. why local food banks?
and rehousing the homeless.
Matching student research projects to community needs has
Supporting Unison’s ‘Community Service Group’ work with the
voluntary and community sector.
Impartial Observers….Some questions for
What is the role of the universities in supporting the
voluntary and community sector and its staff during yet
another crisis of capitalism?
To what extent is the model of collaborative community
and university working proposed by this paper part of the
collective fight back?
Do universities, social work academic staff, staff from
other academic subject disciplines, social workers,
students, do what the American sociologist Howard
Becker once stated and decide…..
“Whose side are we on?”

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