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Changing Landscapes Knowledge Bank

Unfolding Tales of Voluntary Action: Case-based accounts by Rob MacMillan

For those beginning a research career, their understanding of how to do research is usually pieced together from anecdotes provided by more senior peers or supervisors, or from reading very finished accounts in the form of journal articles, books and so forth. The actual practice of research, namely how it is done, is more often obscured through methodological lexicons that refer far more to epistemological debates, than to practical demonstrations.

In this series of cases, Rob Macmillan addresses the aspects of representing, situating and demonstrating research-in-action. The series of cases that will be appearing here are useful not only to the fledgling researcher, but also to those who have been doing research for some considerable time, as they provide exemplars of case descriptions; a technique of capturing and tracking temporal processes in research contexts; and examples of analysis of case material.

Such research provides a crucial means by which we (academics, policy planners and providers, practice professionals, third sector organisations and community activists) can begin to gain an understanding of what happens to third sector organisations over time as they move through changing political and financial contexts at both a national and local level simultaneously. By developing a series of cases that track and analyse third sector organisations in ‘real time’, we gain a vantage point from which we can observe the main influencers of change and how organisations at different levels of aggregation, service sector and complexity respond and adapt. In effect, we can learn how others have learned.

In this way, these cases provide both methodological and practical insight, and an instrumental means of researching and understanding change in the third sector.

Pathways Through Participation

Changing Landscapes for the Third Sector

Telling tales of volunteering: research findings briefing papers by Angela Ellis Paine

This set of briefing papers provides insights into the changing processes of volunteering from the stories of individuals, families, organisations and communities. They are based on secondary analysis of 78 qualitative longitudinal interviews selected from the Real Times and Pathways through Participation projects. Real Times was primarily concerned with organisational change; Pathways with changes in individual’s participatory histories. Both were set up to explore specific but contrasting questions, united by a focus on changes over time. Although not the specific focus of either, together they provide insights into the dynamic ways in which volunteering unfolds over space, place and time, throughout individuals’ lives, family, organisational and community histories.