The next VSSN day seminar is being hosted by PhD students from the University of Glasgow and will take place at the Pearce Institute, a community space in Govan, Glasgow. The seminar will consider the implications of changing relationships within the UK and in the UK’s relationship with Europe for the third sector and civil society more broadly.


We are witnessing a period of significant change in geo-political relationships, driven in part by the voice of the individual citizen through referenda. Within the United Kingdom, the notion of unity – and indeed of a kingdom – is being increasingly challenged by the momentum of devolution. Since referenda in Scotland and Wales (1997) and Northern Ireland (1998), these countries have been negotiating devolution arrangements with varying degrees of independence from Westminster. This momentum is keenly experienced in Scotland where the recent independence referendum narrowly failed by a vote of 55% to 45% in September of 2014. Westminster’s promises of further devolution to Scotland are currently in play, a pre-referendum strategy that some believe swayed the referendum outcome in favour of the ‘no’ side.

In June 2016 UK citizens voted narrowly to leave the European Union by a margin of 52% for ‘Brexit’ and 48% to remain. The already complex relationships within the union are now further exacerbated by this vote, particularly given that a majority of Scottish and Northern Irish citizens voted to remain in the EU as did a number of English towns and cities, most notably London. The recent confirmation that the UK government will be negotiating a ‘hard Brexit’ is deepening existing tensions, and the discussion of a second independence vote in Scotland is firmly on the agenda.
There is disunity with the European Union, within the UK, and amongst citizens, with people identifying with the ‘remain’ or ‘leave’ camps, and in the case of Scotland with the ‘yes’ or ‘no’ sides. This disunity is also experienced between city and state and between large urban centres and rural areas. Amongst these divides we are also seeing an upsurge in populist and anti-establishment movements linked to a reactionary politics of identity as citizens respond to failures in social and economic policies, with racism, xenophobia and incivility emerging (JRF, 2016).

What are the implications for the third sector of these complex political dynamics amongst the four nations of the United Kingdom and their future relationships with Europe; and between the citizen, conflicting civil society groups and the state?

Event Themes

The May seminar will explore these broad themes and their potential impact on civil society, the third sector and third sector research. Further questions include:

  • What is the future for the third sector and third sector research within and across the UK with increasing devolution, especially given growing differences between the UK’s four
  • How can third sector researchers and practitioners learn from policy divergence and convergence within the UK?
  • How can the organised or formal third sector make a unique contribution to civil society?
  • What are the tensions between wider civil society, social action and formal third sector organisations?
  • Could there be greater solidarity across the UK’s third sectors and what would this look like?
  • What is the role of infrastructure bodies in creating solidarity?
  • What are the anticipated or possible implications of Brexit on the third sector and on future third sector research?

Submitting an Abstract

VSSN welcome presentations from researchers, academics, doctoral students and practitioners in voluntary organisations who are doing research that can shine a light on the issues raised in this call. They will be pleased to consider papers that provide empirical, theoretical, methodological, practice or policy insights associated with our theme. Papers are usually based on completed or on-going research (qualitative or quantitative) or a review of the evidence or literature in an area of interest to voluntary sector researchers.

If you would like to propose a paper for the day, please submit an abstract of around 250 words and a brief biography by email to no later than 26th February 2017. Your
abstract should contain a question, problem or dilemma arising from theory, practice or earlier research findings, the argument you intend to make, and how this contributes to the theme for the
day. If selected, your abstract will be posted on VSSN website and you will need to book and pay to attend and present at the seminar.

When and Where

When: Thursday 18th May: 10.30am – 4.00pm

Where: Pearce Institute, Govan, Glasgow


Please contact regarding booking for this event. Please note this is not a SURF event and please contact VSSN directly regarding queries


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