This is a PhD project funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). It is a long-term partnership over six years between GMCVO researcher Susanne Martikke, GMCVO and the University of Manchester.
The research is an in-depth look at two community centres in Greater Manchester in order to understand the role that this particular type of Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) organisation plays in facilitating social relationships for the people who are involved as staff, users and volunteers.
Whereas voluntary organisations have long been seen as ideal partners for public service delivery this project is trying to focus on those qualities that, at least in theory, make voluntary sector organisations attractive and useful in the first place: as spaces where citizens as activists, volunteers and involved users are already engaged in addressing their own challenges; as focal points for collective action and as institutions that can build trust within communities.
We are interested in exploring what role community hubs play in the processes that lead to the formation of social capital in their neighbourhoods. Social capital refers to the value that is inherent in human relationships and networks (read a briefing about social capital here [link to report]). Although organisational structures and systems may influence this process, they are not the main subject of inquiry. Rather, the idea is to observe the nature of everyday interactions that take place at the hub.
The data collection for this study is expected to conclude before Summer 2019 with project completion in 2021.
With this study we are hoping to create evidence that policymakers can recognise as relevant and that will help organisations better understand and articulate the important role they play within communities.
Why are we doing it?
The renewed policy interest in place-based approaches for tackling inequalities and a shift away from the previously dominant focus on contracting and commissioning made this a topical project for GMCVO to support. In Greater Manchester, devolution has prompted policymakers to look for new ways of delivering services inspired by co-production. GMCVO is interested in exploring the role of VCSE organisations in this new policy environment, which is very much characterised by a desire to foster relationships within communities, between policymakers and citizens, public agencies and communities and across sectors. With this study we are hoping to create evidence that policymakers can recognise as relevant and that will help organisations better understand and articulate the important role they play within communities.