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The constraints on voluntary sector voice in a period of continued austerity

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This article explores how austerity has affected the ability of voluntary sector organisations in England to represent, advocate and lobby to ensure that the voice of disadvantaged people is heard by government. The core contribution of the article is its use of a qualitative longitudinal research methodology to analyse how people experience, interpret and respond to change. The article supports neo-institutional and resource dependency theories, which argue that institutional incorporation, financial dependency and managerial isomorphism have a negative impact on the ability to express critical voice. Austerity accelerates this tendency, creating fear and layering additional pressures on previous restructuring and reform tensions. This contrasts with quantitative empirical findings that involvement with government and financial dependency strengthen rather than reduce political advocacy. The article argues for a nuanced view of advocacy that recognises the constraints on the ability of the sector to advocate for and empower disadvantaged people and communities.
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Keywords: AUSTERITY; CAMPAIGNING STRATEGIES; QUALITATIVE LONGITUDINAL RESEARCH; VOLUNTARY SECTOR VOICE; WELFARE PROVISION

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Email: [email protected]

Publication date: 01 March 2017

This article was made available online on 17 February 2017 as a Fast Track article with title: "The constraints on voluntary sector voice in a period of continued austerity".

More about this publication?
  • Voluntary Sector Review publishes high-quality, peer-reviewed, accessible papers on third sector research, policy and practice. It is an invaluable cutting-edge resource for all those researching or working in the fast-growing voluntary, community and wider third sectors.

    The journal covers the full range of issues relevant to voluntary sector studies, including: definitional and theoretical debates; management and organisational development; financial and human resources; philanthropy; volunteering and employment; regulation and charity law; service delivery; civic engagement; industry and sub-sector dimensions; relations with other sectors; social enterprise; evaluation and impact. Voluntary Sector Review covers voluntary sector studies from a variety of disciplines, including sociology, social policy, politics, psychology, economics, business studies, social anthropology, philosophy and ethics. The journal includes work from the UK and Europe, and beyond, where cross-national comparisons are illuminating. With dedicated expert policy and practice sections, Voluntary Sector Review also provides an essential forum for the exchange of ideas and new thinking.

    Rigorous and stimulating, Voluntary Sector Review is an indispensable tool for everyone who values empirically-grounded, theoretically-informed and policy-relevant reviews of the future direction of the voluntary sector.

    Editors: Nick Acheson (Trinity College, University of Dublin, Ireland), Bernard Harris (University of Strathclyde, UK), Rob Macmillan, (University of Birmingham, UK)

    The journal is published in association with the Voluntary Sector Studies Network (VSSN) and a print copy of the journal is a membership benefit.

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