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Open Access New practices for new publics: interdisciplinary dialogues about practice theory approaches and civil society. Seminar series - ESRC

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This article reports on a seminar series which brought academics and voluntary and community sector organisations (VCSOs) together to consider how far theories of social practice - an innovative social science approach - might offer a basis and a language for conducting conversations about civil society at a time when the boundaries of the VCS and statutory public services are being renegotiated.

The term social practice theory is used to refer to a diverse body of academic work that takes social practices as the unit of analysis, rather than (for instance) individuals’ attitudes, behaviours and choices. It directs us towards a concern with the everyday, with ‘what we do’ in situ, emphasising the complexity of our daily lives, how these are resourced, and the infrastructures that shape them. Many working in the field use a tripartite framework drawing attention to materials, meanings and competences and the relations between them.

The seminar series specifically aimed to articulate the 'practices' and the ‘new publics’ that VCSOs support communities and citizens to enact. The series also extended the academic debate, particularly towards notions of hidden or marginalised care practices, of brokering practices in a complex ecosystem of partnership working and services commissioning, and of ‘data burden’ in practices of evaluating VCS work. Thinking through and with VCSOs meant a greater attention to inequalities than in some academic literature. Lead institution the University of Brighton had links with the VCS through its Community University Partnership Programme [Cupp], often noted as a model of excellent practice, and the seminar series built on and developed these links. Outcomes include a collectively written ebook available here:
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2018

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