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Digital possibilities and social mission in the voluntary sector: the case of a community transport organisation in the UK

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Digital technology is seen as a panacea to meeting the financial and operational challenges faced by voluntary and community sector organisations (VCSOs), through delivering efficiencies and cost-saving, alongside improving quality of service. However, according to recent assessments in the UK, the rate of digital adoption is slow compared with other sectors. This article identifies how a VCSO in a period of austerity prioritises its social mission over functionality and efficiency gains from digital technology. Employing the heuristic of phronesis, we argue that VCSOs seeking to implement digital innovations need to strike a balance between instrumental rationality (that is, what is possible to achieve with technology) and value rationality (that is, what is desirable to pursue by VCSOs). Our key argument is that theories of value rationality provide a new explanation for the slow adoption of digital technology among VCSOs.
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Keywords: community transport; digital innovation; phronesis

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Exeter, UK

Publication date: March 2020

This article was made available online on February 5, 2020 as a Fast Track article with title: "Digital possibilities and social mission in the voluntary sector: the case of a community transport organisation in the UK".

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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