Challenge assumptions about volunteering, researchers told

Researchers analysing the voluntary sector should use their studies to challenge the preconception that volunteering in all its forms is necessarily a good thing, according to the Institute for Volunteering Research.

Professor Justin Davis Smith, director of the institute, said researchers should not be afraid to criticise what they see as misguided government policy even if they are in receipt of government grants or contracts.

“As a sector we need to be braver at examining assumptions about the nature of volunteering and looking at new research methods to get the story behind the statistics,” he said, speaking at the launch of Volunteering and the Test of Time, a new IVR book of essays.

“We must be honest about what we’re measuring and why, and confront the possibility that including everything possible under the banner of ‘volunteering’ is not always the most helpful thing for the sector."

Davis Smith, who is also acting chief executive of Volunteering England, added that researchers should resist the desire to publish studies whose only purpose was to “legitimise the volunteering sector”.

Copies of Volunteering and the Test of Time can be ordered from the Volunteering England website, at £18 a time.

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