The 2016 WISERD Seminar Series reflects the rich diversity of projects comprising WISERD’s Civil Society programme. The seminars are aimed at all with an interest in the key issues and policy challenges facing civil society in the twenty-first century. 

Mediating civil society: is Wales getting the media services it deserves?

Presenters: Dr Ruth McElroy (University of South Wales) and Hywel William (Advisors in Media)
Chair: Professor Paul Chaney
Date: 28th January 2016, Atrium, University of South Wales, Cardiff
Times: 5.00pm – 6.30 pm

The media play a pivotal role in the everyday lives of the people of Wales and have the capacity to enrich civil society, represent social diversity, offer routes to local community participation, and hold those in power to account. On the surface it may appear as if citizens and consumers are being well served, with increasing improvements of connectivity coming to most parts of Wales and a proliferation of television channels and social media. Yet the truth behind this apparent media abundance is rather different.

Since 2008, for example, there has been a significant reduction in spend, range and diversity of television programmes available both in English and Welsh, specifically for viewers in Wales.  The total reduction in spend on television programming for Wales across BBC and ITV is greater than the corresponding reductions in any of the other devolved nations of the UK, from £39 million to £27 million. Several commercial radio services have closed and ownership of those that remain has consolidated into three main groups, with greater networked programming and reduced local content, while newspaper circulations of the few titles produced in Wales have declined significantly.

So at a time when Wales as a democratic entity has never been more clearly defined, the sources of information for debate and scrutiny about our Government, culture and identity are drying up. This presents a major challenge to our society and democracy, and merits analysis form social scientists in Wales.

In this seminar we will share the findings of our Wales Media Audit Report (2015), produced by the Institute for Welsh Affairs and with support from WISERD. We will evidence the major changes to the media landscape in Wales and chart some of the consequences they have for civil society, for communities and for the sustainability of Welsh creative industries.

*Both speakers are members of the IWA’s Media Policy Group which recently published a substantive Wales Media Audit Report. See the IWA’s website for details.


To register for this event please click here.


Religious continuity and discontinuity in three generation families: Are grandparents important agents of transmission

Presenters: Professor Merril D Silverstein (Syracuse University)
Chair: Professor Paul Chaney
Date: 18th February 2016, Main Building, Council Chamber, Cardiff
Times: 5.30pm – 6.30 pm

Although religiosity is often considered a personal characteristic, it is also a social product, forged by early socialization that primarily takes place in nuclear and extended families. In this presentation I examine the strength with which religious attitudes, beliefs, and behaviours are passed down to younger generations within three-generation lineages, as well as the family conditions that facilitate or inhibit religious continuity. Data derive from respondents participating in the Longitudinal Study of Generations between 1971 and 2005. Results indicate that grandparents and parents independently influence the religiosity of grandchildren, with parents exerting an effect three times that of grandparents. Grandparents’ religiosity is also conveyed to their grandchildren by magnifying the religious influence of parents, but is inhibited from transmission under conditions of parental divorce. I conclude that religious orientations persist across multiple generations and over long periods of time, but signs of disruption are seen in new family forms.


To download the presentation from this event please click .


Improving our understanding of social enterprises in the UK – Evidence from the Small Business Survey

Presenters: Professor Catherine Robinson (University of Kent) and Professor Phil Murphy (Swansea University)
Chair: Professor David Blackaby
Date: 18th February 2016, Swansea University Bay Campus, Great Hall, Room GH018
Times: 4.00pm – 5.30pm

The rise in the number of social enterprises has been matched by the increased attention they have received as a potentially ‘new’ way of doing business.  Notwithstanding the problems associated with the definition of this form of enterprise, data on social enterprises per se is not routinely collected widely.  The most consistent source of administrative data on these organisations is the Small Business Survey (SBS).

This paper explores the linkage between the SBS and other administrative data to offer a more detailed picture of firms that self-classify as ‘social enterprises’.  Matched data permit the exploration of the history and future of the firms identified in the biennial cross-sections.  Specifically, and in the context of contemporary scholarly work on civil society, this research seeks to identify any fundamental differences between traditional for-profit firms and firms that regard themselves as social enterprises.

This seminar relates to Work Package 3.1 of WISERD’s Civil Society ESRC grant.


To register for this event please click here.


Bowling together? Civil Society in a North East Wales village

Presenters: D Dallimore, H Davis, M Eichsteller, R Mann, S Wheeler (Bangor University)
Chair: Prof Howard Davis
Date: 16th March 2016, Room A101, Alun Building, Bangor University
Times: 1.00pm – 2.00pm

In this seminar we present emergent findings from the WISERD civil society project “Civil participation in Wales, in place, and over time”. The publication of Putnam’s Bowling Alone (1995) provoked an important debate as to whether participation levels in Western societies are in decline. While in the UK context the case for an overall decline in participation is somewhat mixed, there is strong evidence that civic and social participation has become increasingly stratified along lines of class and other axes of inequality. In particular studies suggest that formal participation is more than ever concentrated amongst middle class groups; whereas the social institutions underpinning working class forms of participation are in decline. Our own research tries to explore this in situ; using ethnographic and biographical interview methods to capture both continuity and change in participation within one de-industrialised locality in North East Wales. Our initial findings are consistent with some broader patterns of decline in traditional forms of participation based around religion and class. But we also identify how some of the established local spaces for participation are being challenged to re-present themselves as open and welcoming community spaces, and with varying degrees of success. We suggest that these findings raise some critical questions about the idea of the ‘civic’, and its meaning and relevance for understanding civil society within different types of places.

This seminar relates to Work Package 1.1 of WISERD’s Civil Society ESRC grant.


To register for this event please click here.


Education, language and identity. Creating devolved education systems in Scotland and Wales

Presenters: Dr Rhys Jones and Dr Elin Royles (Aberystwyth University) and Professor Lindsay Paterson and Dr Fiona O’Hanlon (University of Edinburgh)
Chair: Dr Huw Lewis
Date: 16th March 2016, Interpol Room, Main Hall, Aberystwyth University
Times: 2.00pm – 3.00pm

Much has been written in various disciplines about the role played by governmental organisations – most notably statutory and more informal educational institutions – in shaping the political and civic identities of young people.  Recent research has increasingly focused on how these kinds of processes are being played out in devolved contexts.  This paper builds on this literature by developing a comparative study of youth identities in Scotland and Wales.  Drawing on policy literatures from the two countries, as well as interviews with their respective policy makers, it examines the role played by statutory and non-statutory forms of education in shaping civic identities among young people and discusses how these processes are reinforced and complicated by linguistic abilities, especially in relation to the minority languages of Scots Gaelic and Welsh.  While certain common features exist in the policy discourses of Scotland and Wales – witness the positive connections that are made in official contexts between minority language ability and devolved youth identities in both countries – there are also marked differences. The paper concludes by developing a place-based approach to understanding youth identities in the two devolved territories, one that may have broader applicability in other non-devolved contexts.

This seminar relates to Work Package 2.3 of WISERD’s Civil Society ESRC grant.


To register for this event please click here.


Measuring trust and transparency: Exploring a mixed methods approach

Presenters: Dr Ian Stafford and Professor Alistair Cole (Cardiff University)
Chair: Professor Paul Chaney
Date: 5th May 2016, Council Chamber, Main Building, Cardiff University
Times: 4.30pm – 5.30pm

The perceived decline in trust in democracy and government has become, as O’Neill (2002, p.8) notes, ‘a cliché of our times.’ Furthermore, transparency – defined by Grimmelikhuijsen & Welch (2012, P.563) as ‘the availability of information about an organisation or actor that allows external actors to monitor the internal workings of performance of that organisation’ – has frequently been identified as a potential remedy to this phenomena. However, both the concepts of ‘trust’ and ‘transparency’ have been the subject of intense debate. Rather than focus on the conceptual dimension, this presentation critically examines the approaches adopted within existing research on civil society and other sectors – to measuring trust and transparency and the extent to which a mixed methods approach can offer an effective approach to exploring the interplay between trust and transparency.

This seminar relates to Work Package 2.4 of WISERD’s Civil Society ESRC grant.


The presentation slides from this event are available .


Social innovation in Italy

Presenters: Professor Filippo Barbera (University of Torino and Collegio Carlo Alberto)
Chair: Professor Paul Chaney
Date: 12th May 2016, Cardiff University
Times: 5.30pm – 6.30pm

This seminar explores the role of “social innovators” in Italy. Drawing on a qualitative research design using respondent-driven sampling (including network analysis) it gives rich insights into the connections between the not-for-profit sector and for-profit sectors. This locus of enquiry is timely because social innovation points to new kinds of production and exchange markets where profit and non-profit organizations interact in distinctive ways. Many of the most successful innovators have learned to operate across sectoral boundaries – and innovation thrives most when there are effective alliances between small organisations and entrepreneurs. This presentation critiques the contemporary trend of portraying social innovation purely as a functional reaction to market and state failure. It thus engages with the analytical challenge of understanding whether social innovation practices satisfy supposedly unmet needs in new ways – and whether such interaction really differs from market-like exchange.


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The Power of Language – The Language of Power

Presenters: Professor John Edwards
Chair: Dr Huw Lewis
Date: 17th May 2016, Aberystwyth University, Main Hall, International Politics Building
Times: 13.00pm – 14.00pm

This seminar considers why do some languages become powerful, and others not? They say that ‘knowledge is power’  – is it the case, then, that access to ‘big’ languages is empowering?  And what of ‘small’ or threatened languages: can their speakers be ‘empowered’, particularly in a global context where the scope and penetration of English is ever-growing?


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Civil Society and democratization in India

Presenter: Professor Sahoo Sarbeswar (Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi)
Chair: Professor Paul Chaney
Date: 20th October 2016, 46 Park Place, Cardiff
Times: 5:30pm – 6:30pm

This seminar examines how Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), as part of civil society, contribute towards democratization in India and what conditions facilitate or inhibit their contribution. On the basis of in-depth empirical analysis and comparative case studies of three developmental NGOs that work among the tribal communities in the socio-historical context of south Rajasthan, this seminar assesses three different kinds of politics within civil society – liberal pluralist, neo-Marxist, and communitarian – which have had different implications in relation to democratization. Based on these three cases, the discussion demonstrates that civil society is not necessarily a democratizing force; it can have contradictory consequences in relation to democratization. The democratizing effect of civil society is not a result of the “stock of social capital” in the community, but is contingent upon the kinds of ideologies and interests that are present or ascendant not just within the institutions of civil society but also within the state. The analysis thus, presents a nuanced understanding of civil society’s capacity to influence democratization in the developing world.


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