The National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth

Hosts: Amy Sanders (WISERD), Jurgen Grotz (VSSN)

We are delighted to announce that Voluntary Sector Studies Network (VSSN) and the Wales Instituted of Social and Economic Research and Data (WISERD) will jointly host a symposium to explore the role of community and voluntary organisations in polarisation in local communities, discussing:

  • inclusion and exclusion within the community and voluntary sector,
  • community cohesion, its drivers and obstacles,
  • polarisation and political conflict in local civil society,
  • community innovations for promoting unity and/or deliberative democracy,
  • the roles that community and voluntary organisations play in reinforcing and/or resisting polarisation.

Please register for the event online here


09:00 – 10:00            Pre-conference collegiate breakfast & networking session (face to face)

10:00 – 10:10           Welcome and introductions                                                   (online/hybrid)

10:10 – 11:40           Presentations and discussion                                                 (online/hybrid)

11:40 – 13:00           Lunch & meet the community & voluntary organisations      (face to face)

13:00 – 14:00           Presentations and discussion                                                 (online/hybrid)

14:00 – 14:30           Keynote Speaker: Future Generations Commissioner            (online/hybrid)

14:30 – 15:00           Afternoon Tea & Alison Goldsworthy: Next Steps                  (online/hybrid)

15:00 – 16.00           Final dialogue encounters                                                       (face to face)


The event is part of a regular series of VSSN day events and part of the dissemination and involvement activities of WISERD project “Populism, Conflict and Political Polarisation”.

A growing theoretical concern of voluntary sector studies is to challenge the presumption that voluntary and charitable activity is always imbued with a social good (Grotz and Leonard, 2022, pp 57-76). Theorists are beginning to recognise civil society organisations whose collective activities perpetuate division or conflict (Edwards 2014). Yet, grassroots communities can also be viewed as the loci through which polarisation and populism is resisted (Ife 2021). Polarisation theorists draw on democracy theory in political science, intergroup contact theory in psychology alongside analysis of how attitudes can be altered to identify strategies for overcoming societal divides. (Goldsworthy et al. 2022).


The format for this day conference will respond to the specific dimension of polarisation that can divide academic expertise from the wider society and also works with face to face, online and hybrid options. The day conference will be facilitated promoting dialogue between academics and voluntary sector practitioners from a broad range of civil society organisations, recognising their dual expertise and drawing on inclusive and participative involvement methods, thus putting theory concerning how to break down divides into practice. “Minds shall be open, conversations shall be kind, and different knowledges shall have equal value” (Locke and Grotz, 2022, p:191).


This VSSN day event will be supported by:

If you have any queries please email: or telephone: 029 2087 5260