Work from WISERD’s Civil Society Research Programme features prominently at the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) Annual Conference in London, taking place today and tomorrow September 6-7. The WISERD stand (pictured) is doing brisk business with high levels of interest from conference-goers.
WISERD researchers will be presenting a raft of papers. For example, in her presentation earlier today ‘Social value, the third sector and social welfare’, Dr Christala Sophocleous offered a new conceptual framing of ‘social value’ with an analysis of English and Welsh policy discourses. The paper showed that, whilst they often use the same language, their conceptualisations of social value differ significantly. The Welsh Government explicitly seeks to create collectivist mechanisms and socially focused organisations to deliver social value. In contrast, Dr Sophocleous argued, the English position is committed to promoting market mechanisms. The paper proceeded to underline how these differences lead to alternative understandings of what constitutes ‘social value’ and where it is located. In turn, this raises the prospect of potentially incompatible approaches to how it might be generated and incommensurate models of welfare.
Also presenting this morning was Dr Nick Page whose paper entitled ‘Estimating levels of formal volunteering for small areas of Wales’. In it he argued that there is a dearth of UK data on local levels of voluntary activity. Moreover, he said that whilst acknowledging evidence of the important role of localism on motivations to volunteer, limited understanding of volunteering at more detailed spatial scales represents a notable knowledge gap. In response, Dr Page’s paper assesses for the first time the application of an approach to small area estimation known as Iterative Proportional Fitting (IPF) for estimating local levels of formal volunteering. Drawing on responses from the National Survey for Wales, simulated estimates ranged locally from 16 to 38%. Nationally, estimates suggest 27% of the Welsh population volunteered formally in 2016-17 – this is consistent with published sources. In his presentation Dr Page concluded that IPF is a useful method for computing credible estimates of local levels of formal volunteering in Wales following the validation of the small area estimates set out in the paper. The policy implications of the study included the targeting of areas with lower levels of voluntarism and identifying areas more able to ‘co-produce’ services.
Professor Paul Chaney, who will be presenting his paper tomorrow, ‘Policy Pathologies, Critical Framings and Human Rights: Analysis of UK Civil Society Organisations’ Universal Periodic Review Discourse, 2012-17’ will use discourse analysis of the critical views expressed in the corpus of United Nations’ Universal Periodic Review (UPR) submissions by civil society organisations (CSOs), national human rights institutions (NHRIs) and the response of the UN Human Rights Council, in order to explore how the UK, Welsh, Scottish and Northern Ireland governments are responding to their international human rights treaty obligations in the formulation and delivery of social policy. Developed from Hogwood and Peters’ work on the pathology of public policy, the analytical framework investigates CSOs’ critical framings of the disorders, progress and challenges related to social policy-making in the UK. The findings showed a raft of shortcomings including poor monitoring and enforcement, gaps in social protection and discrimination. The wider international salience of this study lies in underlining that human rights violations need to be viewed in the systemic context of the policy process and, civil society participation is essential in holding states to account for observance of international human rights obligations, not least, when legal reform threatens to undermine the domestic legal code.