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Voluntary sector in transitionHard times or new opportunities?$
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Linda Milbourne

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9781847427236

Published to Policy Press Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.1332/policypress/9781847427236.001.0001

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Researching the Voluntary Sector

Researching the Voluntary Sector

Chapter:
(p.49) Three Researching the Voluntary Sector
Source:
Voluntary sector in transition
Author(s):

Linda Milbourne

Publisher:
Policy Press
DOI:10.1332/policypress/9781847427236.003.0003

This chapter provides contextual information for the examples discussed in subsequent chapters, outlining the different empirical studies, located in fairly poor English urban areas and mainly focused on organisations working with young people. Much research involves a complex interweaving of theoretical reflection, practical decisions and ethical considerations; and the work described here is no different. Without rehearsing methodological debates at length, the chapter explains the research design and approaches and some dilemmas encountered. It also highlights difficulties of researching the voluntary sector, not least the different traditions of research underpinning this field of enquiry; the diversity of organisations and activities potentially encompassed; and the lack of good research information about some 75% or more of small or micro organisations ‘below the radar’. Some of these difficulties provide the rationale for the qualitative approach and case study methods described which seek to elicit detailed stories and experiences of change in everyday practices. While the chapter argues the importance of exploring beneath the surface of macro-policies and organisational trends, it also recognises the interwoven nature of structures, governmental strategies and agency in accounting for local experiences and outcomes.

Keywords:   Qualitative methods, Case study, Critical policy, Research dilemma, Participative approach, Ethics of care, Agency, Structure

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