Impact of Covid-19 on voluntary sector and social enterprises to be explored in major new study

5th October 2020

The dramatic impact that Covid-19 is having on the voluntary sector and social enterprises is to be explored through a major new study.

Researchers at Sheffield Hallam University, in partnership with Nottingham Trent University and the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), will be closely engaging with organisations to provide real-time information to policymakers and practitioners on what is occurring in different areas of the sector as the consequences of and responses to the coronavirus pandemic unfold.

The research findings will be used to create 15 monthly in-depth reports focusing on specific, timely issues. The data will be collected via a range of different research methods, including a panel survey of 100 diverse organisations tracked over time, as well as in-depth interviews with organisations to gain insights into how they are shaping their organisational practices in response to Covid-19.

A monthly impact barometer will provide real-time data which can be assessed over time. This survey will explore the financial impacts of Covid-19 to provide contextual insights into the core issues of how Covid-19 is transforming the organisation, organisational practices, and people, including staff and volunteers. It will contain both fixed questions and questions adjusted to the phase of Covid-19 at that time.

The study, funded by UK Research and Innovation, will be led by Professor Daniel King, Professor of organisation studies at Nottingham Business School, and Dr Tracey Coule, Professor of non-profit work and organisation in the Department of Management at Sheffield Hallam University.

Professor Tracey Coule, said: “The last year has seen sweeping changes implemented throughout the voluntary sector in response to the challenges presented by Covid-19.

“Social distancing measures mean that paid staff, volunteers and beneficiaries can’t interact as usual, preventing many existing ways of working, often face-to-face, from occurring.

“Organisations have had to adapt quickly, some furloughing, others going digital or transforming their operations. In contrast some organisations are simply struggling to survive.”

Professor Daniel King said: “The pandemic has brought increased demand for services whilst simultaneously cuts have occurred to income, estimated at £4.3bn during March-May 2020 alone.

“This represents challenges to policymakers and practitioners in how they can best respond to the crisis.

“This study will explore and analyse these changes so that organisations can learn from each other, and policymakers will be informed on the best actions to take to protect the sector.”

Karl Wilding, chief executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, said: “This is an important piece of work – we need to deepen our understanding of how voluntary organisations are being impacted by the coronavirus pandemic so that we can fully play our part in the long road to recovery.

“The evidence gathered will help us make the case for real and decisive action to support the people most in need now and ensure that charities and volunteers can continue to support communities long into the future.”

The research is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) as part of the UK Research and Innovation’s rapid response to COVID-19.

The barometer is now live and can be accessed online.

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