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Research is central to everything we do.

It informs CVSL teaching and learning, generates new knowledge and insights about leadership and collaboration in the voluntary sector context, and is at the heart of our resources and events. Much of our research focuses on understanding small and medium voluntary organisations through key ideas from leadership, collaboration and voluntary sector theory. We are also interested in understanding more about the leadership development experiences and needs of these organisations, and how best to meet those needs through online teaching and learning.

Team members’ academic publications on these and other topics can be accessed via Open Research Online.

Research is carried out by academic staff and PhD students. We partner with practice and academic colleagues, locally, nationally and internationally. CVSL maintains an ongoing research focus on leadership practices and sensemaking in collaborative contexts in addition to the specific projects listed below.

Current projects

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Third Europe: EU3 Digital; EU3 Leader

CVSL is a ‘knowledge partner’ for these two multi-partner European projects. EU3 Digital (from October 2020) will identify the digital needs of Third Sector Organisations across Europe and develop learning opportunities for TSOs to develop skills to meet those needs. EU 3 Leader (2016-17) explored the concept of Entrepreneurial Leadership, developing a framework for entrepreneurial leadership in the third sector.

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The Value of Small: Lloyds Foundation

The Value of Small was commissioned by Lloyds Bank Foundation and conducted by an independent research team comprising the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research (CRESR) at Sheffield Hallam University; the Institute for Voluntary Action Research (IVAR) and the Centre for Voluntary Sector Leadership at The Open University. The research highlighted the distinctive value of small charities. 

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Black and Minority Ethnic leadership in the voluntary sector

In 2020, CVSL launched a research project to explore how CVSL’s research, teaching and engagement expertise could add value to building the leadership capacity of BAME individuals and relevant organisations in Milton Keynes. This research project emerged in response to racial inequalities exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the call for social justice by the Black Lives Matter social movement. 

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Leadership and Ethics

Running alongside research into the Local Infrastructure Organisations response to the COVID-19 pandemic, CVSL alongside OU colleague Dr Nik Winchester, are also embarking on a pilot project to consider leadership ethics in the voluntary sector. We will be holding an interactive webinar on Friday 11 December 2020 to explore the sometimes fraught relationship between leadership practice and ethics. Register here.

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Collaborative Leadership

Our ongoing research explores how leadership is enacted in interorganisational and cross-sector contexts, including the complex context of the development and delivery of children’s services.  It explores individual and collective leadership practice, organisational and interorganisational constraints and policy context.  This work informs CVSL’s colleagues’ teaching and externally-funded research projects. 

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Local Infrastructre Organisations response to COVID-19

This study attempts to understand the distinctive contribution of Local Infrastructure Organisations in the COVID-19 response, and to reflect on whether and if so how Local Infrastructure Organisations have adapted in this context. If you would like to find out more about this project or engage directly, please contact Daniel Haslam or Carol Jacklin-Jarvis.

Completed projects

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Tracking Transforming Rehabilitation Probation reforms, funded by Clinks - #TrackTR

The project was a collaboration between Clinks, NCVO, Third Sector Research Centre (TSRC), and CVSL to track the reforms being carried out within the field of Probation – commonly known as ‘Transforming Rehabilitation’ – by surveying the members of Clinks and NCVO at three points between 2015, 2016 and 2017.

Read the final report

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Investigating the contribution of the voluntary sector to mental health crisis case in England

In collaboration with the Health Services Management Centre (HSMC) the Third Sector Research Centre (TSRC), and Suresearch, this study provided a national overview of the range of crisis support offered by the voluntary sector. It explored stakeholder views of the relative strengths and weaknesses of different types of voluntary sector crisis services and made recommendations for the NHS and Local Authorities.

PhD students

Find out more about the research being undertaken by PhD students connected to the Centre for Voluntary Sector Leadership.