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THE VOLUNTARY SECTOR AND THE STATE IN RURAL TOWNS AND VILLAGES Co-existence, cooperation and competition Dr Graham Gardner, FRSA Research Fellow, Aberystwyth.

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Presentation on theme: "THE VOLUNTARY SECTOR AND THE STATE IN RURAL TOWNS AND VILLAGES Co-existence, cooperation and competition Dr Graham Gardner, FRSA Research Fellow, Aberystwyth."— Presentation transcript:

1 THE VOLUNTARY SECTOR AND THE STATE IN RURAL TOWNS AND VILLAGES Co-existence, cooperation and competition Dr Graham Gardner, FRSA Research Fellow, Aberystwyth University

2 The focus Dominant characteristics of relationships Recent changes to relationships ‘Shadow state’ and ‘governmentality’

3 Structure of presentation Context of research –Recent trends and concerns Significance of rural areas –Distinct structure of state Research findings –Key aspects of relationships

4 Research context Increasing state support for rural voluntary sector –Rural Challenge ( ) –Market Town Health Checks ( ) –Vital Villages ( ) –Rural Social and Community Programme (2006 – 2008) –LEADER (1991+) –Regional Development Agencies (1999+) –Rural Community Action (Wales) (2003+)

5 Research context First Rural White Papers (1995 – 1996) –‘individuals, families and communities’ Second Rural White Paper for England (2000) –“a healthy and active voluntary and community sector is essential to the effective functioning of society – urban and rural”

6 Research context Increasing state support for voluntary sector –Voluntary sector as delivery agent and co- producer –Voluntary organisations as community voices in local regeneration –State funding is majority of income for 1/3+ voluntary organisations

7 Research context Key questions –Mechanisms –Partnership in practice –Impact on values and behaviour –Rural context

8 The research ‘Participation, power and rural community governance in England and Wales’ (ESRC) ‘Role, functions and future potential of community and town councils in Wales’ (WAG) Wales Rural Observatory (WAG) ‘Review of the Quality Parish and Town Council Scheme’ (Defra)

9 Key issues Research in urban contexts –Concern over integrity and autonomy of voluntary sector –Asymmetry of power in favour of state –Neo-corporatism and ‘remote control’ –Compacts, contracts and audit culture

10 Key issues Emergence of ‘shadow state’ –Voluntary organisations ‘with collective service responsibilities previously shouldered by the public sector, administered outside traditional democratic politics, but controlled in both formal and informal ways by the state’ (Wolch 1989)

11 Key issues ‘Governmentalization’ of voluntary sector –the voluntary sector ‘is an “active subject” which not only collaborates in this exercise of government but also shapes and influences it” (Morison 2000)

12 Key issues Blurring of boundaries between voluntary sector and state –Crowding out of welfarist ethos –Crowding in of managerialist and economistic values –‘a reconfiguration of rationalities so that the self-interest of [some of] the sector aligns with the interests of a state seeking to mobilise a reserve army of support effectively and on its own terms’ (Morison 2000)

13 The rural context Asymmetries of power –Evidence of shadow state and governmentalization –Voluntary sector as the ‘poor relation’ An additional dimension –Distinctive structure of local state –Presence of parish, town and community councils in rural towns and villages

14 Research findings 90% of local councils provide funding to voluntary sector –At least £1 million / year in Wales –At least £25 million / year in England –Capital and revenue funding

15 Research findings Most common recipients of funding –youth groups, sports clubs, arts and drama societies, local charities, seasonal events Support from more than fifty percent of local councils –village halls, community centres Support from larger (town) councils –branches of national organisations, playing fields, swimming pools, village greens

16 Research findings Importance of council funding –Major income component for smaller organisations –Main income component for some organisations –‘I really don’t know what we’d do without the funding we get from the parish council.’

17 Research findings Representation on management boards –Community halls, community associations, playing fields, leisure facilities Creation of local voluntary organisations –Traws-Newid Community Company, North Wales

18 Research findings Evidence of a ‘shadow state’? –Relationships are more egalitarian –No evidence of ‘remote control’ –Partnerships are largely informal –A form of community-based philanthropy –Any influence is more subtle

19 Research findings Relationships rooted in cultural affinities and personal connections –139 councillors = 180 voluntary sector roles –Interconnectedness of council and voluntary work –Importance of institutional, interpersonal and intra-personal ties –Voluntary sector as a recruiting ground –Councillors identify themselves as volunteers

20 Research findings From co-operation to competition and conflict –Building and mobilisation of local voluntary sector –More formal partnership working –Participatory and representative democracy –Tensions and strains

21 Research findings Tensions and strains –Voluntary organisations engaged at expense of local councils –Jockeying for status and recognition –Anger and frustration amongst local councillors –Growing asymmetries of power favouring voluntary sector

22 Conclusions Relationships between voluntary sector and state in rural towns and villages are complex –Cultural affinities and personal ties make for a more equal ‘partnership’ –Relationships are under strain as voluntary sector becomes more prominent –Tensions are likely to become more evident –Terms of engagement set from the top down


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