Introducing the voluntary sector
Introducing the voluntary sector

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Introducing the voluntary sector

Week 3: Structure and functions of the voluntary sector


The voluntary sector has a specific place within the UK: it conducts many diverse activities and makes a vital contribution to society. It is important to consider the shape of the sector and how to understand its impact.

This week you delve more into the nature and make-up of the voluntary sector: first by looking at overall information about the sector and its contribution to the economy; second, by focusing on the differences within the voluntary sector (rather than between the sectors) and finally you will look at an example of research into gathering data (micro-mapping).

Week 1 introduced you to examples of the diversity of organisations: how they might differ by size, type of activity, interests and purpose, as well as the different ways in which they fitted the NCVO’s description of voluntary nature. This week’s work helps you to explore these issues in more depth and to gain confidence in using data. Much of the data this week comes from the UK Civil Society Almanac 2015 published by NCVO (2015a). In terms of understanding values and valuing in relation to the voluntary sector, this week you will find out what the voluntary sector’s monetary value is.

In the following video the course author, Julie Charlesworth, introduces you to Week 3.

Download this video clip.Video player: volb1_wk3_intro_ou_pro_res_master_edited.mp4
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Welcome to Week 3. Last week, you looked at the complex subject of values. This week, you’ll get a sense of the overall picture of the voluntary sector. You already know by now that the sector is diverse, and this week, you’ll get a sense of the differences within the sector.
Size is a major difference. There are some very large organisations working on an international or national basis, as well as some micro-organisations. You’ll explore issues, such as how many organisations there are, what the organisations’ income is, and how many people work or volunteer in the sector. You also get some practice this week in working with numbers, and thinking about how you could do some research on organisations in your area.
By the end of this week, you’ll have some useful information about the sector and know how to obtain more. This will help you in thinking about how an organisation you’re familiar with fits this overall picture.
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By the end of this week, you should be able to:

  • describe the overall picture of the voluntary sector in the UK
  • understand the different activities of voluntary and community organisations
  • explain the contribution of the voluntary sector to the UK economy
  • explain differences within the sector
  • work with data in tables.

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