Working with the Grassroots: Learning from Community Organisers, Community Development & Community Engagement

Thursday 28th June 2012, 10.00am – 3.00pm

GMCVO, Manchester

Third in a series of policy seminars organised by TSRC and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), this seminar was organised in collaboration with the Greater Manchester Centre for Voluntary Organisations (GMCVO) and explored grassroots voluntary action.

The continued trend towards increasing the voluntary sector's role in mainstream policy initiatives has recently extended outwards to smaller third sector groups and activities; arguably, the least known about and larger part of the third sector. Their increasing importance in policy is reflected in the continued drive towards localism and the coalition government's £15 million investment in the Community Organising Programme to train local leaders to (re)build their communities.

Reflecting on current policy, this seminar contributed to furthering our understanding of local grassroots organisations – frequently referred to as under- or below-the-radar (BTR) organisations.

The seminar explored and compared different models of community organisers, community development and community engagement practice. It examined the impact of BTR groups on the implementation of localism, two years on in the Big Society.

Drawing on data from TSRC's pilot 'street-walking mapping' project that aimed to identify unregistered third sector activity, this seminar offered a picture of the groups and activities that constitute the larger part of the third sector. It included discussion and debate on:

  • How and where small grassroots organisations operate;
  • The extent to which they offer services to the public (as opposed to delivering public services);
  • Challenges and issues that grassroots organisations face;
  • Whether policy interventions are helping or hindering small grassroots organisations.

The event was chaired by Chris Ford, Newcastle University Business School and Stephen Little, GMCVO.

Seminar agenda and presentations

Seminar agenda (PDF, 201KB) 

Angus McCabe, TSRC and Professor Marilyn Taylor, University of the West of England (PDF, 200Kb)

Peter Firth, The Mosses Centre (PDF, 524Kb)

Kamal Mashjari, Al Ghazali Centre (PDF, 123Kb)

Social Media

Blog by Angus McCabe: 'Community Development is dead, long live.....?' 

A Twitter stream is also available to view using the hash tag #3srps

More about the seminar series

This seminar is the third in a series of joint seminars focusing on various issues of relevance to civil society. The aim of the seminar is to encourage an exchange of knowledge and ideas between academic research and policy and practice, helping to ensure that research findings on the sector are disseminated, applied and acted upon amongst a range of organisations within the sector. Furthermore, the seminar’s aim is to encourage the utilisation of research by policy makers in central and local government.

The emphasis of the seminar will be on interaction, active learning and personal knowledge exchange. The seminar will not only provoke thought and discussion on the day, but provide a step towards establishing a fruitful discourse that can be continued after the event.

Past seminars:

Big Society: a critical reappraisal

Third sector service delivery: marrying scale and responsiveness