Untold stories of volunteering: a cultural animation project

Lead Research Organisation: Keele University
Department Name: Research Institute for Social Sciences

Abstract

This project aims to explore unspoken stories of volunteering by employing a cultural animation approach to ensure that such stories are co-produced from design/scripting through to production and performance with and by the volunteers themselves. Volunteering has been heralded by the Coalition Government as a key ingredient of the Big Society. Vivid in people's memory remains the London Olympics 2012, an event which has highlighted the crucial role played by volunteers. Despite such success stories, critics point to the fact that volunteering remains a minority activity (see Mycock and Tonge, 2011). It has, for example, been calculated that only 39 per cent of adults took part in some form of volunteering in 2011 (The European Volunteering Year), the lowest level since 2001, according to the Government's annual Citizenship Survey (Whitehead, 2011).

Also, it has been argued that governmental and institutional discourses of volunteering do not always account for grass roots experiences of volunteering. Rather they are premised on the assumption that there is an unlimited reservoir of goodwill in communities and people can be encouraged to volunteer more. There is also a sense that volunteering is being promoted as a means to promote a rebalancing of society away from the state and as a way of reducing the cost of welfare service provision and public spending (Seddon, 2007; Rosol, 2012).

Governmental discourses, we argue, fail to do justice to the diverse forms of volunteering and the motives, practices and affective relations involved in volunteering. Furthermore, there appears to be few avenues for alternative discourses of volunteering to emerge, with official discourses of volunteering tending to neglect, marginalise or overlook voices coming from below.

In this project, we capture such voices by engaging with three types of volunteers: voluntary volunteers, instrumental volunteers, and voluntolds (people who are forced to volunteer) from the Stoke-on-Trent area. Stoke-on-Trent is a deprived area which relies heavily on volunteers to support many of its economic, social and cultural activities.

Working closely with volunteers, community organisations and policy makers we will co-develop a methodology by which the untold stories of volunteering will be heard at both local and national level. We do so with the help of cultural animation techniques. Culturally animating a community involves acknowledging and critically approaching existing power and knowledge hierarchies and taking steps to minimise them, as a means to developing more interpretative and less legislative approaches to understanding and working with communities (Phillips, 1998a; 1998b; 2002). This project will be constructed in a trans-disciplinary manner, with academics and their collaborating partners working together across its constituent elements of co-creation, co-design and co-production.

The main outcome of Phase 1 will be the development of a methodology detailing the stages and processes by which the team will co-produce and co-deliver a documentary drama on the untold stories of volunteering in Phase 2. We (volunteers, academics and policy makers) will all be actors in the documentary drama. We aim to co-deliver the documentary drama in at least three different localities across the UK. After each show, there will be a question and answer session to assess the degree to which the performance resonated or not with the audience's own experiences of volunteering. Our community partner, New Vic Borderlines, has over 20 years experience in documentary theatre and is the holder of many national awards.

Planned Impact

The project will make an impact by:

1. enhancing understanding and knowledge of volunteering in society to ensure that volunteering is fully valued and recognised;
2. contributing to local debates about cultural regeneration by providing a forum for volunteers to discuss and reflect on their own experiences and contributions to the life of local communities;
3. contributing to public policy debates on volunteering at a local, regional and national level;
4. enthusing community members to embrace voluntary volunteering;
5. promoting a powerful methodology for co-designing and co-producing knowledge with local communities;
6. turning the untold stories of volunteering into public resources available to the general public, academics, policy makers and other relevant stakeholders;
7. helping organisations relying on volunteers to be more effective in their recruitment and retention of volunteers;
8. changing public opinion with regards to 'voluntolds' (people forced to volunteer).

We will contribute to policy debates by identifying and engaging with policy makers, advocacy organisations and umbrella organisations at all stages of the research. We will work closely with NCVO (National Council of Voluntary Organisations) which is in the process of merging with Volunteering England. Other stakeholders include, CSV, Vinspired, Timebank, the Department for Communities and Local Government, the Office for Civil Society and experienced community activists who will help us develop policy guidelines.

Community practitioners will benefit from an improved understanding of co-design, co-creation and co-production methodologies and may find the techniques of cultural animation useful in 'animating' their local communities to increase participation of hard-to-reach groups in community-led initiatives. This will ensure that any state intervention to increase volunteering activity at local, regional and national levels can be achieved more effectively.

Our final beneficiary will be the volunteers and their local communities. We plan to perform the documentary drama in communal venues in at least three localities across the UK, for example, New Vic Theatre, Newcastle-under-Lyme, the Richard Attenborough Centre for Disability and the Arts, University of Leicester and a London venue yet to be identified. Volunteers, academics and policy makers will act in the performance, thus ensuring it is truly co-delivered. After each show there will be a question and answer session to assess the degree to which the performance resonated or not with the audience's own experience of volunteering.
 
Title A Bright Future for Stoke on Trent Exhibition 
Description This CASIC installation was part of the 'Back to the drawing board' exhibition and ran from November 23rd until January 16th. The installation contained a projection of Peter Rice's mural, Bridgewater artefacts, ordinary day to day objects, empty frames, voice overs and musical documentaries made by diverse communities which took part in previous CASIC research projects. Using Cultural Animation techniques of community engagement and knowledge co-production pioneered in the UK by Sue Moffat, Founding Director of New Vic Borderlines and developed further via the Connected Communities research, participants were encouraged to create and visualise a bright future for Stoke on Trent by filling empty frames with their own ideas and aspirations, drawing themselves in the projection, imagining conversations that will take place in the future, and writing haikus and cinquans about their aspirations, wishes and ambitions for Stoke on Trent. This living and interactive installation acted as a bridge between past, present and future and as a boundary object that can unite communities around ideas about the future. On November, 23rd, a steady stream of community members, students and staff came to visit the CASIC installation and take part in interactive workshops. Four theatre practitioners from the New Vic Boderlines encouraged participants to paint tea towels in the Pat Albeck's tradition, write haikus about their relationship with Stoke on Trent and put themselves in the projection of a mural by Peter Rice entitled 'A Bright Past for Stoke-on-Trent'. The discussions about Stoke and its impact on one's individual and collective identity have been fascinating. The created artifacts have been added to the installation and captured in picture and video form. 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition 
Year Produced 2016 
Impact Change of views regarding the past and present of Stoke on Trent Community members joining the Community Animation and Social Innovation centre 
URL https://www.keele.ac.uk/casic/pastevents/
 
Title Untold Stories of Volunteering documentary drama 
Description As part of celebratory activities for Volunteers' Week, you are invited to come along to our interactive documentary drama about Untold Stories of volunteering which will be performed on stage by volunteers rather than actors. Under the sponsorship of the Arts and Humanities Research Council, The New Vic Theatre (Newcastle under Lyme) has teamed up with Keele and Leicester Universities and NCVO (National Council of Voluntary Organisations) to create with members of our communities a moving performance about the role of volunteering in our society. The drama explores the emotions, aspirations and frustrations the volunteer encounters on this journey towards better society. Dates and Venues: June 5th 2014 at 1.30pm New Vic Theatre, Newcastle under Lyme June 6th 2014 at 2.45pm Oxford House, Derbyshire Street, Bethnal Green, London, E2 6HG June 7th 2014 at 7pm Richard Attenborough Centre, Leicester 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition 
Year Produced 2014 
Impact invited national audiences to reflect collectively on existing official discourses of volunteering 
URL http://www.keele.ac.uk/volunteeringstories/futureevents/
 
Title cultural animation outputs 
Description a series of material artifacts, songs, and small performances about what we do not know about volunteering, and the relationship between the state and the individual volunteer 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2014 
Impact it brought to the fore paradoxes on volunteering allowed an open discussion about voluntolding 
URL http://www.keele.ac.uk/volunteeringstories/culturalanimationoutcomes/
 
Description The project's aim was to give voice to untold stories of volunteering by employing a cultural animation methodology to ensure that such stories are co-designed and co-produced with and by volunteers and other interested stakeholders. The project had two phases. In the first phase, we worked closely with volunteers from Staffordshire and other stakeholders involved in volunteering, particularly the New Vic Theatre and NCVO (National Council for Voluntary Organisations) to co-design a cultural animation methodology in order to explore volunteering experiences from multiple perspectives and uncover untold stories of volunteering. In a series of cultural animation workshops, participants explored volunteering through the creation of songs, plays, puppets and human tableaux. Drawing on the themes developed in Phase 1, we broadened the stakeholder community in Phase 2 to include a large spectrum of volunteers from around the UK, umbrella groups, support organisations and local government. The project concluded with the performance of an interactive documentary drama entitled Untold Stories of Volunteering which was co-designed, co-produced and co-performed by participants in venues based in Newcastle-under-Lyme, Leicester and London.
Exploitation Route The legacy of 'Untold Stories of Volunteering' is multifaceted. At an individual level, the cultural animation exercises have changed the way participants think about each other's aspirations and agendas providing new skills that are useful in community work and also in teaching. This project refines the on-going work New Vic Borderlines is doing with marginalised categories of people in our society, strengthens Keele University and Leicester University's agenda of community leadership and community sustainability and provides evidence for NCVO to influence government and other umbrella organisations on issues which are central to volunteering. The study accessed stories of volunteering from the 'voluntolds', a marginalised category whose voice is hardly represented or accounted for in the academic literature or the policy making debates, and challenged taken for granted views about existing motivations and rationales for volunteering. The project contributes a methodological legacy to academic studies on volunteering advancing a unique understanding about how volunteering practices condition and are conditioned by the wider social practices and relations in which they are located.
Sectors Chemicals

URL http://www.keele.ac.uk/volunteeringstories/
 
Description The findings have been used by academics, community groups, charity and umbrella organisations to clarify roles, policies, structures, training, support and communication with respect to volunteering.
First Year Of Impact 2015
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy
Impact Types Societal

 
Description Connected Communities Cardiff Festival
Amount £16,000 (GBP)
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 06/2014 
End 03/2015
 
Description Connected Communities Festival 2015
Amount £13,000 (GBP)
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2015 
End 12/2015
 
Description EPSRC Community and Culture Network
Amount £23,000 (GBP)
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2014 
End 09/2015
 
Description Scale and growth Award
Amount £7,000 (GBP)
Organisation NIHR/HEFCE Higher Education Fund for England 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2015 
End 03/2016
 
Description early career Leverhulme fellowship
Amount £40,000 (GBP)
Organisation The Leverhulme Trust 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2016 
End 08/2019
 
Title Cultural Animation 
Description • draws on the everyday experiences of people and their creative abilities to make sense of the world • builds up trusting relationships between participants by inviting them to work together in activities which may be new to them but which rely on their life experiences • when people move about and complete tasks together, it facilitates new ways of seeing and thinking • boundary objects (everyday objects) are central to the collaboration and communication between academics, medical practitioners and members of the public • common sense, academic expertise and practical skills are valued in equal measure • knowledge and experiences are articulated in actions, images, installations as well as via the written word • the cultural animateur acts as a facilitator • pioneered in the UK by New Vic Borderlines and the Community Animation and Social Innovation Centre at Keele University 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2017 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Cultural animation provides a route to co-produce research agendas, empowers the public to engage actively with health professionals/academics/policy makers and make a positive contribution to their community. 
URL https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0377221717310779
 
Description Audencia Business School 
Organisation Audencia Business School
Country France 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution On April 7th, 2016, CASIC hosted Professor Latchezar Hristov from Audencia Business School, Nantes who gave a talk about responsible innovation to a mixed audience that included both academics and community partners. Professor Hristov outlined the economic and social context of innovation, providing insightful examples of technological and social innovations that have changed the world. He stressed the need for organisations to embrace a more responsible approach to innovation that would ensure social benefits and a sustainability for future generations. The talk was followed by three cultural animation exercises run by theatre practitioners from New Vic Borderlines. Participants debated and enacted the meanings of responsible innovation, creating installations, poems and performances. The event concludes with a collective reflection on the topic and suggestions for future events on social innovation.
Collaborator Contribution Mihaela Kelemen has given a talk on Academia-Community Engagement: Creative Approaches to Knowledge coproduction September, 2016 , Audencia Business School, Nantes Further events will follow in 2017
Impact one workshop and one academic talk
Start Year 2015
 
Description CASIC summer school for creative methods of research and community engagement 
Organisation Arts Council England
Department New Vic Theatre
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution https://www.keele.ac.uk/casic/summerschool2017/Speakers will include: · Professor Mihaela Kelemen - CASIC Director · Dr Lindsay Hamilton - Keele Management School, Keele University · Dr Emma Surman - Keele Management School, Keele University · Dr Ceri Morgan - School of Humanities, Keele University · Professor Rajmil Fischman - School of Music, Keele University
Collaborator Contribution · Véronique Jochum - Research Manager, National Council for Voluntary Organisations · Sue Moffat - Director of New Vic Borderlines, New Vic Theatre
Impact Arts-based research · Transformative research frameworks · Mixed-methods research · Knowledge co-production · Research using technology · Writing creatively for research
Start Year 2017
 
Description Cultural Animation and Social Innovation Centre, Keele University 
Organisation Arts Council England
Department New Vic Theatre
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Community Animation and Social Innovation Centre (CASIC) is rooted in Keele University's tradition of multi and trans-disciplinary research and its commitment to community engagement as reflected in the Strategic Plan. The Centre builds on existing relations with the award-winning New Vic Theatre, with which Keele developed a specific methodology of knowledge co-creation and of community engagement, entitled 'Cultural Animation'. Keele University has funded a two day per week admin support post for CASIC.
Collaborator Contribution Cultural Animation has been used to co-create knowledge on diverse topics such as volunteering (http://www.keele.ac.uk/volunteeringstories/), personal community (http://www.keele.ac.uk/exploringpersonalcommunities/), community asset mapping, energy poverty and energy use/reduction, sustainability, ageing, violence, exclusion, communities in crisis (http://www.keele.ac.uk/bridgingthedivide/), within multiple community settings in the UK, Canada, Japan, Greece and Poland.
Impact https://www.keele.ac.uk/casic/workingpaperseries/
Start Year 2015
 
Description SEISMIC collaboration 
Organisation SEiSMiC Project
Country European Union (EU) 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution SEiSMiC National Workshop On April 12th 2016, CASIC and the New Vic Theatre co-hosted a SEiSMiC National Workshop on 'Improving the Engagement of Public Authorities with Community Organisations'. The event attracted over 60 participants from the UK and Holland. Academics, public authorities, funders and community partners explored how community organisations, and especially community enterprises, could work more effectively with formal (public) authorities in accessing funding, in public procurement and in conducting research and delivering innovation. The participants were divided into three groups to debate 1) accessing public funding - grants and projects, 2) public procurement and 3) being involved in research and innovation projects. The key issues identified in the morning were then animated via three experiential workshops led by theatre practitioners from the New Vic Borderlines. Participants created poems, installations and performances that were presented to the larger group. The event concluded with a presentation by Professor Kate Pahl from Sheffield University who synthesised the main communicative challenges in collaborating with multiple stakeholders and highlighted the potential of community animation techniques to surpass them, followed by a talk by Mike Coyne (SEiSMiC) who placed the findings of the workshop in a European context.
Collaborator Contribution After an introduction to CASIC by Professor Mihaela Kelemen, there was a panel discussion led by representatives from two community enterprises: Cordwainers Grow and Firesouls, The Heritage Lottery Fund West Midlands, Birmingham City Council and JPI Urban Europe.
Impact the collaboration was multidisciplinary: management, social policy, theatre studies, cultural studies Workshop and best practice paper
Start Year 2015
 
Description The International Federation of the Red Crosses and Cresents 
Organisation International Federation of Red Cross and Crescents
PI Contribution Working together towards developing their learning strategy platform
Collaborator Contribution We held a series of Skype meetings and introduced our Cultural Animation methodology to their annual learning conference in Madrid.
Impact This collaboration is at an early stage and it is likely to result in applying for follow on funding.
Start Year 2017
 
Description CASIC video 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact We commissioned a short film to showcase the research done by CASIC members.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.moonbrushed.com/casic
 
Description Forum for Rural Research in Health and Well Being 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This initiative is a partnership between the Research Institute for Primary Care and Health Sciences, the Community Animation and Social Innovation Centre (CASIC), South Staffordshire and Shropshire NHS Healthcare Foundation Trust (SSSFT), and the New Vic Borderlines (the outreach department of the award winning New Vic Theatre). The FRRESH Initiative provides an opportunity - that would otherwise be lacking - to explore and respond to rural health inequalities and the apparent research gap.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Interview for Cash and Culture, Nantes Radio 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact http://www.euradionantes.eu/article/cash-culture
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.euradionantes.eu/news/2017/2/6/cash-and-culture-on-the-importance-of-communities-to-cultu...
 
Description Kelemen, M. Untold Stories of Volunteering, Big Local Spring Events, Birmingham and London 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The intended purpose was to share with community members lessons from our previous project on volunteering and to introduce to them Cultural Animation, a methodology of knowledge co-creation and community engagement.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL https://www.keele.ac.uk/legacyofconnectedcommunities/activities/
 
Description Presentation at the UK Participatory Research Network 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact I gave a talk on the work CASIC have been undertaking recently, entitled: "Co-creating knowledge with communities using cultural animation".
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description The Internal Launch of Community Animation and Social Innovation Centre-CASIC, Keele 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The Community Animation and Social Innovation Centre-CASIC was launched on March 16th in the presence of more than 60 participants from academia and the local community. Professor David Shepherd, the Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences welcomed the participants and gave a short overview of CASIC, re-iterating the centrality of community based research and knowledge co-production, to the strategic plan of the University. His welcome address was followed by a talk given by CASIC Director, Professor Mihaela Kelemen (KMS), who emphasised that the main ambitions of CASIC are to dissolve the boundaries between academia and its wider community and to embrace a way of working and researching that recognises that common-sense, experience and day to day creativity are as important as academic expertise in the pursuit of truth and knowledge. Sue Moffat, Director of New Vic Borderlines, invited participants to experience Cultural Animation Methodologies of knowledge co-production and community engagement. Some groups wrote and performed cinquains about community and research, whilst others worked together to create an installation by using ordinary objects, items, small frames and large frames to explore ways "to improve the social conditions of individuals and their communities through the application of knowledge that is co-created". Participants were also invited to contribute haikus that expressed their own personal aspirations regarding CASIC to the 'Tree of life' while other participants experienced the 'Button exercise'. Buttons that represented The University and its Community had to be sorted as finely as possible, categorised and labelled with the view to create a map of the relationships that currently existed and then participants had to redraw an ideal version of the relationships and a CASIC charter. The CASIC launch ended with a collective reflective process and a discussion about plans for future events.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL https://www.keele.ac.uk/casic/casicinternallaunch/
 
Description Visit to Audencia Business School 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Professor Mihaela Kelemen (CASIC) visited Audencia Business School in Nantes in June 2017 for a series of meetings, talks and workshops aimed at strengthening the collaboration between the two business schools. The highlight of the trip was a Cultural Animation workshop focusing on food poverty and waste in the UK and France. The event brought together academics, students and industry and was facilitated by Sue Moffat from the New Vic Borderlines. The workshop was part of a series of activities funded by Audencia to research CASIC's social innovation practices and its contribution to enhancing community engagement and research impact.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description field visit for the Alley Theatre Huston, USA 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact A team from the Alley Theatre, Huston, USA (https://www.alleytheatre.org/) visited CASIC on April 26-27th. The team composed of the Director of Education and Community Engagement, the Executive Manager of Education and Community Engagement and the Associate General Manager received a travel grant to research best international practices with regards to theatre-university-community partnerships.

During their first day, the team visited Keele University's digital MakerSpace (https://www.keele.ac.uk/make/) where Dr. Dimitra Blana run a workshop on how technology could be used creatively for community engagement purposes. Following this, Professor Rajmil Fischman demonstrated the Manual Actions Expressive System - MAES, https://cycling74.com/tools/maes-manual-actions-expressive-system-3/) and PhD student William Brearley (Music) presented ongoing work on music expression through body tracking in the Moser Motion Capture Suite. The team also visited the KAVE in the School of Pharmacy where the visitors immersed themselves virtually in the food and health research carried out by CASIC researchers for the 2015 Connected Communities festival. The second day consisted of a visit to the New Vic Theatre where they were hosted by New Vic Borderlines Director Sue Moffat and to various communities groups in Stoke on Trent. Cathy Bencivenga, Shayna Schlosberg and Mary Sutton said about their visit to CASIC:

" Besides the getting to observe the exemplary cultural animation techniques, what made our visit to CASIC special was the idea of measuring "legacy," rather than impact. So often, when trying to animate a group through art-making, the assessment is difficult to capture. It seems so evident now that we think about it, that when dealing with populations living at the margins of society, measuring impact doesn't adequately define the work. The CASIC folks are really onto something! We do this work to deeply effect our community in a way that reverberates beyond that one intervention or project, i.e. to create a lasting "legacy." Our visit with the dedicated professionals at CASIC helped us reframe and refresh our desire to work within our community in Houston."
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.keele.ac.uk/casic/news/alleytheatrehoustonusavisitscasic.php