Reflecting on a day in Govan: Voluntary Sector Studies Network Border Crossing

A couple of weeks ago I spent a day in Govan at the Pearce Institute a place with a story all of its own and a fitting veneue for the Voluntary Sector Studies Network foray into Scotland, a first foray for them, and a first attendance at one of their events for me. The theme was Border Crossing,  #VSSNBorders and the background, well #Brexit and #indyref2.


Figure 1: Govan as the Centre of Strathclyde, Macintyre, 2017, CC BY SA 4.0

But first we were treated to a history of Govan, in particular its role at the centre of the Kingdom of Strathclyde and as home to the famous “hog backs” housed in Govan Cathedral. It was probably a bit light on the industrial history, so not much Rab C Nesbit, or Swing Hammer Swing, which might dominate our present imagination, and more on its pre and just industrialising past.

It was a useful way to start, getting us to think about temporality, space, place and meaning. It particuarily resonated with the first group of talks which looked at super diverse neighbourhoods, and the role of some places in always being places where newcomers arrived by Claire Bynner followed by a paper on volunteering and civic engagement by young people whose families had migrated from other places.

The next two slots were concerned with voluntary organisations, Matthew Dutton long term study of how voluntary sector organisations position themselves in relation to the state, a state that which might be argued to be failing (otherwise they wouldnt need to exist), but at the same time is the only source of succour and funds their activities was really interesting. Katey Tabner also dealt with inbetweenness in her presentation, looking at the role of infrastructure organisations that have sprung up to support community groups who have taken up the offer of “Community Empowerment”. An interesting space, where in my personal experience the state often looks to transfer risk to communities and the organisation that arise or have been funded by the state to support this often exist in the kind of uncertain space highlighted by Dutton.

Now back to the Border Crossing. The talk that made a big impression was the one by Gareth Morgan on charity law across the jurisdictions. Which as well as being delivered at break neck speed also had the pointed question of whether VSSN was a registered charity in Scotland, as it might need to be if it planned to continue its own border crossing

Ronald Macintyre

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