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Small voluntary organisations in Britain’s ‘Big society’: A Bourdieusian approach

Small voluntary organisations in Britain’s ‘Big society’: A Bourdieusian approach

McGovern, Pauline (2014) Small voluntary organisations in Britain’s ‘Big society’: A Bourdieusian approach. VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, 25 (3). pp. 636-656. ISSN 0957-8765 (Print), 1573-7888 (Online) (doi:

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This article discusses some potentially harmful consequences of the Big Society agenda for small voluntary organisations, using a theoretical framework suggested by the later work of Pierre Bourdieu. I explore the way in which a voluntary self-help group for people with heart disease evolved, as a result of the pursuit of external funding. This paper focuses on the rapid rise of specific kinds of leaders—members with a professional background, relevant skills and an orientation to the group that enabled them to pursue funding opportunities and to gain increasing control despite the opposition of the long-standing volunteers and the founders of the group. I conclude that government policy to enhance the role of the voluntary sector in the delivery of welfare services may encourage certain kinds of leaders to become powerful in small voluntary organisations. This may adversely affect their organisational structure and lead members to feel dispossessed.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Self-help, Funding, Oligarchy, Habitus, Capital
Faculty / Department / Research Group: Faculty of Business > Department of International Business & Economics
Last Modified: 21 Apr 2017 14:29
Selected for GREAT 2016: GREAT b
Selected for GREAT 2017: None
Selected for GREAT 2018: None
Selected for GREAT 2019: None
Selected for REF2021: None

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