IVR was first established in Volunteering England as a partnership with the University of East London (1997). With the merger or Volunteering England and the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, IVR became part of the research function of NCVO (2013).
IVR was set up in response to the need for a dedicated body to undertake high quality research on volunteering contributing to policy and practice. The name ‘Institute for Volunteering Research’ is associated with research of the highest quality in this country and globally, and with evidence, knowledge and thinking that is widely trusted. This was confirmed in 2013, when Companies House under the section 1194 (1) under the Companies Act 2006 approved the use of the word INSTITUTE in IVR’s name. This approval was based on the written support from the ESRC, the Cabinet Office, the Voluntary Sector Studies Network (VSSN), the Third Sector Research Centre (TSRC), local infrastructure organisations, international networks and individual academics from a range of universities.
IVR had strong links with those who analyse and seek to influence government policy; those who lead and manage volunteer-involving organisations; and those who support and sustain their efforts at national and local levels. Through partnerships with University of East London, Birkbeck, University of London, and Northumbria University and its links with other universities IVR also drew on and contributed to developments in fundamental research and theory building about voluntary action. From this unique vantage point IVR was able to:
- Inform policy and practice by developing insights and ‘usable theories’ drawn from the latest research and applying them to the issues and challenges faced by those working in the field of volunteering; and
- Help to ensure that the research agenda and the development of volunteering as a field of study are shaped by the experience of practitioners and policy-makers and address their concerns.
In particular IVR:
- Undertook commissioned research and evaluations for a variety of volunteer-involving organisations and those that support volunteering, across the voluntary, public and private sectors, such as the United Nations, European Commission, Home Office, Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Department of Health and Social Care, Department for International Development, Barclays Bank, BT, Orange, Crisis, Dimbleby Cancer Care, Marie Curie Cancer Care, National Trust and the Samaritans.
- Developed methodologies including practitioner-friendly ‘tool-kits’ for evaluation and published the Volunteering Impact Assessment Toolkit.
- Established a web-based evidence bank that provided open access to its reports and findings.
- Contributed to books, monographs, articles and working papers. including the book Volunteering and Society in the 21st Century, Volunteering and the Test of Time (anthology of articles from its journal Voluntary Action), an article on Volunteers who Manage Other Volunteers in Voluntary Sector Review, a chapter in Hybrid Organizations and the Third Sector (edited by David Billis) and a Working Paper on Definitions of Volunteering.
- Disseminated knowledge and understanding through lectures and presentations at a variety of academic and practitioner focused events.
In July 2019 IVR transferred from NCVO to UEA where its activities are currently funded until July 2021. IVR’s principal function is to support UEA’s endeavour to have significant societal and economic impact. It does so by connecting UEA researchers with communities of place and experience, in particular with volunteers and volunteer-involving organisations, around the globally recognised topic of volunteering. The 220 documents from IVR’s legacy evidence bank are now available ‘open access’ on the British Library Social Welfare Portal.
UEA is the first Higher Education Institution to base a research centre with such a topic in a health school, reflecting a paradigm shift from organisational and management studies to the understanding of the difference volunteering makes on individual and public health.
As of November 2019, IVR has one member of staff (Director 0.5 fte), is co-supervising an SRA (0.4 fte), involves six researchers in project development, is supported by an advisory panel with nine members and an international expert group with six members.