Small Voluntary Organisations in the ‘Age of Neoliberalism': Bourdieusian Reflections on Their Opportunities and Challenges
This presentation explores the effects of UK public policy on small voluntary organisations. In recent years, UK governments have outsourced some health and social care services to private and not for profit organisations. In order to encourage social entrepreneurship in voluntary organisations, there have been changes in the way such organisations are defined in state rhetoric, loan schemes for conversion have been introduced and the legislative framework has been changed to allow not for profit organisations to raise capped shares and for social investors to gain tax benefits. For small voluntary organisations that have to change their organisational structure and professionalise to engage in social enterprise, there is the potential for mission drift and failure.
I present findings from case studies of two small voluntary, mutual support organisations for people with heart disease. Both entered into cross-sector partnerships to gain external funding and other resources. The leaders viewed such partnerships instrumentally. They were willing to engage in an exchange – expanding into new geographical areas in return for external funding - and they were even willing to promise to expand knowing it would be extremely difficult, to gain further funding. They were, however, unwilling to sacrifice their core mission in return for external funding and other resources.
I conclude that present UK policy has costs and benefits for small voluntary organisations that seek external funding. Some will fail because of the pressures put upon them but there is scope for such organisations to play the neoliberal ‘game’ whilst resisting powerful forces that seek to control their development. Their reserves of social capital makes it possible for them to remain people-orientated and in control of their individual identity in the face of pressure from more powerful organisations.