The kinds of research questions to be addressed by OIC do not fit tidily into the structures of academic disciplines and departments. In interdisciplinary and individual terms, the topics have been long neglected. For example, no major histories of charity have been written since the 1960s.

The Institute will adopt a genuinely interdisciplinary approach, drawing on a broad range of academic knowledge and skills. For this reason, OIC has been established to flourish within a vibrant collegiate setting. In particular, the advantages of professional and interpersonal links between cutting-edge researchers with a wide range of scholarly interests.

Charity History

Research theme: charity history:

  • The 19th Century emergence of the State as an alternative to charity in providing welfare and other public services.
  • The development of the public/voluntary/ private sector relationship.
  • The development of charities as professional organisations, drawing on private and public sector models of business administration as well as forging their own ways of working.
  • The emergence of a campaigning role for charities, advocating and securing change at international, national and local levels in the 20th Century.

Research examples: charity history

  • The interplay between the development of charitable enterprise and the emergence of the organised women’s movement in the UK in the late nineteenth century
  • The changing role of charity during the period of creation of the Welfare State in the UK.

Charity and Politics

Research Theme: charity and politics:

  • Charity and social cohesion, including charity’s role in understanding and meeting the needs of vulnerable and marginalized groups of people.
  • Articulating the needs of communities not met through political process.
  • Justice and ethics: the achievements of charity in developing, promoting and defending norms of social justice and equality, and the performance of charitable organisations in exemplifying such norms.
  • Charity’s part in a flourishing democracy – the idea of voluntary action; the relationship between the State and the charitable sector; charity’s role in securing democratic change and holding to account elected and non-elected public authorities.

Research example: charity & politics

  • Charity as both agent and critic of Government in a time of economic uncertainty.
  • Community cohesion studied through the lens of the experience of faith-based British Asian charities.

Charity Governance & Leadership

Research theme: charity governance and leadership:

  • The effectiveness and impact of the distinct model of charity governance and its nonprofit variants including social enterprise, housing provision, arts and educational bodies.
  • How charities have met distinctive challenges of leadership in terms of accountability (regulators, trustee boards), methods of resourcing (grants, donations and contracts), and operational management (the extensive use of volunteers).
  • Innovation and its challenges in the organisation of charitable endeavours: charities as pioneers of “social leadership”; structured vs fluid (virtual, crowdfunded, “movement” based) models of organisation; the adoption of combined models (eg charities with a commercial subsidiary), mergers, and partnerships.

Research example: charity governance & leadership

  • Barriers to effective collaboration both within and between charitable organisations.
  • Charity leaders as resourceful pioneers of the new “social leadership” in which relationship building and agile development are conceived as replacing outdated “command and control” approaches to management and planning.

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