Flagship civil society research centre enjoys official inauguration

Cardiff University based research institute receives £10 million for social science research.

The Wales Institute of Social & Economic Research, Data & Methods (WISERD) will celebrate the launch of its flagship WISERD Civil Society Research Centre on Thursday 5th February, 2015. WISERD has received funding in excess of £10 million to found a national research centre which will undertake a five year innovative and far-reaching research programme of policy relevant research addressing Civil Society in Wales, the UK and Internationally. This funding includes £7 million from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and a further £3m from Aberystwyth, Bangor, Cardiff, South Wales and Swansea Universities. WISERD Civil Society is a collaborative venture, involving researchers from across twelve UK Universities and a range of international partners.

The Centre’s programme will explore a series of policy and practice relevant themes which impact upon civil society at local, regional and national levels. These will include: education, volunteering, well-being, ageing, governance and diversity.

The launch event will take place at The Gate Arts Centre in Roath, Cardiff and will be attended by some of the world’s foremost academics, public and policy stakeholders, and civil society organisations. Speakers include: Ruth Marks (MBE), Chief Executive of the Wales Council for Voluntary Action (WCVA); Rhodri Morgan, former First Minister for Wales; and Saskia Sassen, the Robert S. Lynd Professor of Sociology at Columbia University and Co-Chair of The Committee on Global Thought.

The Centre is committed to undertaking research on civil society in order to benefit civil society and will be working closely with a range of organisations including: the National Museum of Wales, Age Cymru, the Wales Council for Voluntary Action, and Council for Wales of Voluntary Youth Services.

Dr Rosie Plummer, Director of the National Botanic Garden of Wales, said:This centre is a terrific development and we are enthusiastic about supporting its valuable research and collaborating with it. Understanding the potential and motivations of older volunteers, and overcoming any barriers to their involvement with us, will be enormously beneficial.  At a time when the population is ageing, families are atomising, and a worryingly high proportion of young people (especially in rural areas) are not in education, employment or training, projects such as this have significant and widely important beneficial potential.”

Echoing Dr Plummer’s support, Bryan Collis, Senior Research Office at the Wales Council for Voluntary Action (WCVA), said: The Civil Society Centre represents the biggest investment in research into volunteering, communities and voluntary activity in Wales I can remember. I hope it will result in a better understanding of the way Welsh communities work and are changing, so we, the people of Wales, can build stronger, more resilient communities. That will be essential as we face the challenges of the future. Sometimes the Welsh experience is lost in research that is UK based, so I’m looking forward to work that compares our experience and situation with other areas of the UK and beyond.”

WISERD Director Professor Ian Rees Jones welcomed the initiative, noting that:  WISERD Civil Society is built around the longstanding partnerships between academics, policy makers and civil society organisations which have been developed by WISERD over the past seven years. The Centre will aim to inform our understanding of the changing nature of civil society in the context of devolved government and processes of profound social and economic change. Because of its size and devolved government, Wales offers a unique context for studying these issues. The centre will build on existing networks of researchers who have a wide range of expertise and skills, to undertake research at national and international levels. This is indeed a unique and exciting opportunity to undertake collaborative and multidisciplinary research that is focused on contemporary features of civil society.”

Publication date: 4 February 2015