Department of Political Science


Non-Profit and Voluntary Sector Policy and Management

Course Code


Course Tutor


One 3,000 word essay

Credit Value


About this course

In recent years there has been growing political and theoretical focus upon the contribution of non-profit and voluntary sector organisations within modern market-based democracies. Increasingly governments look to non-profit organisations, charities, cooperatives or social enterprises to provide remedies to social problems; at the same time voluntary organisations within civil society seek to regulate and to change the behaviours of governments and of the market. The shifting economic and policy environment caused by the 2007 financial crisis, Brexit and austerity programmes has created further challenges for the societal role and sustainability of voluntary organisations.

This course aims to provide students with the necessary analytical tools to understand how the non-profit and voluntary sector functions in developed economies, drawing in particular upon literature and research from the UK, other European countries and the United States. It seeks to explore not simply the theoretical function and contribution of such organisations, but also the practical challenges of management, governance and accountability. Students are encouraged, where appropriate, to ground their learning in their own experiences. On completion of the course students will understand:

  • key intellectual traditions in non-profit and voluntary sector research
  • central concepts such as charity, philanthropy, volunteering, voluntary and community organisations and sector, non-profit, third sector, civil society, social capital, social enterprise, social entrepreneurship
  • roles of the non-profit and voluntary sector in public policy
  • relationships of the non-profit and voluntary sector with government and the private sector
  • approaches to organisational behaviour, governance and accountability in non-profit, voluntary and community organisations.

The course benefits from the involvement of invited external speakers. In previous years speakers have included experts in government policy, volunteering, evaluation and charity law, such as:

  • Professor Steven Rathgeb Smith, University of Washington
  • Nick Ockenden, Director, Institute for Volunteering Research, UK
  • Sarah Mistry, Director of Effectiveness and Learning, Bond
  • Dr Karl Wilding, Head of Policy, Research and Foresight, National Council for Voluntary Organisations, UK
  • Ana Caistor Arendar, adviser on global campaigns and advocacy, Oxfam