CRESR Seminar - Voluntary sector policy entrepreneurs and the emergence of the social prescribing policy window

Start date: 
Wed, 14/06/2017
Closing date: 
Wed, 14/06/2017
Sheffield Hallam University, City Campus, Stoddart Building, Room 7139
Event contact: 
Ian Wilson & Will Eadson

Time: 4.00-5.00 pm


Chris Dayson and Ellen Bennett
Sheffield Hallam University


Over the past twenty years the voluntary sector in the UK has moved from the margins to the mainstream in many policy fields (Kendall, 2002; Haugh and Kitson, 2007), with voluntary organisations and their representatives now considered a key actors in the implementation of social policy, and the sector as a whole is argued to have become a terrain that is 'governable' by the state (Carmel and Harlock, 2008). This is both a national and local phenomenon, yet our understanding of how voluntary organisations influence the development and implementation of social policy, in particular the nexus of local and national policy priorities, is underdeveloped.

This seminar will explore the role of local voluntary organisations in the policy implementation process through examination of social prescribing, a development in asset-based health policy affecting the voluntary sector. We will utilise Kingdon's 'policy windows' framework (Kingdon, 1992) to argue that voluntary sector 'policy entrepreneurs' working at a local level can play a central role in the policy implementation process. Through an in-depth case study of the development and implementation of social prescribing in one English local authority, the seminar will illustrate how local voluntary sector policy actors took advantage of a national policy window to create a local policy window that enabled the implementation of an innovative new approach to service delivery at an area level. Although these policy entrepreneurs operated predominantly in a local policy field centre-local feedback loops meant that their actions directly affected the implementation of policy at a national level.


Dr Ellen Bennett is a Researcher at CRESR. Ellen has research expertise in the voluntary sector, public services and state-voluntary sector relationships and has experience of a range of qualitative research methods. She has worked on a broad spectrum of projects researching voluntary sector organisations, including the Rotherham Social Prescribing Service Evaluation. Ellen is currently working on a range of research projects, including research for Lloyds Bank Foundation for England and Wales exploring the distinctive contribution of small and medium-sized charities.

Chris Dayson is a Senior Research Fellow in the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research. His research focuses on the voluntary and community sector at a local level, in particular their involvement public service delivery and as a provider of socially innovative solutions to the causes and consequences of multiple and complex social and economic disadvantage. He is currently involved in a senior capacity in a number of research and evaluation projects for local and national public sector bodies, voluntary sector organisations and charitable funders.

Since 2013, Chris has led a series of research and evaluation projects exploring social prescribing and its impact on people, health service priorities, and voluntary and community organizations. To date this work has produced numerous policy reports and conference/seminar presentations and one peer-reviewed journal article in Policy and Politics. The work has also extensive received coverage in mainstream and trade press and been cited in policy documents by the NHS and DoH.

In addition to his work in CRESR Chris manages University-wide interdisciplinary Centre for Voluntary Sector Research (CVSR), is a co-editor of the journal People, Place and Policy, and is member of the Voluntary Sector Studies Network (VSSN) where his roles include leading on the organisation of the annual Voluntary Sector and Volunteering Conference.

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