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  • Author or Editor: James Bowles x
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How we understand and represent the world through a spatial lens is changing. Spatially referenced data are ubiquitous, and analytical tools such as geographic information systems (GIS) are increasingly accessible and more intuitive than their predecessors. The fruits of the Fourth Industrial Revolution embed novel socio-spatial ontologies into not only our knowledge of the world but our lived experience. Policy initiatives such as the UK’s Cabinet Office-led Geospatial Commission see great economic and social value in widening access to spatial data. In the social sciences, proponents of a spatially integrated social science espouse the elucidating power of spatial perspectives and methods for pertinent social challenges.

This chapter shows how this rapidly changing field has been, and can be, applied to study the voluntary sector. It starts by outlining the utility of a spatial orientation for academic and practice-based studies of the voluntary sector, before turning to the benefits and idiosyncratic challenges of regulatory data, grant-making data, spatial indexes and classifications and local government data for exploring the voluntary sector. Relevant data sources having been explored, the tools and approaches to spatial data visualisation are shown and then critically explored in the light of established methodological and ethical concerns. Finally, innovative approaches are encouraged in order to further our spatial understanding of the voluntary sector.

While the chapter draws heavily on the work of academic voluntary sector scholars, it is hoped that it will not only stimulate spatial thinking but also provide practical guidance for practitioners and scholars alike who wish to map and examine the spatial manifestations of the voluntary sector.

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The role of charity in the provision of public services is of substantial academic and practitioner interest, and charitable initiative within the English and Welsh National Health Service (NHS) has recently received considerable attention. This study provides rich insights into the role that NHS-linked charities present themselves as playing within the NHS. The dataset analysed is a novel construction of 3,250 detailed expenditure lines from 676 sets of charity accounts. Qualitative content analysis of itemised descriptions of expenditure allows us to explore how these charities portray their activities. We distinguish between expenditures that can be framed as supplementary to government funding (such as amenities and comforts) and items that suggest charitable effort is substituting for government support (such as funding for clinical equipment). We also consider the claims being made through these representations, and suggest that the distinctiveness of the charity and NHS spheres are currently under question. We argue that, through their representational practices, charities are both shaping and blurring the expected roles of government and charity. Acceptance of the benefits that charitable initiative does provide, in terms of innovation, pluralism and participation, must be tempered with the realisation that charitable funds are playing a role in service provision that is not guided by clear policy, and that this has the potential to widen existing inequalities within a key public service.

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Charity reserve levels are widely used as a measure of financial vulnerability, of both individual charitable organisations and the wider sector. This paper assesses the mandated reporting of reserves by a large sample of British charities. We find that many charities are reporting figures that do not match the definition of reserves given by regulatory bodies. We therefore recommend caution when using extant reserves data, and that increased attention should be paid to the preparation of such data.

Open access