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Valuing the VCSE Sector in East Sussex

East Sussex County Council has commissioned IVAR to carry out research on the voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) sector’s social, economic and environmental value and impact across East Sussex. The research will build on prior work carried out by ESCC and partners in 2011, which has since been used to inform policy, partnership working and service development. The research will also capture the effects COVID-19 is having on the sector, drawing on insights generated from IVAR’s COVID-19 support work for voluntary sector leaders and their funders.


The aim of the work will be to:


  1. Identify and present the scale, scope, impact and positive contribution – economic, social and environmental – the VCSE sector has on the lives of people and communities across the county every day;


  2. Gather views from the VCSE organisations on how they see the sector’s future and what needs to change, in the context of collaboration, service/activity delivery, funding, and governance; and the COVID-19 crisis.


  3. Enable the VCSE sector within East Sussex to clearly articulate key information on the present state and future aspirations of the local VCSE to funders, private and public sector leaders, and government departments.


  4. Present information in a way that makes sense at the county level, District and Borough level.


Small Voluntary Organisations’ adoption and use of tech: Phase Two

The purpose of a second phase of this research is to enhance and improve support and funding practices for the use of tech by small voluntary organisations (SVOs). In partnership with CAST, this follow-up piece of work will build on Start Somewhere. We are researching the key moments in the process of adoption and use of tech within SVOs.


Covid-19 has accelerated the need and necessity for voluntary organisations of all sizes to engage with tech. CAST and IVAR are hosting a series of digital support sessions with SVOs. These peer-to-peer learning sessions aim to support, reassure and inspire individuals within SVOs. We will gather ideas and stories of how SVOs are responding to change and practical examples of how they are embracing digital. We are interested in how SVOs’ adoption and use of tech has progressed in light of Covid-19, and we are hoping to learn about emergency responses that have specifically encompassed tech, as well as what’s helped or hindered progress in relation to external support and funding.


We will also be hosting separate sessions with digital support providers and funders. These sessions will explore:


  • What has the current situation taught us about the needs of SVOs with regards to digital support?


  • In what ways has the digital ecosystem responded and evolved?


  • What does it tell us about the kind of digital support the sector will need in six months/ 1 year’s time?


  • What are the implications for funding tech?


  • What elements of this support can be transferred to non-emergency settings (e.g. funder activity and behaviour that may have led to new tech initiatives within funded organisations)?


IVAR and CAST with develop collective messages for SVOs and funders about the current state of the digital ecosystem and longer term recovery.

If you have any questions or for further information please contact

Covid-19 Response Work

Are you a VCSE leader?

We’re running 90 minute peer support sessions to share and explore the challenges you are currently facing. These are for up to 12 leaders at a time, and you can sign up here.


Do you fund or support VCSE organisations?


We are producing regular briefings on the challenges faced by VCSE organisations, and what support they need. The first was published on 9 April 2020.


These briefings are based on the challenges raised in the peer support sessions we are running. So far, these have been attended by over 180 leaders representing 17 fields and based across the UK.


Empowered Communities in the 2020s

Help shape the future of community development.


IVAR has been appointed by Local Trust to carry out research that will scope and support the future of community development. We will look at what it needs to look like and who needs to be involved in order to empower communities in the 2020s.


We want to ask:

  • How can communities become more empowered and vibrant in the next ten years?

  • How can communities identify and articulate issues and take collective action to address them over the next decade?

  • What might help people imagine what the future will look like, especially given the uncertainty ahead, and give them the tools to shape that future?

  • What needs to happen for communities to become more empowered in the future? 


What’s happening?

We’ll be hosting three dialogues with people, groups and organisations in the public, voluntary, business sectors that support individuals and communities and build movements:


Issues dialogue– Exploring issues that intersect with community development and empowered communities, such as income inequality, local ageing populations, housing, immigration or climate change.


Nations dialogue – Visiting the four UK nations to hear from people who work with communities.


Places dialogue – Conversations in four communities of place, to hear from people who work with, or in some way support communities.


Get involved

To sign up to email updates on the project and hear about opportunities to contribute,
send your name, role and organisation (if applicable) and email address to


Find out more about the project at