Digitising the Mixed Economy of Welfare

More information about the project

This collaborative, interdisciplinary project aims to promote the preservation of voluntary sector archives, which have become increasingly vulnerable in a period of austerity. The project will enhance understanding of the role of voluntary organisations in our mixed economy of welfare. Restructuring of welfare provision in the 1940s led to intense debate about the future of the voluntary social services. By identifying and digitising core documents arising out of this debate, the project will create a unique public resource of benefit to social science, practitioner and policy maker audiences that will facilitate critical reflection on major post-war social policy changes. If such change were happening today these documents would be readily available on the web.

The project arises from recognition that scholarly investigation of the roots of the mixed economy of welfare is hampered by lack of sources. While key public documents have been digitised, the papers of voluntary groups are less well preserved and in a period of austerity, the records of voluntary organisations have become increasingly vulnerable. Lacking the long-term legal protection afforded to papers produced by government, records remain low priority in many organisations and are subject to the vagaries of waxing and waning interest, office relocation and fluctuations of income. The project includes the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) as a key partner and builds on the work of the Campaign for Voluntary Sector Archives founded in 2012.

There are three main elements to the research: a scoping study drawing on specialist technical advice; a knowledge-exchange programme assisting voluntary organisations to recognise the value of records as strategic assets and the piloting of an open-access resource bank of digitised documents.

About the British Academy ARP programme

‘Digitising the Mixed Economy of Welfare in Britain’ is a British Academy Research Project (ARP) led by Dr Georgina Brewis at UCL Institute of Education and was initially funded for five years 2014-2019. The ARP scheme offers the kitemarking of academic excellence to major infrastructural projects or research facilities, intended to produce fundamental works of scholarship, in most cases for the use of a variety of disciplines, rather than to produce interpretative works or monographs. The Academy grants the title of Academy Research Project to about 55 long-term enterprises, each organised and run by its own Project Committee.