RCE Saskatchewan-2017

1. Project Title: 
Voluntary Sector Studies Network
2. Thematic area/s addressed by the project
3. Project partner contact information : 
Luther College at the University of Regina
Office, website, in-kind support, academic oversight
Main Contact: 
Dr. Franzvolker Greifenhagen
Dr. Franzvolker Greifenhagen
Dean of Luther College
Alternative project contact: 
Dr. Yvonne Harrison
Director, Voluntary Sector Studies Network
4. Project type
5. Project description
Provide a short description of the project including strategies, regional challenges, aims and specific project activities.: 
  1. The Voluntary Sector Studies Network (VSSN) is an innovative, interdisciplinary, community-university collaborative comprising students, nonprofit/voluntary organizations and faculty/staff administered out of the VSSN office at Luther College at the University of Regina. The voluntary sector is also known as the nonprofit sector, third sector and community-based sector. It includes both registered charities and registered nonprofits. The VSSN program embraces three inter-related themes – learn, research, innovate. The VSSN enables students, nonprofit/voluntary sector staff and volunteers as well as university faculty/staff to become involved in dynamic and mutually beneficial relationships while learning, researching and innovating. We believe that by enhancing connections among these diverse groups, the potential for reciprocal learning for everyone involved is great – indeed, the creation and sharing of knowledge is multi-directional. The reciprocal learning and networking benefits and builds sustainable communities as people move forward and act on these new ideas.

    The VSSN facilitates many public events throughout the year for students, nonprofit/voluntary organization staff and volunteers as well as university faculty/staff. These events are educational in nature and work towards solving real-world problems that the voluntary sector is currently facing in Saskatchewan (e.g., a public forum on funding models for the sector that struggles with inadequate funding). These opportunities create dialogue among attendees to allow learning from each other and forming relationships.

    Three pillars constitute the VSSN: learn, research, and innovate (please see our website for more information www.luthercollege.edu/vssn).

  • Research: VSSN creates a forum in which the voluntary sector and university faculty and students identify and carry out research projects that benefit both partners. VSSN Steering Group members also contribute their guidance and expertise in mentoring these research projects. Two research projects have been completed in the first year of VSSN and are on the website.
  • Learn: Learning at VSSN will be both formal and informal and encompasses different models of course delivery: semester-long courses, online courses, webinars, block classes, evening seminars and ‘weekend university’. As already noted, there are three main groups of learners at VSSN: undergraduate students, voluntary sector staff/volunteers, and university faculty and staff. Based on a review of curricular guidelines, new undergraduate courses are being designed for students interested in studying the voluntary sector. Connections are being fostered with U. of R., First Nations University and Campion College in order to bundle together new courses as well as a collection of courses already being offered, to provide students with a new area of specialization, a Certificate in Nonprofit Sector Leadership & Innovation (please see our website for more information on the Certificate www.luthercollege.edu/vssn/NSLI-certificate). Furthermore, professional development for voluntary sector staff and volunteers is key through exploring opportunities that are currently available in Saskatchewan, identifying what gaps exist, and discerning how to fill them. Lastly, VSSN will provide professional development on experiential learning activities and community-engaged scholarship for faculty through peer mentorship.
  • Innovation: VSSN gathers and distributes information and provides a space where new ideas that can benefit the voluntary sector will find discussion and implementation assistance.
6. Project status
On Going
VSSN began in September 2014 with seed money from Luther College. In the first year, a Steering Group was set up with representatives from the nonprofit/voluntary sector, university faculty and staff, and students (in approximately equal numbers); terms of reference were developed and a collaborative decision-making model was adopted and the Steering Group evolved into an Advisory Group. A number of public gatherings and focus groups were held in which members of the voluntary sector and university community at large came together to formulate goals and objectives of VSSN’s work, and to inform the critical components of the proposed certificate program (identify core competencies and courses). Two major research projects were completed (VSSN Cross-Canada Scan on Voluntary Sector Programs and Student Survey on Voluntary/Nonprofit Sector Courses and Careers—see documents under point 7). A strategic plan was completed, including the VSSN vision, mission, values. Funding applications were submitted, and a grant of $210,000 was received to support VSSN 2015-2017, and a grant of $220,000 was received to continue to support VSSN in 2017-2019. An electronic network of more than 450 nonprofit/voluntary sector organizations and individuals is set up and receives regular correspondence from VSSN and also serves as an electronic discussion forum.

The research currently underway at VSSN is advancing the state of knowledge about the voluntary sector in Saskatchewan. The mixed methods approach embedded in VSSN that links the community with the university involves students and others in ongoing processes of data collection, analyses, report writing and knowledge-sharing. Since last year’s RCE report, the VSSN has conducted research that included: a list of core competencies for the NSLI Certificate based on literature and VSSN primary research; a list of NSLI courses have been identified based on the research; and an inventory of registered charities and nonprofits in Saskatchewan is underway.
8. Tagging