Making use of qualitative tools: towards a fuller understanding of a voluntary sector's engagement with public service delivery

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Colleges, School and Institutes


Qualitative tools are potentially powerful to gain understandings of the voluntary sector's (VS) engagement with public service delivery. This is because of the strengths associated with qualitative methods to gain specific information on an area as diverse as the VS and the ability to carry out comparative analyses. Despite this, research on the VS is dominated by work that uses quantitative tools. Using a case study of research conducted on VS' engagement with the government's welfare-to-work programme, the New Deal for Young People, I discuss three advantages commonly associated with qualitative tools. These are the flexibility of open-endedness and the importance of understanding processes and staff's perspectives. I conclude that if the government wants to keep the VS engaged in the delivery of public services, they need to understand what keeps the VS involved and that qualitative tools can make a substantial contribution towards understanding this.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)411-424
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Social Research Methodology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2010