Don's Diary

January 12, 2001

It is the final day of the annual meeting of Arnova (Association for Research on Non-profit Organisations and Voluntary Action). We are in New Orleans and everyone wants to get a feel for the city, but getting to Bourbon Street for jazz and Cajun music means trekking through driving rain, so attendance at conference sessions has been high. Three full days of paper presentations, breakfast meetings, book fairs, receptions
hosted by charitable foundations and awards luncheons. Inscribed plaques are distributed, as are fancy citation scrolls. I get an award for my book on the organisation of churches and synagogues. Feel very embarrassed and very British, but I am warmed by collegiate approval.

The day disappears with long waits at airports. Catch up with reading. Read a colleague's book on the non-profit sector's response to poverty in the United States.

My post-conference high dissipates in the early morning gloom of Heathrow. At home, I download my email messages and upload the washing machine. I am back in the world of the research assessment exercise, teaching quality and domestic banalities.

Getting into Birmingham's city centre is more gruelling than crossing the Atlantic. Arrive at the university in a jet-lagged, train-lagged haze.

Entertain the administrator of a charitable trust who we hope will support our new Centre for Voluntary Action Research.

A day at home to prepare next week's teaching and next term's resource packs.

Constant interruptions from people who have come to repair or replace various household appliances. Why don't dentists do house calls like this? A toothache ignored during the opening weeks of the academic year has started to throb.

Present the initial findings of our research on the governance of the Jewish voluntary sector to a lively symposium of Jewish communal leaders. They are inclined to breast-beating about the shortcomings of Anglo-Jewry, but I point out that the charitable impulse appears to be much higher in the Jewish community than in the wider United Kingdom voluntary sector.

Afternoon meeting with the embryonic advisory group for our new research centre.

Just another day at the business school - personal tutees to see, dissertations to supervise, placement students to check on.

Catch up with my colleagues in the Public Services Management Group - everything from marketing our postgraduate degree to the possible merger with Birmingham University.
A fine drizzle saturates the campus. I bet the sun is shining in New Orleans.

Margaret Harris is professor of voluntary sector organisation and chair of the Centre for Voluntary Action Research, Aston Business School, Birmingham.   

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