3 Mar 2021

Understanding local patterns of volunteer activity during COVID-19: three ways to contribute your perspective

Together with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), The Young Foundation and The Institute for Community Studies are conducting new research to understand the various ways in which volunteers have been (and continue to be) active within local authority areas across England during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This research will create a greater understanding of the ways in which volunteers have been active over the duration of the pandemic – and you can get involved! By telling us about your experiences, registering your interest for our workshops and sharing this with your networks, you too can contribute to building the knowledge around this important and impactful research.

What we are doing and why

Volunteers have played a pivotal role in the community response to COVID-19. DCMS are conscious that these efforts have not only been largely co-ordinated collaboratively at local level, but that they continue to evolve as local partners adapt to the different phases of lockdown and local needs they are addressing. As a result, a variety of different volunteer models, ways of working, and approaches are becoming noticeable.

This research seeks to understand the ways in which volunteer groups have worked and developed in relation to the range of different challenges and contexts faced locally. It will help inform future volunteering-led responses and to better-understand the contribution volunteering (and the infrastructure enabling it) makes to the resilience and civic life of a local area.  

This piece of research builds on the work of The Young Foundation in further understanding the roles that communities play in making local change, how local authorities can help to support this change, and the impact of COVID-19 on both individuals and businesses.

Through a series of interviews and workshops, as well as examining existing evidence, we hope to develop a greater understanding of volunteer mobilisation efforts. Reports and materials will be published and shared widely later in 2021, and we will provide early insight from the project over the coming weeks.

Your perspective  

Very excitingly, this is an active research space, with new insights, stories and experiences constantly emerging. We therefore want to build on others’ work rather than reinventing the wheel. We’ll continue to reach out to stakeholders representing the voluntary sector, local areas, research institutes and those that might provide a different perspective on this topic to build on the existing insights and contribute new ones.

We have already begun to bring together a range of different voices by convening an Advisory Group for this research, made up of a consortium of strategic stakeholders from various sectors. Their insights helped to shape this work moving forward and steer the focus of our scoping review which looked at the existing literature available and identified gaps for further research. The results from this workshop and the scoping review will be shared next month.

Your insights and knowledge will be vital in ensuring that we are aware of all existing research in this space. We also hope that it will be a useful opportunity for those who want to get involved to register interest for our workshops and interviews later in this research project.

What you can do to be involved!

Tell us about your insights and experiences.

We’d love to hear stories about what’s been happening locally. What role are different organisations, networks and local authorities playing in the COVID-19 volunteer response? What factors have helped this response or what could have made this response easier?

We are interested in hearing from those individuals and organisations who have been involved, in some way, with the volunteer response. Whether you are a small charity who has organised volunteers in your community, a network who has helped to coordinate volunteers, or a local council who has helped to support these efforts, we want to hear from you.

Express your interest today for our workshops

To make sure that we are hearing from a range of voices capturing diverse experiences, we will hold a series of workshops later in March, inviting feedback and perspectives from different groups and people who have been involved in local volunteer responses. These workshops will be a space to contribute your perspective on what has happened in your local area and how we can make this research as useful as possible.

Share our Call for Evidence with your contacts and wider networks

We want to share this work widely – and you can support this through sharing this information in your local networks! Whether it is a tweet, an email, or simply by word of mouth, your help in sharing this work ensures that we bring to life the diversity of volunteer responses around the country.

We also actively encourage hearing from those who have first-hand experiences of volunteer mobilisation or those who have worked with BAME communities and disadvantaged and vulnerable groups. This research project aims to be inclusive in all stages of the research process.