A major new research project is set to examine how communities responded to the outbreak of the pandemic
Experts from across academia and the voluntary sector are to carry out a major research project into the role of voluntary action during Covid-19.
The project will explore the challenges, what worked well and make recommendations to inform planning for future crises.
The research will compare the volunteering response in each of the UK’s four nations, sharing positive examples with the aim of shaping future policy and supporting the UK’s economic and social recovery.
The project is a partnership between six UK universities and representatives from a variety of voluntary organisations, including four key voluntary sector infrastructure bodies for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
In Scotland the work will be led by Matthew Linning, strategic performance manager for Volunteer Scotland and Alasdair Rutherford, professor of social statistics at the University of Stirling – both as co-investigators.
Linning said: “Not only will this project provide invaluable insights into how Scotland’s volunteering response to Covid-19 has been managed but it’ll identify lessons learned and good practice from across the UK. This can be shared to help inform our response to future crises”.
Professor Rutherford added: "Volunteering is such an important part of our communities, particularly in Scotland's rural areas. Over the past few months we have seen volunteers play a crucial role in responding to the challenges of lockdown across Scotland, providing a lifeline to those who are vulnerable or isolated. Studying voluntary action across the four nations will help us learn from these efforts, to support volunteers and voluntary organisations, both during the current crisis and into the future as we start our recovery."
The advisory group for this research has two Scottish representatives:
- Sarah Latto, chair of the Scottish Volunteering Forum
- Paul Wilson, chief executive of Volunteer Edinburgh.
Latto said: “We’ve already learnt so much about the challenges and opportunities arising from the volunteering response across Scotland and this research study provides us with a great opportunity to capitalise upon this experience and influence policy and practice going forward.”
Wilson said: “Third Sector Interfaces have been at the coalface of Scotland’s volunteering response to the pandemic. This includes not just managing the Scotland Cares 35,000 registrations but also the upsurge in applications locally. This research will help us to share what we have learned across the 32 local authority areas to benefit both Scotland and the rest of the UK.”
The first stage of the project will involve examining how prepared each of the four nations were before the pandemic and what role voluntary action, organisations and volunteers played in these preparedness plans.
The team will then examine the impact Covid-19 has had on volunteers and volunteering; from face-to-face activities being paused to projects being delivered in new ways and even new forms of voluntary action emerging (e.g. mobilised via online platforms and community self-help).
Once the evidence has been gathered and analysed, the results will be presented through a series of government briefings across the four nations.
Recommendations will be made on the role volunteering and voluntary organisations could play in the UK’s recovery from the pandemic with the final report expected to inform future policy.