Skip navigation

Mobilising voluntary action in the four UK jurisdictions

Voluntary action remains very much ‘who we are’ and ‘what we do’ in the UK, and this is very much the case during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the words of Baroness Jill Pitkeathley (April 30th House of Lords debate): ‘charities are the eyes, ears and conscience of society: they mobilise, they provide, they inspire, they advocate and they unite’. 

Northumbria University social scientists Professor Irene Hardill and Dr Laura Crawford are leading a UK-wide team to undertake a four nation comparative study critically evaluating social welfare voluntary action responses to the pandemic. The study forms part of a research programme funded by the Economic and Social Research Council as part of the UKRI COVID-19 programme.The findings will help guide the UK volunteer effort to support the national recovery and preparedness for future crises (see project website). 

The study is focusing on understanding the ways in which the voluntary action policy frameworks adopted by the four UK nations in response to COVID-19 have differed. Secondly, the team are looking at who has responded to the call to volunteer during the COVID-19 pandemic; and how can we sustain the involvement of new volunteers beyond the pandemic. Third, are there examples of good practice for voluntary action to support communities and individuals in times of crisis, and are they transferable across the jurisdictions? 

Study design and approach 

A mixed methods approach is being employed to focus on the policy and organisational response to coordinating and managing volunteers during the pandemic. Teams are working in each UK nation to: identify and assemble relevant policy documents (2016–2021) on pandemic planning in each jurisdiction; and gathering published evidence on the impact of the pandemic on voluntary action projects paused, organisations closed, new projects started, including community self help. These reports have been analysed and a synthesis report published. In spring 2021, targeted surveys are being undertaken in the four nations aimed at mapping the changing landscape of voluntary action and planning for recovery. We are working in partnership with a number of volunteer involvement digital platform operators (including TeamKinetic and Be Collective) to understand volunteer deployment that has been facilitated digitally. In addition, UK Government, Devolved Administrations and key partners relevant to the policy context will be consulted by email/telephone in summer 2021. 

Project news and findings 

We will be hosting eight policy briefings, two in each country; the first (in early summer 2021) will focus on findings of relevance to the recovery; the second will focus on policy adjustments to strengthen responses; offering insights and lessons for the ‘new normal’ and future crises (October 2021). 

The research team

The full research team is: Irene Hardill (Northumbria University), Jurgen Grotz (UEA), Nick Acheson (consultant and retired academic, Trinity College Dublin and Ulster University), Laura Crawford (Northumbria University), Denise Hayward, Andrew Hanna (Volunteer Now), Eddy Hogg (University of Kent), Jo Stuart, Catherine Goodall (NCVO), Rhys Dafydd Jones (Aberystwyth University), Matthew Linning, Cathy Hynds, Deborah Maltman (Volunteer Scotland), Sally Rees, James Lundie (WCVA), Alasdair Rutherford (Stirling University) and Ewen Speed (University of Essex).

The team is supported by consultants: Chris Martin of Team Kinetic, Belen Satoree of Be Collective and Rahel Spath of SocStats along with a Project Partner advisory panel of sector experts: Georgina Nrewis (UCL); Professor Paul Chaney (WISERD); Sally Dyson (National Association of Voluntary Services Managers); Dr Angela Ellis Paine (TSRC and Voluntary Sector Studies Network); Sarah Latto (Scottish Volunteering Forum); Ruth Leonard (Association of Volunteer Managers) Sarah Mills (Loughborough University); Wendy Osborne (International Association of Volunteer Effort); Colin Rochester (Voluntary Action History Society); Allison Smith (Royal Voluntary Service); Ian Stevenson (Gateshead Council); Claire Thomas (Bevan Foundation); Chris Wade (Network of National Volunteer-Involving Agencies) and Paul Wilson (Volunteer Edinburgh). The panel is chaired by Baroness Scott of Needham Market. 



More events

Upcoming events

EcoMat Conference 2024
DynaSun 2024
TaPRA Conference 2024

Back to top