Voluntary action and Covid-19 – what we can learn and how we can recover

Published by  Communications

On 3rd Nov 2020

Volunteer in mask and gloves handing food to homeowner at their door

Experts from the UEA Institute for Volunteering Research are part of a major project into the role of voluntary action in the Covid-19 pandemic.

They will work with the voluntary sector to 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 the four key voluntary sector infrastructure bodies for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Almost £420,000 has been awarded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), following a rapid response call for projects which contribute to our understanding of, and response to, the COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts.

Dr Jurgen Grotz, Director of the Institute for Volunteering Research at UEA said: “The pandemic has not only disrupted all our individual lives but also long standing relationships and understandings between voluntary action and governments at their various levels.

“This project will help us to understand a newly emerging landscape and to support a collective effort of national healing.”

Principal investigator Prof Irene Hardill of Northumbria University will work alongside Dr Grotz and colleagues from the University of Kent, the University of Essex, the University of Stirling and Aberystwyth University – over the next 12 months.

Representatives from England’s National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), Volunteer Scotland, Wales Council for Voluntary Action (WCVA), and Northern Ireland’s Volunteer Now will work alongside the academics, providing insight into volunteering trends and experiences across the whole of the UK.

Prof Hardill said: “During the pandemic we have seen voluntary action step in and step up as the first response to immediate need.

“The sector has rapidly improvised new relationships between voluntary action and the state, forging a new ‘partnership of necessity’.

 “We know we face an uncertain future but the delivery of social welfare, with the state working in partnership with the voluntary sector, is critical for us pulling through as a country.”

The project is called ‘Mobilising Voluntary Action in the four UK jurisdictions: Learning from today, prepared for tomorrow’.

The first stage will involve examining how prepared each of the four nations was before the pandemic hit, 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 having to be paused, projects delivered in new ways, to new forms of voluntary action emerging, for example through mobilising voluntary action via online platforms and community self-help.

Once the evidence has been gathered it will be analysed, with the results presented in 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 Covid-19 pandemic, with the final report expected to inform future policy development.

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