Volunteering for All: national framework - research summary

This summary outlines a systematic review of the research literature on volunteering.

2. Motivations and Barriers

In Scotland motivations to volunteer will vary by context e.g. urban / rural; community / education. The close links between motivations and place may explain some of the variation in participation across communities, but the research evidence on the role of place is limited.

Attempts to increase participation amongst young people in Scotland have included appealing to the individual benefits of volunteering. The 2017-18 Programme for Government has a specific focus on younger people volunteering. In focussing on volunteering outcomes, it is tempting to prioritise these benefits, and the evidence suggests that this needs to be carefully considered. Focusing on only benefits may overlook structural barriers to volunteering.

Barriers to volunteering participation reflect wider structures of inequality, and so overcoming them in the Scottish context needs to be linked to wider policy. The National Performance Framework in Scotland has tackling inequality and poverty fully integrated across National Outcomes and Indicators, showing that it is a key priority. The evidence demonstrates the reliance that volunteering will have on other policy areas in Scotland.

Research Evidence Gaps

  • Strong arguments are made for ‘starting young’ in volunteering as a way to increase participation. While this may well be successful, there is little longitudinal evidence to explore the effectiveness of this approach.
  • Improving our understanding of cultural differences in volunteering participation, particularly in the context of migration, identity and integration.
  • Structural barriers to current volunteering processes and how they can exclude certain groups.
  • Understanding the consequences of the policy focus on instrumentalist motivations in recruiting young people to volunteer for longer term participation.

Recommendations for the Volunteering Outcomes Framework

Recommendation Three: There is a rich range of motivations for volunteering, and these are fairly well documented and understood in the literature. The most commonly considered motivations are altruism and personal development, but consideration should be given to broader motivations such as personal values and cultural norms when developing the Framework. We should resist the temptation to focus solely on instrumentalist motivations and routes into volunteering.

Recommendation Four: An important distinction is made between barriers to accessing volunteering, and barriers to continuing to volunteer, and a range of these barriers are well described. Consideration should be given to the ways in which these barriers can be tackled that is sensitive to the motivations, context and lifecourse events in which volunteering takes place.


Email: socialresearch@gov.scot

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