Outdoor recreation - understanding the drivers of participation: research

This report presents findings from research into participation in outdoor recreation among adults in Scotland. The research explores drivers behind the observed increases in participation, as well variations across population groups, with a view to widening participation.

2. Methodology

2.1 Overall approach

This research project was qualitative in nature and was conducted in two phases – 50 in-depth interviews and an app diary task (completed by 19 of the 50 participants). It employed a behavioural science approach to address the research aims in a systematic manner. The study was carried out in accordance with the requirements of the international quality standard for Market Research, ISO 20252.

2.2 In-depth interviews

2.2.1 Recruitment

A sample of potential participants for the research was drawn from the Scottish Household Survey (SHS) re-contact database - a database of people who have previously taken part in the SHS and agreed to be re-contacted for future research. The demographic information provided in this database meant that we were able to target our recruitment to achieve sufficient representation of participants from particular groups, such as minority ethnic participants, or those with a disability or long-term health condition.

For the recruitment of minority ethnic groups, we supplemented the SHS database recruitment with assistance from the following gatekeeper organisations to recruit participants:

  • Boots and Beards Walking Group
  • The Conservation Volunteers
  • Rainbow Muslim Women's Group.

The recruitment was carried out by an Ipsos MORI telephone interviewer who was provided with a script covering the purpose of the research and what taking part would involve. It was explained that participation was entirely voluntary and that participants could change their mind about taking part at any point.

Participants were offered a £30 payment to thank them for taking part.

2.2.2 Sample

Recruitment quotas were set on ethnicity, disability or other long-term health condition and level of area deprivation to ensure participants from groups within the Scottish population that are less likely to take part in outdoor activities were included in the research. In addition, we set quotas on gender, age, rurality, family type, employment status, and dog ownership to ensure that the sample was broadly representative of the Scottish population overall on these variables.

A quota was also set on the level of participation in outdoor activities, to ensure a mix of those who took part weekly or more often and those who took part less often than weekly. Since the focus of the research was drivers of participation in outdoor activities, those who did not take part in any outdoor activities at all (around 12% of the adult population in Scotland) were excluded from the research.

Table 1 provides a breakdown of demographics and other characteristics of the sample.

Table 1: In-depth interviews sample breakdown
Target group Number of interviews
Male 24
Female 26
18-25 5
26-40 16
41-64 17
65+ 12
Minority ethnic 14
White 36
Urban[5] 40
Rural 10
Health status
Disability/long term health condition 15
No disability/long term health condition 35
Family status
Children living at home – 2 parent family 12
Children living at home – 1 parent family 8
No children living at home 30
Employment status
Working full-time 17
Working part-time 13
Not working 10
Retired 10
More deprived areas – SIMD 1 or 2[6] 25
Less deprived areas – SIMD 3, 4 or 5 25
Dog owner
Yes 11
No 39
Participation in outdoor activities
At least weekly 33
Less than weekly 17

2.2.3 Fieldwork

A total of 50 in-depth interviews with members of the public who took part in outdoor activities were conducted between 30th November 2020 and 8th February 2021. Interviews lasted around 45 minutes and were conducted over the telephone or using Microsoft Teams.

The in-depth interviews were based on a discussion guide to allow interviewers to have an open discussion with participants while ensuring they covered all the key points. The guide covered broad questions about participation in outdoor activities, before asking in more detail about specific activities. Interviews also explored participants' expectations of their future participation in outdoor activities. The discussion guide is included in Annex 1.

2.3 App diary phase

2.3.1 Recruitment

At the end of each in-depth interview, participants were asked if they would be willing to take part in the next phase of the research. Of those who agreed, 20 were selected to take part in the app diary phase.

Participants were contacted by a member of the Ipsos MORI research team who explained what taking part would involve and provided instructions on how to download the Ipsos AppLife app on their smartphone.

Participants were offered a £40 payment to thank them for taking part in this phase of the research.

2.3.2 Sample

Twenty participants were recruited to take part in the app diary phase. However, a week into the fieldwork period, and before they had recorded any entries on the app, one participant had to drop out of the study for personal reasons. Due to the late stage in fieldwork the decision was made not to replace them.

Participants were recruited to ensure a demographic mix across the target groups for the research.

2.3.3 Fieldwork

The second phase comprised an app diary task among 19participants who had previously taken part in an in-depth interview. This task used Ipsos' mobile research app – AppLife – and took place over a two-week period, between 1st and 14th March 2021.

The app diary phase asked participants to complete a diary task on their smartphone each time they took part in an outdoor activity over the two-week period. Participants were asked to describe their experience of the activity and their reasons for doing it, and to post a photo of the activity, if possible. They were also asked to complete two further one-off tasks: one to give their views on the open or green space nearest to them; and another to record a short video describing their experiences of taking part in outdoor activities during the fieldwork period. The Ipsos MORI research team monitored these tasks daily and asked follow-up questions to participants, based on their responses, to elicit further detail.

2.4 MAPPS behavioural framework

Behaviour change research improves our understanding of why people demonstrate certain behaviours and a number of models exist to support this. In this study, we have used the MAPPS behaviour change framework,[7] developed by the Ipsos Behaviour Science team (Figure 1), to ensure a structured approach and the systematic exploration of the specific behaviours of interest. Specifically, MAPPS was used to shape the design of the discussion guide, the analysis of the data, and the development of recommendations.

MAPPS is based on the COM-B system and Behaviour Change Wheel[8] process and categorises, or 'diagnoses', behaviours, based on the series of factors shown in Figure 1. Once a behavioural diagnosis has been made, MAPPS also provides guidance on how this feeds through to shape how interventions could be developed to attempt to change the behaviour. It does this through 'Intervention Building Blocks'. These stem from the Intervention Functions element of the Behaviour Change Wheel and have been simplified and systemised in order to make them more actionable for a wider range of practitioners without the requirement of specialist Behavioural Science expertise to execute. The building blocks are not interventions in themselves, but rather provide ways of thinking about what an intervention should be delivering. The building blocks from the MAPPS behaviour change framework that can be used to develop interventions include:

  • Understanding: building knowledge, help people see relevance and importance
  • Feedback: providing positive or negative guidance, direction, or outcome expectancies
  • Planning: developing and maintaining intentions or skills needed to perform a behaviour
  • Restructure: changing environment to enhance or remove influences
  • Connect: allowing connections to be formed or making these available as informational sources.
Figure 1: Ipsos MORI MAPPS behaviour change framework
MAPPS Dimension MAPPS Category Contents What it Means
Motivation Outcome expectations How estimation/predictions about outcomes affect motivations I don't think it will work
Emotion How feelings/emotions and emotion regulation can support behaviours I'm not feeling like doing it
Internalisation How behavioural motivation evolves from extrinsic to intrinsic I don't want to do it
Identity How personal and social identities support behaviours I'm not that kind of person
Self-efficacy How feelings of self-efficacy and mastery support change and persistence I don't feel able to do it
Ability Capability How we learn new behaviours I don't have the skills to do it
Routines How behaviours become habits, embedded in routines It's not part of what I usually do
Processing Decision forces How heuristics, biases and behavioural regulation guides decisions and behaviour How things are processed
Physical Environmental factors How the physical environment, context and resources sparks, supports or impairs behaviour change How things are set up
Social Social Norms How group, transient or situational norms guide behaviour What's expected of us
Cultural Values How broad cultural values affect behaviour The way we live

2.5 Qualitative analysis

The analysis approach was based on a systematic thematic approach, intended to produce findings that are both clearly grounded in participants' accounts, and transparent and methodologically robust. The MAPPS behaviour change framework was used to structure the analysis.

Interviews were audio recorded with participants' consent, and detailed notes were made by the researchers following each interview. The transcripts and interviewer notes were then systematically analysed to identify the themes that emerged in relation to the research questions and discussion guide areas. These themes and emerging findings were recorded using Excel.

The research team met both during the fieldwork phase and after fieldwork completion to discuss emerging themes and then interrogate these in more detail. Taking the research objectives as a starting point, a thematic map of the issues arising during interviews was created. During this process, key drivers of participation, including motivating factors, enablers and barriers, were identified and grouped into broad thematic categories. The thematic map was then added to further once data from the app diary phase was available.

Summarising and organising the data in the way described above enabled it to be systematically interrogated to identify the full range of views and experiences.

2.6 Limitations

As with any study, there were a number of limitations to the research.

Firstly, unlike survey research, qualitative research does not aim to produce a generalisable summary of population attitudes, but to identify and explore the different issues and themes relating to the subject being researched. This research therefore does not claim to represent the wider views of all those participating in outdoor recreation in Scotland. Although the extent to which they apply to the wider population, or specific sub-groups, cannot be quantified, the value of qualitative research is in identifying the range of different issues involved and the way in which these impact on people.

Secondly, the decision was taken to conduct the research among those who already participated in outdoor recreation (whether at least weekly or less often), rather than among those who did not participate in outdoor activities. This was because the focus of the research was on drivers of participation. While participants did reflect on the barriers to participation in outdoor activities and their views and experiences are included in Section 5 of this report, other barriers to participation might have emerged if the research had been broadened to include participants who did not already take part in outdoor recreation. However, taking a broader focus would have risked the research not being able to meet the research objectives that were set.

Thirdly, the research was conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic, which impacted on participants' outdoor recreation behaviours. This had value since it meant that we were able to draw some conclusions about how the lockdown restrictions due to the pandemic had acted both as a barrier and an enabler to participation in outdoor activities. However, it was also a limitation as it meant that the research was conducted during unusual circumstances and that behaviours changed as a result.

Lastly, since the research was not a longitudinal study, it cannot tell us with any certainty how participants' behaviours and attitudes towards outdoor activities have changed over time. However, it does highlight some key factors that may have played a role in increasing participation in outdoor recreation in Scotland, based on what participants told the research team about what had led them to increase their participation previously.

2.7 Report conventions and structure

The findings in this report are organised thematically, so that findings from the in-depth interviews and the app diary task are reported together.

The remainder of this report is structured as follows:

  • Chapter 3 gives an overview of participants' views of the outdoors and outdoor activities in Scotland, their levels of participation, and the main types of activities undertaken;
  • Chapter 4 explores the different factors that motivated participants to take part in outdoor activities and the influence of each in both motivating participants to start an activity in the first place and maintaining their participation over the longer term;
  • Chapter 5 outlines the different factors that acted as enablers or barriers to starting and sustaining participation, including both internal factors, such as having the knowledge or confidence to do the activity, and external factors, such as being able to access locations at which to do the activity or being able to afford the equipment required;
  • Chapter 6 provides a series of guiding principles which the research suggests will help to sustain positive changes in attitudes and behaviours towards outdoor activities and widen participation among groups where it is currently lower.



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