NTU senior lecturer leads study on volunteering and Covid-19

NTU senior lecturer leads study on volunteering and Covid-19

 July 29, 2020

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Dr Mhairi Bowe is a senior lecturer in Social Psychology and Mental Health at Nottingham Trent University's School of Social Sciences.

She is also lead researcher on a Nottingham Trent University study into the impact of volunteering on community belonging.

The study, led with members of Nottingham Trent University’s Groups, Identities and Health Research Group, highlighted the importance of social relationships in sustaining the upswing in volunteering observed during Covid-19 to promote individual well-being and community recovery.

Highlighting the benefits of volunteering

The two-study project involved a survey of more than 500 volunteers and non-volunteers and in-depth interviews with 53 volunteers.

Results showed that volunteers identified significantly more strongly with their community, felt more supported within their community, and reported a greater personal sense of well-being.

The findings highlight the ways in which volunteering can provide psychological benefits both directly through the giving of help and support, and indirectly by providing a psychological sense of social support, safety, and collective resilience in the face of potential adversity.

For many participants, the social and community support element of volunteering makes it an essential community resource, with implications for people’s personal and collective well-being.

Understanding the reasons for volunteering

Mhairi commented: “Although we carried out this research before the pandemic, understanding the drivers behind why people volunteer, and what makes that volunteering long-lasting and rewarding, is now even more critical for the recovery of communities. The UK experienced a huge surge in volunteers during the Covid-19 lock down but as we start to return to some sort of normality, circumstances will naturally change and it’s important not to lose this volunteering momentum to the detriment of communities.

“Our data suggest that community relationships and the deep sense of commitment that residents often feel towards their community act as powerful motivators for volunteering.

“Cohesive community relationships not only create the conditions that drive people to help, but they also sustain volunteering over time, making the experience rewarding for volunteers and beneficial for communities. These interconnected communities are vital in ensuring the decisive local responses needed for effective management of the pandemic.

“By appreciating the complex links between social identity and volunteering, we can begin to address crucial issues such as how to ensure that such behaviour remains sustained as communities deal with the long-term effects of the pandemic and look towards recovery.”

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