The Conservation Volunteers (TCV) volunteering impact report

29 March, 2014

Thursday marked the launch of The Conservation Volunteers (TCV) report on volunteering impact where they summarised a three year project that explored motivations, changes in pro-environmental behaviour, wellbeing and community resilience. The report is worth a read as it goes beyond the direct impact on the local environment of TCV activities, and demonstrates how involvement in environmental volunteering can have multiple benefits. In a way, it is adding ingredients to a more holistic understanding of ‘green volunteering’.
TCVmotivations One of the interesting aspects of the report is in the longitudinal analysis of volunteers motivation (copied here from the report).  The comparison is from 784 baseline surveys, 202 Second surveys and 73 third surveys, which were done with volunteers while they were involved with the TCV. The second survey was taken after 4 volunteering sessions, and the third after 10 sessions.

The results of the surveys are interesting in the context of online activities (e.g. citizen science or VGI) because they provide an example for an activity that happen off line – in green spaces such as local parks, community gardens and the such. Moreover, the people that are participating in them come from all walks of life, as previous analysis of TCV data demonstrated that they are recruiting volunteers across the socio-economic spectrum. So here is an activity that can be compared to online volunteering. This is valuable, as if the pattern of TCV information are similar, then we can understand online volunteering as part of general volunteering and not assume that technology changes everything.

So the graph above attracted my attention because of the similarities to Nama Budhathoki work on the motivation of OpenStreetMap volunteers. First, there is a difference between the reasons that are influencing the people that join just one session and those that are involved for the longer time. Secondly, social and personal development aspects are becoming more important over time.

There is clear need to continue and explore the data – especially because the numbers that are being surveyed at each period are different, but this is an interesting finding, and there is surly more to explore. Some of it will be explored by Valentine Seymour in ExCiteS who is working with TCV as part of her PhD.

It is also worth listening to the qualitative observations by volunteers, as expressed in the video that open the event, which is provided below.

TCV Volunteer Impacts from The Conservation Volunteers on Vimeo.

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One Response to “The Conservation Volunteers (TCV) volunteering impact report”


  1. One aspect of conservation volunteering which I’ve noticed over 10 years is that many people are active because a history of volunteer work is mandatory for most jobs in conservation. Motivation by age group might show some interesting differences.

    Also I don’t know if the surveys discriminated between mid-week and weekend work parties. There are still places like Harefield Place Nature Reserve (Hillingdon) where the volunteers (the Greylags) are retired people (and at least one is in their ’90s), because they can do conservation work mid-week.

    The dynamic of motivation will have changed over time. Since the 1960s the number of jobs in nature conservation has increased greatly, but many of our existing reserves were created by active volunteer groups in the 20 or so years post-war.

    This cohort of volunteers is gradually being replaced in many places : sometimes by a mix of professional conservation staff directing volunteer parties; in others by ‘hit-squads’ from the local Wildlife Trust to TCV. Anecdotally, my feeling is that these changes, and the associated differences in volunteer motivation, are changing many nature reserves (whether for the better or not, I don’t know, and it’s probably too early to tell).

    I don’t know if any serious oral history studies have been done on volunteer nature conservation say from 1945-1995. However, I think such data are needed to place snapshot studies such as this in a broader context.


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