Volunteering in the Natural Outdoors in the UK and Ireland- a literature review

The Tomorrow Network completed a piece of research on behalf of the Countryside Recreation Network (CRN) that explored volunteering within the natural outdoors throughout the UK and Ireland. Within this project, the Institute for Volunteering Research completed the literature review.

The review adopted a deliberately broad definition of the sector. It examined the breadth and type of volunteering within the natural outdoors and explored its development over time as well as its current extent. It identified a group of highly committed individuals who have a common interest in improving and managing the natural environment. The review also described what literature tells us about the motivations of volunteers in this sector (a love of nature; environmental awareness; social and cultural factors; and skills and employability) and the value and impact it can have on the volunteers themselves and the wider community.

The review also identified a number of challenges facing volunteering in the natural outdoors, including: low levels of resourcing and funding; a lack of diversity of those that volunteer; a lack of focus for volunteering in the sector, contributing to a lack of identity; and a lack of consistency in approaches towards volunteer support, management and development.

The review concluded by suggesting areas which would benefit from future research, including: an overview of volunteering throughout the sector; the impact of volunteering; the characteristics and activities of smaller, volunteer-led groups within the natural outdoors; and the extent to which volunteering within the natural outdoors is unique and distinct from volunteering in other sectors.

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