A holistic approach to environmental volunteering: connections between motivation, well-being and conservation achievement.
This source preferred by Gitte Kragh
Environmental volunteering, such as biodiversity monitoring and practical conservation volunteering, provides a unique opportunity for achieving positive outcomes for both volunteers and conservation. While the social sciences have focussed on motivation, well- being and health benefits for volunteers, the environmental sciences have focussed on conservation outcomes. However, these parallel research agendas must be merged into a multidisciplinary, holistic approach to fully comprehend the complexities of the volunteering process and optimise outcomes. This thesis provides a first step in this direction by drawing together and extending research across psychology, health and conservation with the aim of investigating the relationships between environmental volunteer motivation, volunteer well- being and conservation achievement as perceived and experienced by volunteers and volunteer managers. Data collected from UK onsite and worldwide online surveys of nature- based activity participants, volunteers and volunteer managers are used to investigate these relationships. This thesis uncovers hitherto unknown discrepancies between perception and reality by volunteers and managers of volunteer motivation, well-being and conservation achievement. Environmental volunteers have a hierarchy of motivations, with value-based motives and desire to learn and be outdoors being more important, that was not recognised by volunteer managers. Similarly, volunteer managers underestimated the positive effect volunteering had on volunteers’ well-being. Interestingly, volunteers and managers rated the same conservation achievements differently, highlighting the need to develop and communicate more objective measures. Volunteers and managers both perceived that more motivated volunteers with higher levels of well-being would lead to increased conservation achievement, but this research found no such direct link between volunteer motivation and well-being and conservation achievement. This surprising result may be due to a shift in environmental volunteering towards a more experience-focused pattern of engagement. Volunteers, though interested in conservation, now also expect personal benefits from their volunteering, without which they leave. The implications of this change is that managers need to understand their volunteers’ motivations and well-being better to create fulfilling experiences where not only conservation, but also the volunteering experience itself, is at the centre.