What the research tells us about participation

Getting Involved: How people make a difference

PAcoverGetting Involved: How people make a difference (2017, pdf, 3.4MB) is a publication aimed at practitioners and policy-makers searching for information on the state of people’s involvement in the UK.

Drawing on trends, facts and statistics from a range of different source, it asks:

  • whether participation is changing?
  • who gets involved?
  • where do people get involved?
  • what do people do?

The publication acknowledges that people are involved in many different ways and looks at a number of specific activities in detail, including:

  • volunteering
  • charity governance
  • membership
  • local community action
  • political engagement
  • campaigning and protest
  • charitable giving
  • raising money
  • ethical consumerism.

Why individuals participate

'Pathways through Participation: What creates and sustains active citizenship?' is a qualitative research project that aimed to improve our understanding of:

  • how and why people participate
  • how their involvement changes over time
  • what pathways, if any, exist between different activities.

It was funded by the Big Lottery Fund and led by NCVO in partnership with the Institute for Volunteering Research (IVR) and Involve.

Key findings

  • Participation was widespread and embedded in communities. We were able to identify people who no longer participated, but we couldn’t find people who had never participated.
  • The people we interviewed got involved for a range of reasons; often they had more than one motivation for getting involved and these shifted over time according to people’s life circumstances, needs and aspirations.
  • People’s motivations were usually a reflection of their values and beliefs, the people, issues and interests they cared about.
  • People’s ability to participate is tempered by access to resources such as time, money, skills, knowledge and experience.
  • Participation does not necessarily become more intense and committed over time although activities, roles and responsibilities may change.
  • The single most important reason people gave for continuing to participate was having a good quality experience: whether they felt their contribution was having an impact; whether they had a good time and enjoyed being with the people they participated with.

Read the final reports, literature review and presentations on the Pathways through Participation website

2018 Research Conference

The Voluntary Sector and Volunteering Research Conference – organised by NCVO and the Voluntary Sector Studies Network (VSSN) – provides a unique opportunity for academics, policy makers and practitioners from the UK and further afield to come together to share and discuss research that addresses the issues facing the voluntary sector and volunteering at this time. This year's conference takes place in London on 6–7 September – book your place now.

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