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Environmental Volunteering: motivations, modes and outcomes

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Volunteers play a key role in natural resource management: their commitment, time and labour constitute a major contribution towards managing environments in Australia and throughout the world. From the point of view of environmental managers, much interest has focused on defining tasks suitable to volunteers. However, we argue that an improved understanding of what motivates volunteers is required to sustain volunteer commitments to environmental management in the long term. This is particularly important given that multiple government programs rely heavily on volunteers in Australia, a phenomenon also noted in the UK, Canada, and the USA. Whilst there is considerable research on volunteering in other sectors (e.g. health), there has been relatively little attention paid to understanding environmental volunteering. Drawing on the literature from other sectors and environmental volunteering where available, we present a set of six broad motivations underpinning environmental volunteers and five different modes through which environmental volunteering is manifested. We developed and refined the sets of motivations and modes through a pilot study involving interviews with volunteers and their coordinators from environmental groups in Sydney and Bass Coast. The pilot study data emphasise the importance of promoting community education as a major focus of environmental volunteer groups and demonstrate concerns over the fine line between supporting and abusing volunteers, given their role in delivering environmental outcomes.

Keywords: Stewardship; community participation; education; monitoring; rehabilitation; sense of place

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: CSIRO, Australia

Publication date: 2008-12-01

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