«Case study, survey, diary and interview research on FCRM volunteering Report – SC120013/R3 We are the Environment Agency. We protect and improve ...»
• fostering a sense of pride and care in their area Natural capital Despite a reasonably high proportion of respondents indicating they were involved in work to improve the physical environment (36% of survey respondents were involved in habitat management), the data collection and analysis indicates that this outcome category was less talked about by volunteers as a benefit than the social outcome categories.
Human capital This proved to be a highly relevant evaluation category. Respondents saw a clear link between their involvement in FCRM volunteering and having the knowledge and experience to deal with flooding and flood risk and to support their communities to be more resilient to risk and prepared for flooding events.
Economic capital The value for money questions provided a useful opportunity to assess the relevance, efficiency and effectiveness of FCRM volunteering from the perspectives of different groups.
Case study and survey research on FCRM volunteering Individual well-being This proved to be relevant. Respondents readily perceived linkages between their volunteering and a number of well-being outcomes. They also identified a number of disadvantages that it will be useful for evaluations to make explicit.
Evaluating levels of satisfaction derived from volunteering also revealed important differences across governance types and illustrated how satisfaction levels can change over time.
Inequalities Data collection related to inequalities enabled the production of a profile of a typical FCRM volunteer which could be used to assess the adequate representation of different social groups among volunteers. Furthermore, at case study level, volunteers were able to make assessments of their ability to offer adequate support to vulnerable sections of the community.
Behaviour change Questions related to behaviour change generated useful insights about the range of voluntary activities of many volunteers, in addition to evidence of volunteers’ motivations to do more voluntary work – both for the Environment Agency and other organisations.
Retention Questions related to volunteer retention highlighted the importance of volunteers’ altruistic motivations to protect their communities through management activities for flood risk mitigation and supporting community preparedness.
Reduced flood risk This proved to be a highly relevant evaluation category. Data collection reveals that volunteers are clearly adding value in terms of building community resilience and preparedness, and the delivery of flood warnings – all of which are helping to reduce communities’ reliance on the Environment Agency. Questioning in this area also highlighted a number of issues and challenges that can prevent or obstruct volunteers in carrying out some duties and tasks (see Section 4.7).
5.3.2 Methods Data collection involved the employment of a number of methods in line with the protocols set out in the prototype evaluation framework (see Work Package 2 report;
Environment Agency 2015b). This multi-methods approach facilitated the gathering of both quantitative and qualitative data to address a range of evaluation questions put forward in the framework.
The methods protocols provided in the Work Package 2 report provide a useful resource for any future evaluations of FCRM volunteering initiatives or wider volunteering connected to the Environment Agency. These can be adapted, if necessary, depending on the aims of any future research. Although no revisions to the methods set out in the evaluation framework are proposed, the primary data collection phase of the project has revealed a number of points worthy of reflection.
82 Case study and survey research on FCRM volunteering The framework does not at present set out a method for capturing the views directly from wider community members about the efficacy of volunteering initiatives. Instead, evidence of community impact is derived through methods which capture the opinions and perceptions from volunteers themselves and staff from the Environment Agency and partner organisations. If assessing community impacts of volunteering is seen as a priority by the Environment Agency, it might be useful to adapt the methods so that they can be used to gather views directly from communities where volunteers are operating.
Some difficulties were experienced in recruiting volunteer respondents to carry out the data collection. A particular issue stemmed from data protection requirements which meant Environment Agency staff had to act as gatekeepers to set up initial contact with their volunteers and to seek permission for them to get involved in the research. This indirect approach was particularly problematic in terms of recruiting respondents to carry out the survey, volunteer diaries and interviews. In the case study areas, it was possible to approach Environment Agency staff more directly and make contact with volunteers more easily. If evaluating volunteering initiatives is to be a priority going forwards, the Environment Agency will need to consider how best to facilitate contact between evaluators and volunteers.
Some of the flood wardens experienced difficulties in completing the diaries in terms of knowing what to include, even when provided with an example. However, the data received have been useful in understanding what activities flood wardens and flood groups get involved in, and particularly useful in proving volunteers with a means to highlight some of the issues and challenges they face.
5.4 Research note A research note was prepared for Environment Agency use following a workshop with the project steering group to discuss the insights it should highlight (O’Brien et al.
2014). The document provides a short background to the research and a précis of the results outlined in this report. It discusses strategic decision making within the Environment Agency concerning FCRM volunteering and highlights key operational issues that have arisen from the research.
Case study and survey research on FCRM volunteering
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Case study and survey research on FCRM volunteering Appendix A: Standard letter A.1 Letter sent to FCRM volunteers by Environment Agency staff to invite them to participate in the research Dear …………………………………..
Thank you for all the volunteering work that you do associated with flooding issues by getting involved in flood plans, information provision, assisting others and so on. These are very important activities that help communities to reduce risk and respond better during flooding incidents.
Because of the importance of volunteers and volunteering, the Environment Agency has asked Forest Research to undertake a study so that we can get a better understanding of what motivates people like you to get involved in flood related issues and what they get out of this involvement. We want to do this so that we can encourage more people to get involved and manage volunteering effectively ourselves or in partnership with other organisations.
To be able to do this work, we would like Forest Research to contact volunteers on our behalf and include them in the study. This would involve participating in one of the following: a questionnaire survey; an interview; or keeping a short diary over a small number of weeks. This is an opportunity for you to be able to tell your story in your own words of how you got involved in volunteering and why you do it.
This will be a very important part of the research and we would like to ask would you be willing to be included? If the answer is ‘yes’ we will pass on your details to Forest Research and they will get in touch with you to let you know more about how you can be involved.
We do hope that you will contribute to this very useful and important study. Please read the ‘How we will use your information’ section on the attached for more information.
Your name will not be used in any reports and you will remain anonymous.
Please can you let me know if you are happy to get involved by completing the details on the slip below and returning this to us in the postage paid envelope by [insert date].
Yours faithfully, Your name here Your title here Your contact number here Address of Environment Agency office here Enc: Postage paid envelope 86 Case study and survey research on FCRM volunteering Volunteers project reply slip How we will use your information and data Who will use the data? Only the Environment Agency and our contractor Forest Research will have access to the information you provide.
What will the data be used for? The information collected will be used only in connection with this research project into volunteering on flood and coastal risk management activities.
Any information you provide in a questionnaire, survey or interview will not be attributed to you personally. Your name will not be used directly in the research. Information you supply will be anonymised.
How long will the data be kept? – The information you provide will be kept for a maximum of one year after the project has ended after which time it will be destroyed.
We will not pass on your personal details to any other third parties.
Keeping a short diary of my volunteer activities yes no *Face-to-face or by telephone; this would take about 30 minutes.
We aim to make the questionnaire survey available online to reduce the effect on the environment and speed up the processing time. However we can make a postal version available.
Please tick this box if you would prefer a postal survey
My details are:
Please return this reply slip in the postage-paid envelope provided or email to [insert Environment Agency contact name].
Case study and survey research on FCRM volunteering Thank you very much [insert name] will contact you in the next few weeks.
If you have any queries please contact [insert name].
Case study and survey research on FCRM volunteering Appendix C: Case study selection The following criteria were identified as potentially important for choosing the four case studies to research in more detail. However, given the length of this list it was not possible to choose four cases that cover all of the criteria. It was therefore decided that the key criteria should include governance type and segment.
• Volunteering type/role – river flood wardens, coastal flood wardens, flood alleviation, flood volunteers
• Activity of volunteers – operating assets, community flood planning, monitoring levels and trash screens – or use physical, knowledge, campaign and virtual
• Prevention, response, emergency
• Volunteering segment – individual, community, partnership
• Governance – for Environment Agency, in partnership, through others, for themselves
• Dealing with challenging issues
• Recently/not recently flooded
• Flood risk level – high, medium, low
• Geographical spread (by Environment Agency region)
• Funding – externally funded, Environment Agency funded
• Recently established, long established projects
• Area of Environment Agency business See Appendix B of the Work Package 1 report (Environment Agency 2015a) for definitions of volunteer type, governance, segment and activity type.