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Exploring the experiences and impacts of Glasgow 2014 volunteer applicants

Date: February 2016
Category: Report
Work programme: Civic participation
Author: Leeds Beckett University

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The Centre for Health Promotion at Leeds Beckett University were commissioned to review existing literature on the impacts of mega-sporting event volunteering and to undertake a qualitative study to investigate the experiences of volunteers at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games (known as ‘clyde-siders’). The study also set out to explore the experiences of those who applied to be a clyde-sider but were not successful with their application (referred to as non-clyde-siders).

The literature review identified process issues as significant factors in the delivery of a mega-sporting event that result in a positive experience for volunteers. The review also found that mega-sporting event volunteering yields health and social outcomes both for individual volunteers and the host community. The weight of evidence in this review suggests that the process of mega-sporting event volunteering is relatively well understood. However, gaps remain with regard to the longer-term outcomes of mega-sporting event volunteering for individual volunteers (and those who apply but do not go on to become volunteers) and for communities.    

Qualitative exploration with clyde-siders and non-clyde-siders identified important assets that they brought to the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games. Existing skills and experiences from their professional life or other volunteering roles; a personal touch reflecting commitment and approachability; and local knowledge of the city were important attributes that were highlighted. 

While volunteers added to the success of the Games and its delivery, they were also able to draw on the event for their own personal benefit. Positive outcomes included increased confidence and knowledge, and the development of skills for future employment. These outcomes were often more pronounced in clyde-siders than non-clyde-siders, but this was not always the case as some non-clyde-siders drew benefits from applying for the role. The development of friendships and the value that people placed on meeting new people was a particularly prominent finding for both clyde-sider and non-clyde-siders. This included ‘bridging’ with others across social and cultural boundaries. 

The link between place, participation and the social impacts of volunteering at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games is a distinctive finding from the research. For clyde-siders, benefits were derived from the formal volunteering role and from being part of the collective experience in the city during the Games. These benefits could not be solely attributed to being a volunteer, as non-clyde-siders also reported gaining from being part of the friendly atmosphere generated by hosting the Games.  Implications for strategic planning for mega-sporting events are outlined in the report.