What did we want to know?
What were the core mechanisms for mobilising volunteers for local groups, communities, and organisations during the COVID-19 pandemic and under what circumstances, where, and among whom do these mechanisms occur?
What did we find?
This rapid review identified mechanisms that underpinned the mobilisation of volunteers for local groups, communities, and organisations during the COVID-19 pandemic. From a total of 59 studies, six mechanisms and fourteen context-mechanism-outcome configurations were identified in the review.
Gaining experience and developing role identity was a core mechanism that was key in mobilising volunteers to undertake activities during the pandemic; gaining experience and developing role identity also resulted in positive outcomes for volunteers themselves in terms of greater confidence, professional and skill development, personal development, and better mental wellbeing outcomes.
Adaptability was a second core mechanism for mobilising large numbers of volunteers during the pandemic. This broadly ensured that individuals, groups and local agencies and organisations were able to respond to the changing needs of beneficiary groups (e.g. where social isolation or inability to access essential supplies became problematic) and were able to adapt to new ways of working (particularly to adapt to the circumstances of lockdown).
Emotional support, support in the form of social and material recognition, and support through training were important in sustaining a volunteer workforce, protecting the wellbeing of the volunteer workforce, and may be important in broadening the profile of volunteers. In addition, community level support during the pandemic, organised through mutual aid groups, can be viewed as a form of activism where communities step in as a response to the limitations of the state to provide support for basic essential for community members in need.
Altruism was a mechanism observed at an individual level, but also one that emerged at a population level as a key motivator for stepping up during the pandemic and becoming a volunteer.
Greater trust was linked with the efficient organisation of volunteers during the pandemic and the extent to which groups and communities were able to scale up efforts to respond to the higher demands that were exhibited during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Co-ordination helped communities, agencies and mutual aid groups to work together rather than in competition, and to work more efficiently around one another rather than in duplication.