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Table 1 Characteristics of the included sources

From: What have we learned about COVID-19 volunteering in the UK? A rapid review of the literature

Authors and Year Item type Organisation Type of source Setting Sample size (if relevant) Study Design Data collection period Findings
Alakeson, V, Brett, W (2020) [30] Report Power to Change Combination of primary + secondary UK Not stated Collective input from stakeholders Not stated • Mutual aid works best at the micro level.
• Mutual aid at scale requires community organisations
• Community organisations have changed quickly to meet local need.
• Bigger institutions rely on community organisations to respond well.
Britain Thinks (2020) [31] Report West Midlands Recovery Coordination Group Primary West Midlands 36 Series of discussions with Citizen’s panel of local residents 03/06/2020–02/07/2020 • Priorities include getting back to normal safely, healthcare, mental health, education, employment, promoting and supporting business.
Felici (2020) [32] Blog post Bennett Institute for Public Policy Secondary UK N/A Statistical analysis of geographic density of mutual aid groups 27/03/2020 • There is a positive correlation between density of mutual aid groups and measures of socio-economic advantage.
Gardner, 2020 [33] Newspaper article The Telegraph Secondary UK N/A N/A 07/04/2020–16/04/2020 • NHS Volunteer army given fewer than 20,000 tasks since launch.
Jones et al. (2020) [34] Peer-reviewed article University of the West of England Primary Bristol 539 Survey 06/04/2020–20/04/2020 • Members of Covid-19 support groups provided a wide range of support and cited a variety of successes and failures.
• 46.7% of respondents wanted to become more involved in the neighbourhood in the future.
• With respect to most measures there were no differences in the characteristics of support between respondents in areas of high and low deprivation.
Kavada (2020) [35] Blog post Open Democracy Secondary UK N/A N/A N/A • The creation of “micro-groups” in specific areas helped to create trust
• Mutual aid groups used a variety of digital tools to organise.
• The decentralised organising model of mutual aid groups is faster and more agile than the centralised model.
• Mutual aid groups may become involved in political campaigns regarding the broader impact of the pandemic.
Local Government Association (2020) [36] Website Local Government Association Secondary N/A N/A N/A N/A • Large repository of case studies of good council practice in response to Covid-19.
Locality, 2020 [37] Report Locality Primary Berwick, Grimsby, Norfolk, Holburn, Levenshulme, Hackney, Coventry 7 case study interviews; 57 survey responses Case study interviews with community leaders; qualitative survey; member roundtables; contributions from local authority leaders Not stated • Existing social infrastructure was crucial to the crisis response.
• The crisis has created new and improved partnership working between community organisations and the public sector.
• Community organisations have connected different layers of response.
• Managing new volunteering capacity came with challenges
• Community organisations have adapted at pace but require support for the future.
Mak & Fancourt, 2020 [38] Peer-reviewed article UCL Primary UK 31,890 Survey of Covid-19 volunteers 21/04/2020–03/05/2020 • Three types of Covid-19 volunteering identified: formal volunteering, social action volunteering, neighbourhood support.
• Volunteering was associated being female, living with children, living rurally, having higher educational qualifications, and higher household income.
• New groups identified as likely to volunteer were people with a physical or mental health condition.
• The predictors of volunteering during the pandemic may be slightly different from other non-emergency period.
McCabe, A., Wilson, M., & MacMillan, A. E. (2020) [39] Briefing Local Trust Primary 26 areas in England Not stated “Learning conversations” with residents, community activists and workers; Interviews with Big Local reps 04/2020–06/2020 • Communities have been resourceful in developing creative ways of bringing resources together to respond quickly to community need, using technical knowledge to implement alternative ways of working; applying local knowledge to meet immediate needs; promoting acknowledged roles.
McCabe, A., Wilson, M., & Macmillan, R. (2020) [40] Report Local Trust Primary 26 areas in England 317 conversations; 20 Interviews “Learning conversations” with residents, community activists and workers; Interviews with Big Local reps 04/2020–09/2020 • Community responses to the immediate crisis have varied significantly.
• Most communities have moved on from an initial crisis response and are looking ahead.
• An established community-led infrastructure underpins an effective community response.
McCabe, A., Wilson, M., & Paine, A. E. (2020) [41] Briefing Local Trust Primary 26 areas in England Not stated “Learning conversations” with residents, community activists and workers; Interviews with Big Local reps 04/2020–10/2020 • A new cohort of volunteers has emerged who are often younger and on the furlough scheme.
• Engagement at grassroots level has been more effective than command-and-control.
• Factors identified as important in the successful retention of volunteers include clear boundaries, permissions, social rewards, nurturing relationships, feeling valued.
NewLocal, 2020 [42] Report New Local Primary UK 94 Survey of local government leaders, chief executives and council mayors 9/04/2020–21/04/2020 • 95.6% of respondents highly value the contribution of community groups in their council’s effort to tackle Covid-19 (47.4% very significant, 48.2% significant).
• Council chiefs are more confident there is community cohesion in their area, with confidence levels at 71.9%
NHS England (2020) [5] Website NHS Primary N/A N/A N/A 27/03/2020–29/03/2020 • The NHS Volunteer responders initiative has recruited 750,000 people in 2 days.
O’Dwyer (2020) [43] Blog post Kingston University Primary UK 854 Survey of mutual aid group members Not stated • Participants are predominantly white, female, middle class, and more political than average.
• Participants were generally left wing but tended not to see their mutual aid groups as political.
Scottish Government (2020) [44] Report Scottish Government Primary Scotland 62 Qualitative survey of community organisations 15/05/2020–27/05/2020 • The pandemic has prompted large changes to the operations of respondents.
• Covid-19 has presented increased demands, most prominently the provision of food.
• Half of participants mentioned improved partnership working.
• Priorities for the future include mental health support, employment, building a wellbeing and low carbon economy, tackling inequalities, capitalising on rise in community support.
Spratt (2020) [45] Newspaper article The i Secondary N/A N/A N/A N/A • ACORN have seen a large increase in membership over Covid-19.
• ACORN have been holding “eviction resistance” bootcamps to tackle the rise in evictions.
Taylor and Wilson (2020) [46] Report Community Organisers Combination of primary + secondary UK Not stated Literature review; Interviews with people involved in community organising Not stated • Communities with an organising history were able to respond quickly and flexibly as previous community organising activity meant that local people were already connected.
• Vast majority of support provided was “practical help” including delivering food, collecting prescriptions, making check-in calls.
• Organisers adapted to the need to go online through use of technology but also developed methods for reaching the digitally excluded.
• Community organisers have supported residents to challenge government policies and practices.
Tiratelli (2020b) [47] Blog post New Local Secondary N/A N/A N/A N/A • The activity of mutual aid groups declined sharply when lockdown eased.
• Many mutual aid groups are dormant but the infrastructure they have created remains.
• Mutual aid groups may spring back into action if a second lockdown occurs.
Tiratelli & Kaye, 2020 [48] Report New Local Combination of primary + secondary UK Not stated Literature review; Observation of mutual aid groups’ social media; Interviews with mutual aid participants Not stated • Some mutual aid groups form spontaneously and others as outgrowths from existing community projects
• Digital infrastructure was important
• The furlough scheme led to a different demographic profile of volunteers than usual
• Activities of mutual aid groups have evolved to encompass wider social support over time
• Councils should adopt facilitative approaches to working with Mutual Aid groups rather than controlling or indifferent approaches.
Tiratelli, 2020a [49] Report New Local Combination of primary + secondary UK Number of interviews not stated Literature review; Interviews with experts on the topic of community mobilisation Not stated • Community engagement is a shallower process than community mobilisation.
• Approaches to community mobilisation can focus on different units: individuals, groups, places, and services.
• Public bodies interested in community mobilisation need to: take a facilitative approach; listen to communities; build something that was not there before; have clear goals.
Volunteer Scotland, 2020 [50] Report Volunteer Scotland Primary Scotland 4827 Survey of charities 05/05/2020–15/05/2020 • 37% of charity volunteers have been unable to work during COVID-19.
VSF (2020) [51] Report Primary Secondary N/A 13 Collective input from Volunteering Support Fund projects Not stated • Many projects shifted their operations to the online world.
• Support was offered to volunteers and service users with using technology.
• Many projects reported increase in volunteer recruitment.
• Projects adapted to respond to the pandemic, some changing their focus entirely.
Wein (2020) [52] Report Dignity Project Primary UK 182 Survey of mutual aid group members 11/05/2020–30/05/2020 • In 53% of groups a small group of people made the decisions whilst 33% had more consensual decision-making.
• Support on technology and communication was most desired by groups (32%)
• 83% of respondents intended to take some political action in the coming year and 49% will take at least 3 actions.
• Demographics: 65% female, median age 48, 48% earned less than median income, better educated were overrepresented.
Wilson, McCabe & MacMillan (2020) [53] Briefing Local Trust Primary 26 areas in England Not stated “Learning conversations” with residents, community activists and workers; Interviews with Big Local reps 04/2020–08/2020 • Informality has assisted the speed and flexibility of responses to Covid-19 but scaling is an issue.
• Organisations have been mixing both formal and informal ways of working.
• Pre-existing community infrastructure has facilitated the co-ordination of responses to Covid-19.