It’s not just the sport – new research shows the impact of Glasgow Commonwealth Games volunteers on wellbeing in the city.

For the attention of: City planners – culture, leisure and sport; Volunteer-involving organisations – public, private and voluntary sector; Public health professionals

The problem: Volunteer engagement is crucial to the effective delivery of mega-sporting events and getting people involved may bring additional benefits to cities and regions. Most evidence focuses on event volunteering, while less is known on how participation fits with the wider social context. The city of Glasgow hosted the 2014 Commonwealth Games, which provided an opportunity to explore volunteer views on the longer-term health and wellbeing benefits.

What we did and why: This was a qualitative study using interviews and focus groups to explore volunteer perspectives one year post Games.  This complemented a quantitative study based on a longitudinal survey of volunteers. We used a social determinants lens to explore the potential health and wellbeing impacts of participation. Our sample included volunteers living in Glasgow and further afield and also a small number of unsuccessful applicants, as there is little known about people unable to participate.

What our study adds: This study helps unpack the range of impacts from mega-event volunteering based on the perspectives of volunteers. Volunteers identified individual wellbeing benefits and wider social and economic outcomes, such as increased pride in the city. Our ‘people and place’ framework highlights the strong links between event volunteering, other forms of pro-social action and the wider context. The study also builds understanding of the experience of people who aren’t selected to volunteer in a mega-event.

Implications for city policy and practice: Promoting and sustaining pro-social action following one-off mega-events is an important issue for host cities.  City policy makers should think widely about the different ways citizens can participate and how rewards and motivations are enhanced through recognising the value of place. This may help with evaluating impact and legacy. Ensuring event volunteering is inclusive involves communicating how people contribute to a welcoming atmosphere in the city – even when they are not selected as an event volunteer.

For further information: links etc.

Report from Leeds Beckett University: Exploring the experiences and impacts of Glasgow 2014 volunteer applicants

Evaluation from Scottish Government: Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games legacy: final evaluation report April 2018

Full research article: Volunteerism, social context and health impacts: a qualitative study of Glasgow Commonwealth Games event volunteers by Jane South, James Woodall (@woodalldr), Kris Southby (@krissouthby), Russell Jones, Gregor Yates, Karina Kinsella & Ellie May (@ellieloumay21). City Know-how Editor: Marcus Grant.