To understand the multiple dimensions and realities of the sector, I chose a number of mapping approaches.
I mapped journeys of international and local volunteers, project coordinators, and funders through time and space. I also mapped organisational processes outlined in primary and secondary research. Finally I completed a variety of stakeholder mapping exercises to build a picture of actors in the sector.
In many community-based groups, I found that project coordinators also work as team leaders when there is an event happening. This leads them to juggle multiple tasks, and often negate the ‘additional overhead’ of tasks such as environmental monitoring, which could be done rapidly in the field, with the right tools.
Following on from the previous insight about holding multiple-roles, it was clear that currently the act of doing environmental monitoring and evaluation require significant investment. Whether it is taking time to specifically attend a project site, doing administrative work associated with logging and categorising, or using scant resources to employ an external consultant, the monitoring and evaluation activities are perceived as an expensive overhead.
In many cases, environmental volunteers’ only way of finding out if they made a positive impact in an area, are to visit a project site themselves, or to read annual reports from the projects they volunteered with.
Volunteers increasingly expect more regular feedback loops about personal and collective impact, and progress of the project. I found evidence in my primary research that with regular project updates, volunteers would become more loyal to projects, and/or in addition are more likely to volunteer for other projects.