Northern Ireland has seen a significant growth in tourism numbers over the last three years (NISRA 2019). While this is a welcome development, the current void in executive and legislative tourism governance due to the collapse of the Northern Ireland Assembly and a lack of a sustainable tourism strategy leaves the country exposed to fast-paced, uncontrolled and unquestioned tourism development. With limited executive governance and strategic focus on sustainability, the relevance of the ‘third governance’ paradigm – namely community participation – is becoming increasingly important (Kwiatkowski et al. 2019).
Volunteering as a form of community participation is well-established in the UK. 27% of the adult population in NI have participated in a volunteering activity in 2018 (DfC 2019). “Volunteering is un-coerced, intentionally productive, altruistic activity engaged in during free time.” (Stebbins and Elkington 2014, p. 17). While traditionally in the domain of the charity sector, volunteer activity has been seen to have a positive impact on tourism. For example, organised volunteer litter picks in parks and on beaches are inadvertently improving the tourism product. Since 2012, volunteers have removed over 1,000,000 pieces of litter from the Northern Irish coastline (KNIB 2019). Many parks, gardens, estates and heritage sites rely on volunteers to carry out conservation, preservation and educational activities.
This PhD research project proposes an investigation into the power of volunteering as a driver for sustainable tourism development. Previous researches have made advances into the potential of volunteering and ‘third governance’ tourism development on a case study basis (see Cheng et al. 2019, Germann Molz 2016, Kwiatkowski et al. 2019, Miller 2018).
This proposed research aims to harness the potential of community participation through volunteering for sustainable tourism development, by developing an original Volunteer Participation Framework aligned to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Developing such a framework should assist policy-makers, tourism planners and volunteer organisations to promote and facilitate community volunteering, thereby fostering destination stewardship, the third governance paradigm and ultimately an improved tourism product, development and infrastructure.
Volunteering can take many forms. It can be either a serious or casual and is driven by both altruistic and self-interest motives (Stebbins and Elkington 2014). It is underpinned by activism, education and creating social good (Measham and Barnett 2008). Volunteers tend to inhabit distinct social worlds (Bendle and Patterson 2008) and use associational structures to compose their activities and sense of belongingness (Smith 2000). Building on Unruh’s (1979) theory of participation in social worlds, a symbolic interactionist approach to this research is recommended.
A qualitative investigation of volunteering behaviour should be mapped against the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. In so doing, a holistic approach to sustainable tourism development and ‘third governance’ can be achieved.
Potential outputs and recommendations from an SDG-driven volunteer framework could be:
1) environmental (SDGs 6, 7, 13, 14 and 15) for coastal management, protecting natural, and built heritage and sustainable transport;
2) societal (SDGs 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5) for host community involvement, training and education, and social enterprise;
3) economic (SDGs 8, 9, 10, 11, 12) for skills and employment needs, infrastructure needs, and addressing seasonality; and
4) governance-related (SDGs 16 and 17) for management organisations, policy changes and new partnerships.
Bendle, L. J., & Patterson, I. (2008). Network density, centrality, and communication in a serious leisure social world. Annals of Leisure Research, 11(1-2), 1-19.
Cheng, T. M., Wu, H. C., Wang, J. T. M., & Wu, M. R. (2019). Community Participation as a mediating factor on residents’ attitudes towards sustainable tourism development and their personal environmentally responsible behaviour. Current Issues in Tourism, 22(14), 1764-1782.
DfC (2019) Experience of volunteering by adults in Northern Ireland: Findings from the Continuous Household Survey 2018/19.
Belfast: Department for Communities. Elkington, S., & Stebbins, R. A. (2014).
The serious leisure perspective: An introduction. London: Routledge. Germann Molz, J. (2016). Making a difference together: discourses of transformation in family voluntourism. Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 24(6), 805-823.
KNIB (2019) Marine Litter Report 2018. Belfast: Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful. Kwiatkowski, G., Hjalager, A. M., Liburd, J., & Saabye Simonsen, P. (2019). Volunteering and collaborative governance innovation in the Wadden Sea National Park.
Current Issues in Tourism, 1-19.
Measham, T. G., & Barnett, G. B. (2008). Environmental volunteering: Motivations, modes and outcomes. Australian Geographer, 39(4), 537-552.
Miller, E. (2018). “My hobby is global warming and peak oil”: sustainability as serious leisure. World Leisure Journal, 60(3), 209-220.
NISRA (2019) Northern Ireland Annual Tourism Statistics 2018.
Belfast: NISRA. Smith, D. H. (2000).
Grassroots associations. Thousand Oaks, C.A.: Sage Publications. Unruh, D. R. (1979). Characteristics and types of participation in social worlds. Symbolic interaction, 2(2), 115-130.
- To hold, or expect to achieve by 15 August, an Upper Second Class Honours (2:1) Degree or equivalent from a UK institution (or overseas award deemed to be equivalent via UK NARIC) in a related or cognate field.
- A comprehensive and articulate personal statement
- Research proposal of 2000 words detailing aims, objectives, milestones and methodology of the project
- A demonstrable interest in the research area associated with the studentship
If the University receives a large number of applicants for the project, the following desirable criteria may be applied to shortlist applicants for interview.
- Masters at 65%
- Research project completion within taught Masters degree or MRES
The University offers the following awards to support PhD study and applications are invited from UK, EU and overseas for the following levels of support:
Vice Chancellors Research Studentship (VCRS)
Full award (full-time PhD fees + DfE level of maintenance grant + RTSG for 3 years).
This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees and provide the recipient with £15,000 maintenance grant per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.
Vice-Chancellor’s Research Bursary (VCRB)
Part award (full-time PhD fees + 50% DfE level of maintenance grant + RTSG for 3 years).
This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees and provide the recipient with £7,500 maintenance grant per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.
Vice-Chancellor’s Research Fees Bursary (VCRFB)
Fees only award (PhD fees + RTSG for 3 years).
This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.
Department for the Economy (DFE)
The scholarship will cover tuition fees at the Home rate and a maintenance allowance of £15,285 per annum for three years. EU applicants will only be eligible for the fee’s component of the studentship (no maintenance award is provided). For Non-EU nationals the candidate must be "settled" in the UK. This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.
Due consideration should be given to financing your studies; for further information on cost of living etc. please refer to: www.ulster.ac.uk/doctoralcollege/postgraduate-research/fees-and-funding/financing-your-studies