Volunteers give of their time in ways that help those in need to get valuable help and the community at large to prosper.


Volunteering can be a life-changing experience which brings both personal and social benefits.

Volunteers give of their time in ways that help those in need to get valuable help and the community at large to prosper. Volunteers can also learn new skills and learn more about the world they live in by engaging with a diverse range of people and causes.

Giving Time in Hard Times is a research project funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, UK in collaboration with researchers at a number UK universities and Nesta. Most people agree that giving time can have huge societal benefits and we want to test a number of ideas to see if we can make it easier for them to be able to get out there and do it.


The Project

What motivates people to contribute to the public good on a voluntary basis?

Our study looks at whether sharing information about how others have volunteered helps to improve volunteering.

The study builds on existing knowledge about what motivates people to contribute to the public good on a voluntary basis, focusing on how student volunteers and others who give time in their community, including those who give time to represent their community in parish councils, respond to information about the contributions of others. We are very interested in both adding to academic knowledge about voluntarily contributing to the community and informing policy and practice, so our results will be fed back to the relevant organisations we are working with as well as to policy-makers more generally.
Our approach uses randomised control trials in a field setting. Experiments offer a high standard of internal validity. Although there has been a great deal of work on social dilemmas in the laboratory context, the field setting generates high external validity because the experiments are conducted in a real world context that would indicate whether an intervention works in practice and to what degree. The researchers are part of a new but growing political science and public policy research community addressing these issues through their active participation in the Experiments in Government and Politics (EGAP) group, the University of Manchester Experiments Research Network, the APSA group on Experimental Research and the York Trials Unit.

You can read a conference paper outlining our particular interests in contributions to the public good.


The research team draws together a huge wealth of UK social research experience.

Professor Peter John (University College London), Professor Gerry Stoker and Dr. Matt Ryan (University of Southampton), Professor Oliver James and Dr. Alice Moseley (University of Exeter) and Ms. Liz Richardson (University of Manchester) with help from administrative staff and students at these universities and the Universities of Plymouth and Salford. Former team members include Dr. Beth Carley, UCL.
We have teamed up with the university's volunteering service unit at each of the participating universities to help make it easier for students to be aware of all the opportunities available to volunteer. More information about where you can volunteer can be found by visiting these websites:

If you are a student, have a look at the volunteering opportunities your university provides and get involved! There is something for everybody and remember your time really does count.

We are also working in partnership with national organisations Student Hubs, National Trust and Family Mosaic to find out more about effective approaches to encouraging, recruiting and supporting volunteers.

Project Outputs

Conference Papers

Our project papers have been presented at a variety of past conferences:

Further conference presentations will be given at:

Please email A.Moseley@ex.ac.uk if you are interested in obtaining copies of our working papers.


If you would like to contact us, the best way to get in touch with us is by email.

We have contact emails at each of the participating universities. You can find us at...

University of Southampton - yourtimecounts@soton.ac.uk
University of Salford - yourtimecounts@salford.ac.uk
University College London - yourtimecounts@ucl.ac.uk
Plymouth University - yourtimecounts@plymouth.ac.uk
University of Exeter - yourtimecounts@exeter.ac.uk