Project 5

Project Completed, August 2008

Final Paper prepared for Masters Thesis  "An Exploration of the views of volunteers in outdoor recreation within a social economy framework"  Carrie McClelland.  August 31, 2008

Project description

Title: Contributions of volunteering in outdoor recreation to the social economy in Whitehorse.


This paper investigates how individuals benefit from their volunteer involvement in the field of outdoor recreation and relates these experiences to social capital and the social economy.  In an exploratory study of the perceived benefits of volunteering for the individual and the community, qualitative data were collected from 13 interviews with volunteers in the field of outdoor recreation in the community of Whitehorse, Yukon.  Though study results are broader, this paper focuses on two categories of personal benefits that relate particularly to social capital and the social economy. These categories are: rewards and reciprocity and relationship building.  This study found that these benefits are supported by social relationships developed through interactions among volunteers and activity participants.  We suggest that this interaction helps volunteers create and, potentially, use social capital within their networks.  We conclude that the development of social relationships is a large part of the experience of personal benefits for volunteers, and is important for understanding the relationship between social capital in volunteering experiences and the social economy.

Research Team

Carrie McClelland,  Lakehead University (Masters of Environmental Studies in Nature-based Recreation)

Dr. Margaret Johnston, Dept of Outdoor Recreation, Parks & Tourism, Lakehead University

Tracy Erman, Executive Director, Yukon Volunteer Bureau

For further information about this project, contact Carrie McClelland: ( or Margaret Johnston (

This research project will focus on volunteers in outdoor recreational activities and how their experiences influence themselves and contribute to the well-being of their community.  Research has shown volunteers are often motivated by opportunities to make a contribution to their community, develop personal skills and knowledge, and form relationships with the people they meet.   This study will be focused on the community of Whitehorse, Yukon, and will be conducted in connection with the Yukon Volunteer Bureau in its effort to understand the social economy and volunteering community in the Yukon.  Whitehorse offers many opportunities for its citizens to become involved with outdoor recreational activities such as dogsled races and rock climbing, to hiking and birding.   This project will provide information that will help demonstrate the extent and creation of social capital in the voluntary sector and understand the impacts of volunteering with outdoor recreational activities on the individual and the community using concepts and ideas from the social economy framework.

Given that Whitehorse was host to the 2007 Canada Winter Games, this study will provide a timely exploration of community processes through involvement with volunteering with outdoor recreational activities.  A longitudinal study being conducted by a team of researchers at Lakehead University with Whitehorse partners is examining the outcomes of hosting the event for the community of Whitehorse.  My research will allow to me to further that understanding by looking at how volunteers feel their contributions, in a variety of outdoor recreational settings, affect their personal well-being as well as contribute to the health of their community.


Qualitative data for this study were collected from 13 conversational interviews with outdoor recreation volunteers in the community of Whitehorse in summer of 2007. Conversational interviews allow the study participant the freedom to shift the interview focus to topics they think relevant (Neuman, 2006), and explores their personal descriptions of their voluntary activity (Glover, 2004). In order to obtain a variety of study participants, outdoor recreation related organisations were contacted via community and online listings in combination with recommendations from community members and the Yukon Volunteer Bureau. Study participants were adult volunteers involved in outdoor recreation activities ranging from formalised recreational sports teams to loosely organised groups. Analysis involved coding the transcripts, and organising passages under themes grouped into a framework linked to the literature. To maintain confidentiality gender specific pseudonyms have been used in this paper


Study participants were asked about ways in which they felt their volunteer work affected their personal well-being.  All participants stated that they gained something from their volunteer work though some articulated benefits in much more depth than others. Interviews revealed four categories of personal benefits experienced by volunteers; however, for the purposes of this paper, only the categories describing rewards and reciprocity and relationship building will be described here.


Public presentation of results on Tuesday June 10th at Yukon College

“Get involved: the contributions of volunteering in outdoor recreation to individual and community well-being.” Outdoor recreation picture collage:

Volunteers play a significant role in providing important services to a community.  These services create opportunities for community members to participate in a variety of activities and offer numerous benefits for the individual volunteer.  This study investigates the views of volunteers in outdoor recreation regarding their contributions to community and personal well-being, explored within a social economy framework in order to effectively understand the place of volunteering in community processes.



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