Valuing volunteers in National Parks

North Yorkshire Moors Association Chair Adrian Leaman outlines the integral role volunteers play in protecting, improving and engaging people with the importance of National Parks and why we must recognise this...

Here are a few things I've learned recently.

The UK 2021 census had no questions at all about volunteers.

Almost every presentation I've attended recently has mentioned volunteers, but volunteers were never the main subject of the talk.

All these sessions were organised and run on the day by volunteers.

The Government's response to the Landscapes Review has some nasty shocks in store if you read through to the last chapter, which is basically about privatisation.

Because the success of privatisation involves the measurement of value. This means you need methods to quantify the outcomes of projects like tree planting or flood mitigation.

These methods - still 'under development' - are deemed to be fully compatible with existing national economic and statistical accounts ...

... which are created by economists, statisticians and accountants.

They are trying to nail the value of 'ecosystem services' which also morph into 'social value'.  Such methods are stuffed full of assertions, assumptions, and stabs in the dark.  If you dare, and don't believe me,  try this: the "UK natural capital accounts methodology guide: 2020". Then follow the links in it.  

Hang on: join the dots!  Volunteers give their services free because they want to maintain value in the things that they perceive to be good - like National Parks or traditional buildings or wildlife restoration or health and wellbeing (the full list is very long because it will include all manner of exotica like liquorice festivals in Pontefract or giant gooseberry competitions in Egton Bridge, all part of the rich value of British heritage, both natural and man-made).

So why not add volunteering to the census, and count the number of volunteers and their commitments? That way you get a verifiable measure based on real people, their enthusiasms and passions, the sum of which represents the actual value they put on the things that they perceive to be threatened.

And, believe me, they will be threatened if privatisation goes further into areas like carbon credits bought from private companies partnered with National Park Authorities forced to go cap-in-hand to privateers for funding because they are denied the public funding they deserve.

You could even use 'volunteer value' as a metric for publicly funding the National Parks.