The National Trust: Widening Participation

The National Trust is a UK conservation charity, protecting historic places and green spaces, and opening them up for ever, for everyone. The National Trust has recently committed to a new 10-year strategy, part of which is to rethink the way in which we respond to our buildings, collections and outdoor spaces through rigorous academic research. The Trust has developed a KTP with the University of Manchester which will enhance the way in which the National Trust engages with academic researchers at universities across the north. This REAlab project could help to develop the way that the Trust interprets academic research to feed into the new strategy.


The National Trust has a range of different groups who support the Trust, including volunteers and groups and communities that are local to Trust properties. However, we are aware that membership for some of these groups may be static or even in decline and their relationship with the Trust has sometimes been strained. For instance, in 2017 there was tension between the national programming theme of LGBTQ histories and some volunteer groups. We would like to explore the current relationship with volunteers, build a deeper understanding of their motivations and aspirations and, through analysis, consider whether there are alternative models for groups to operate that may help to drive engagement and build alignment with our cause.


  • Deeper understanding of the existing demographics of current volunteers and participant groups
  • Identification of models of best practice in widening participation across the heritage sector
  • Recommendations for practical changes that can be made to maintain and develop relationships with current volunteers and participants using data collected from internal surveys
  • Recommendations for practical changes that can be made in the recruitment of volunteers


  • Quantitative and qualitative data collection and analysis.
  • Awareness of the strategic aims, practical capacity and challenges facing the National Trust regionally and nationally.
  • Understanding of the sensitivities of working with volunteers and collecting sensitive data around demographic groups.

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