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Dissertation: Volunteers contributing to events through their knowledge

Dissertation: Volunteers contributing to events through their knowledge

1.9.2017 10:24

Volunteers are often important social and economic actors in the implementation of events and in the creation of visitor experiences. In her dissertation Minni Haanpää, MSocSc, investigates volunteers’ knowledge and its manifestations in event and festival environments. The dissertation focuses on the discourses of marketing and event research.

“This research got started through my hobby. Working as a volunteer in various events I used to reflect on why certain challenges kept recurring year after year," Minni Haanpää notes.

Based on these observations the doctoral candidate became interested in the role of volunteers’ knowledge in the implementation of events. She approaches the topic through the concept of co-creation. Co-creation discourses focus on the construction of value, for example on how customers conceive the value of an event experience. When carrying out various customer service and organisational tasks, volunteers are often core contributors to the formation of this experience. It is therefore important to understand what they know and how they operate.

The results of the doctoral research are based on experiential material that the candidate has collected for more than ten years by working as a volunteer at Finnish festivals and events. The material also includes stories of other volunteers’ experiences written for this study, stories of volunteers on the Internet, video material, and photographs.

Diverse volunteers – shared knowledge

“I approach co-creation through the concept of choreography, which has enabled me to examine volunteers’ knowledge as motion and in motion. I’ve studied how knowledge is created as a shared experience and how it moves in a variety of ways as a bodily experience in relation to spaces, places, and time,” the author says.

Knowledge cannot be separated from action, and instead of being individual property, it is produced collectively. Volunteers carry knowledge from diverse contexts, which forms a basis for shared knowing. Their knowledge “shuttles” between the various sectors of life. The construction of knowledge may be inspired by working life, earlier work at events, hobbies, localness, studies, etc.

“Earlier event research concerning volunteer work has largely focused on motives, because it has become clear that understanding them makes it easier to re-recruit people. My doctoral research examines volunteer participation as a long-term process and utilises an individual’s lifespan to define the preconditions that may present themselves in connection with volunteer work."

For volunteers, working and producing knowledge together are the essence of an event experience.

“From the viewpoint of volunteers, events tend to be chaotic especially in the beginning. There is hectic action and solutions must be found to problems as they appear. On the one hand it is stressful, and on the other, it is rewarding,” Minni Haanpää notes.

Based on the study, more “chaos-friendly” methods are recommended for managing event volunteers. And further, community leadership should be utilised to create an atmosphere of mutual respect.

Information on the public examination:

The dissertation Event Co-creation as Choreography: Autoethnographic Study on Event volunteer Knowing by Minni Haanpää, MSocSc, will be publically examined in the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Lapland on Saturday, 16 September 2017. The venue of the examination is lecture room LS 3, Yliopistonkatu 8, Rovaniemi, Finland. The opponent is PhD Katherine Dashper from Leeds Beckett University and the custos is Associate Professor Outi Rantala from the University of Lapland. Coffee and cake will be served in restaurant Felli after the event. Welcome!

Information on the doctoral candidate:

Minni Haanpää (born 1976 in Helsinki) graduated from Nummela High School in 1995. Thereafter she studied social psychology at the University of Tampere and, as of 1998, tourism at the University of Lapland. She was awarded a Master’s degree in Social Sciences at the University of Lapland in 2003. She is presently finalising pedagogical studies at the Oulu School of Vocational Teacher Education.

In 2002–2004 she worked as an education and congress officer at the University of Helsinki, Palmenia Centre for Continuing Education. In 2004 she started working at the University of Lapland as an assistant of business studies in tourism. Since 2011 she has worked as a university teacher of tourism research. From 2011 onward the candidate has actively participated in developing the Multidimensional Tourism Institute, founded in 2009, as a board member and as a vice board member. She has also been a member of the Board of the University of Lapland in 2011–2014 and in 2017.

Further information:

Minni Haanpää
+358 40 484 4192

Sale of the dissertation:

verkkokauppa Juvenes. Further information and press release copies: Lapland University Press, phone: 040 821 4242, email: julkaisu (at) ulapland.fi

Information on the publication:

Minni Haanpää: Event Co-creation as Choreography: Autoethnographic Study on Event Volunteer Knowing. Acta Universitatis Lapponiensis 358. ISBN 978-952-337-023-4. ISSN 0788-7604. University of Lapland Printing Centre, Rovaniemi 2017. Web version (PDF): Acta electronica Universitatis Lapponiensis 225. ISBN 978-952-337-024-1. ISSN 1796-6310.
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