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Technical paper

Response to COVID-19: Community Volunteers and Co-Production in China

Miao et. al
Asia and the Pacific
Volunteerism and the SDGs

Fast read

  • The study highlights the collaboration between community organizations/volunteers and public sector agencies and regional governments in China, and the role of these partnerships in filling the gaps in public service delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • While the study is situated within the context of the pandemic, it offers lessons on how people-state partnerships can be effectively harnessed to meet public needs.


  • The research study examines the role of community volunteers and their effective deployment during a crisis. Individual and collaborative service activities based on usage data from 85,699 COVID-19 volunteers were gathered through China’s leading digital volunteering platform, as well as a survey conducted among a sample of 2,270 of these COVID-19 volunteers using the platform and interviews with 14 civil society leaders in charge of coordinating service activities.
  • Several results emerge: the value of collaboration among local citizens, civil society including community-based groups, and regional government to fill gaps in public services; the key role of experienced local volunteers, who rapidly shifted to COVID-19 from other causes as the pandemic peaked; and an example of state-led co-production based on long-term relationships.
  • The analysis provides insights into the role of volunteerism and co-production in China’s response to the pandemic, laying groundwork for future research. The findings can help support the response to COVID-19 and future crises by more effectively leveraging human capital and technology in community service delivery.