How cultural experiences can improve health and wellbeing


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if: Volunteering for Wellbeing programme

Manchester Museum is well known for its distinct approach to volunteering within the heritage sector. In 2006, Manchester Museum secured funding in partnership with Imperial War Museum North from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to develop and deliver the In Touch volunteer and training programme (2006-2009). This innovative model for museum intergenerational socially engaged volunteer training and community training and engagement programme, which highlighted the potential heritage volunteering has to change people’s lives and provided the foundations for the subsequent if: Volunteering for Wellbeing project (IF).

IF, which was supported by the HLF between 2013-2016, drew together ten  heritage and arts venues in the Greater Manchester area to collectively achieve improvement, consistency and quality in volunteering practice as a key route to transforming well-being. During the lifetime of IF, longitudinal evidence was collected highlighting the dramatic impact of heritage and cultural environments on tackling social needs and supporting improvements in health and well-being.


Evaluation demonstrated significant improvement to mental and emotional capital such as increased confidence, self-worth, creativity, aspiration, life satisfaction and stress reduction. These benefits apply across a diverse range of individuals’ abilities and challenging personal circumstances.

Key headlines from IF:

  • 231 local people recruited (75% in receipt of benefits)
  • 75%+ report significant increase in wellbeing after 1 year
  • Almost 60% report long term sustained wellbeing improvement in 2-3 years after programme
  • 30% of people gained employment/other opportunities
  • For every £1 invested, the project generates at least £3.50 in social and economic value
  • IF generated social and economic value of approximately £2 million


In 2017, the Museum gained further funding from the HLF to deliver an 18 month Resilience project, Volunteering Together. This project will enable Manchester Museum to work alongside heritage partners to maximise the learning of IF and put in place the foundations to develop and drive forward the next phase of the programme.


‘The programme has given me so much confidence, inspired my desire to learn and renewed my enthusiasm for life as a result.’  Volunteer 2014

For more information, or to apply, check out the website: