Thought leadership | Jul 25 2018

Youth Social Action: A Vision for 2020

In 2013, Dame Julia Clevedon and Amanda Jordan OBE brought together individuals and organisations from across society to answer the then Prime Minister’s question of “how can Government, business, the voluntary and education sectors work together to support young people to engage in social action between the ages of 10 and 20”. Their vision, the barriers to achieving this, and recommendations for how to accomplish this are articulated below.

The Vision

By 2020, all sectors will have helped shape a society whereby the majority of young people are involved in social action, in which their contribution is recognised, encouraged and valued.  Three specific platforms have the potential to help realise this vision:

The National Citizenship Service (NCS) – its ambition to be a rite of passage in young people’s lives is essential to realising this ambition.

‘A-Bacc’ – the opportunities presented by some radical changes in the education system have the possibility of providing a space for youth social action in the education sector.

Uniformed services – more cadet units have been established in schools, with uniformed services having more of an impact in disadvantaged communities

Those consulted for this report also identified significant benefits for young people engaging in youth social action. Young people will have their contributions to society recognised. Businesses made it clear that social action is critical to helping young people transition into the world of work. Social action also builds connections across society, cutting through social backgrounds and generations.


Despite the above, those consulted highlighted several challenges to achieving this vision:

  • Lack of a sense of progression between social action activities. Through working together, it would make it easier to define a clear journey and an easier transition period from one opportunity to another.
  • Businesses and schools unable to be as supportive as possible due to a lack of overall clarity on opportunities.
  • Social action opportunities not always advertised in an appealing way – social action is not a significant part of youth culture in the UK, and is not currently recognised sufficiently enough by society.
  • Lack of a long-term vision that will sufficiently inspire the public. Achieving large-scale cultural change requires long-term certainty.


  • Work with organisations to form a clear, identifiable “service journey” for young people. Quality opportunities would be identified for young people between the ages of 10-20, with three clear transition stages.
  • Highlight gaps in this “service journey” and then encourage different sector to either scale up or provide programmes to fill these gaps. This would encourage all sectors to provide different opportunities for the three transition stages.
  • Ensure that social action is embedded in schools and driven by young people. The suggestion for a new baccalaureate qualification has the potential to transform social action in the education setting.
  • Foster a culture of celebrating social action through promotion and publication across media outlets.
  • Measure the benefits and progress of the 2020 vision. Evidence of participation in youth social action is already widely tracked – this can then be pulled together to better track the progress of the 2020 vision.


Youth social action is a powerful medium for enabling young people to bring about social change in their communities – the findings above are extremely encouraging, and the time to make this vision a reality is now.

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