Growing our volunteers of the future

The #iwill campaign was launched in 2013 by HRH The Prince of Wales alongside the recently re-elected Prime Minister and other party leaders. It aims to make social action, of which volunteering is a key ingredient, the norm among 10-20 year-olds by the year 2020. Working with employers, education leaders and the voluntary sector it seeks to empower all young people ‘to take practical action in the service of others.’

Volunteers’ Week is an ideal time to promote the double benefit of youth social action – that’s to communities AND young people themselves. It’s also an opportunity to highlight what the 200 #iwill partners are doing as part of their campaign pledges.

Below are the thoughts of three influential #iwill supporters who believe this work is crucial if we are to create a culture of volunteering among future generations.

Ronan Dunne – CEO, O2 Telefonica

“Supporting young people to become socially active is something I have been championing at O2 for a number of years. Our Think Big programme, which offers funding and training to young social entrepreneurs, celebrates its fifth anniversary this year. In that time we’ve helped grow more than 5000 youth-led social projects that benefit communities AND the young people themselves. Alongside this we’ve enabled our staff to get involved as mentors of the young people leading these projects.

Employer supported volunteering that facilitates youth social action brings with it irrefutable bottom-line benefits for businesses. Recent research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development backs up what Business in the Community has been saying for years about enhanced staff engagement, job satisfaction and brand awareness.

The other benefit to the business community is that young people who’ve taken part in social action enter the world of work having developed a range of key employability skills. This point is evidenced by recent Cabinet Office research into the impact of youth social action. In order to encourage volunteering and social action among young people, businesses must actively acknowledge its benefits and work to embed references to it in their recruitment practices. If young people know they’ll get credit for any voluntary service as they begin their working lives, the motivation for taking part will be even greater.”

Dame Julia Cleverdon – Vice Patron, Teach First

“There are already some wonderful examples of how our education system supports students of all ages to get involved in helping others. The inspirational leadership of individual headteachers, fundraisers such as Children in Need or Red Nose Day, campaigns like Student Volunteering Week as well as formal programmes like the National Citizen Service, mean many young people attending school, college or University take part in social action of some kind. I am certain however that we could be doing so much more.

What the #iwill campaign is calling for is a move from a significant, if unstructured, approach to one that has the active backing of our educational infrastructure. It is already making headway with this and has support from numerous organisations, such as examination bodies, academies, institutions, and Ofsted, as well as the newly re-installed Secretary of State for Education, Nicky Morgan. They, and others, are well aware of the tangible benefits that embedding social action in education can deliver. Fresh research shows that getting involved in social action improves attitudes to learning and the next step is to support anecdotal evidence with more robust data about improved academic attainment. To my mind the case for embedding social action in education is becoming irresistible.”

Matt Hyde – CEO, The Scout Association

“Social action is at the heart of so much of what we do at the Scouts – indeed we have recently launched a new badge that acknowledges it specifically and have partnered with six other national charities to launch A Million Hands – our four year campaign to mobilise half a million people around four social causes.

In line with #iwill campaign priorities, we are working to ensure that all young people, whatever their background are able to access Scouting and the social action opportunities that it provides. What we do is fun but it also develops a range of skills and should be something any young person can take part in. This is one of the key motivations behind our current push to expand Scouting into 200 of the most deprived communities around the UK.

Another challenge we’re working to resolve is a shortfall in adult volunteers that means we have a waiting list of 40,000 young people unable to become socially active Scouts. We applaud what the #iwill Business Pioneers are doing to encourage staff to volunteer in support of young people.

The #iwill campaign is building up a real head of steam and now has more than 200 partners pledging support. To transform this and bring about major cultural change we’re calling on Government and others to make significant and sustained investment in order to create fresh opportunities for more young people to make good on their inclination to contribute to the communities in which they live.”

The #iwill campaign has generated pledges from more than 200 cross-sector organisations and is coordinated by the charity Step Up To Serve. To find out more visit #iwill

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