#iwill Week: Why youth social action matters and how we can make it better

Craig Bateman is a third-year philosophy and politics student at Durham University. Since 2014, he has been a #iwill Ambassador to Step up to Serve, a charity that aims to double the amount of young people involved in social action.

It’s #iwill Week 2017, a time to celebrate the impact young people are having in their communities through social action. It’s also a time to recognise the great work of the 700+ #iwill partners who’ve pledged to create more social action opportunities and to celebrate the fourth-year anniversary of the #iwill campaign itself.

To celebrate, I am sharing how my experiences of social action have improved my life, and suggest how we can get even more young people involved and reaping the benefits.

How I got involved in social action

Social action has been a central aspect of my life for the last 16 years. In 2002, my grandmother encouraged me to join the Boys’ Brigade, and so my earliest memory of social action was singing Christmas carols with the Boys’ Brigade in a nursing home when I was about five.

I currently sit on the Youth Advisory Board for the £1.7m #iwill Take Action Fund that charities can apply to for social action opportunities in the North East. I have also recently founded a new student group called Model Westminster Society that aims to give students a platform to shape politics.

How I have benefitted

I have developed lasting friendships and engaged in exciting experiences, such as visiting the United Nations in Geneva, volunteering in a family street centre in Cambodia, and going on an exchange trip to my hometown’s twin-town, Husum in Germany.

I have also learned lots of important skills that I otherwise would never have learned. From leading a group of students through a jungle in Cambodia to working with others to help manage my local youth trust, social action has given me a range of interpersonal, team-working and leadership skills that have been very useful in all areas of life. Social action has also given me the opportunity to give something back to a community that has given me so much.

How can we make social action even better?

Across the UK, more businesses are becoming more aware of social action, and so are sourcing opportunities to help deliver, fund and grow it. As such, there is currently a wide range of opportunities available to students and young people interested in getting more involved.

However, I think there are three things that can make social action even better and encourage more young people to get involved:

  1. A dedicated fund that young people can use to run smaller social action events and projects would provide a vital resource to create more impactful, youth-led and progressive opportunities.
  2. An online space dedicated fully to promoting social action opportunities, complemented with more simplified processes, would help enable more young people to make more meaningful contributions.
  3. A system, like the Young Scot Reward, where students and young people can gain rewards and discounts for social opportunities would encourage more people to do social action. It would also help normalise social action, showing that it is a fun activity that everyone can do.

Why this matters

Not only has social action given me a whole range of insights and experiences, it has also shaped the person I am today. Social action has also given me an amazing support network that I can rely on when I’m faced with challenges in life. Above all, it has helped me appreciate the amazing impact individuals can have on society and realise that it’s not who you are or what your background is, but what you do that truly counts.

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