BLOG: Partnerships the key to boost youth social action – Matt Hyde

We know young people are sometimes undervalued by society. But new research commissioned by the Scouts indicates just by how much. The UK may be losing out on as much as 15.4 million hours of youth volunteering time per month. These are the findings of a poll conducted on our behalf by ComRes. That’s a scandalous waste of time, talent and energy.

Young people can bring a huge vitality to our communities and institutions – principally a spirit of optimism and innovation. As Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, said: ‘Look at all the big start-ups like Microsoft, Apple, Google, Facebook, Twitter. They were all started by very young people who stumbled on something of unseen value.’ Equally, they have a huge role to play in improving communities and making the way we do things better and smarter.

An alliance of change

We believe that the best way of delivering youth social action is in partnership. That’s why we’re so proud of our work with the Youth United Foundation (YUF) supporting community projects for example with the Roma Community in Sheffield, as well as bringing the benefits of Scouting to the UK’s 200 most deprived areas. It’s why we’re working with voluntary organisations, businesses and education sector as part of Step Up to Serve, which has been established by the Prince of Wales to get more young people engaged in social action by 2020.

We’re now taking the same partnership approach to our new campaign. A Million Hands is about providing opportunities for nearly 500,000 Scouts to tackle four of today’s biggest issues: improving the lives of those affected by dementia, improving the lives of disabled people, improving the mental wellbeing and resilience of families and ensuring everyone everywhere has access to clean water and sanitation. What makes this campaign all the more powerful is that these issues were chosen by young people themselves.

To facilitate this, we are working with our charity partners – Mind, Alzheimer’s Society, WaterAid, Guide Dogs, The Canal & River Trust and Leonard Cheshire Disability – in what Chief Scout, Bear Grylls, has called ‘an alliance of change.’

This signals a new direction for Scouting. A Million Hands moves Scouting on from well-meaning, useful community activities such as litter picking and car washing to much more focused, coordinated work, with real and lasting impact on people lives. It’s an exciting time for the movement and the indications are that the young people themselves are excited by the possibilities. Over 150,000 have already pledged their support.

Opportunities for young people

This campaign will help give young people the opportunities they need. In Scouting we believe that every young person deserves the chance to improve their communities. Not only does this bring huge benefits to the people around them, especially those who are vulnerable, it helps them develop the character skills they need to succeed in life. A community project can help develop leadership, teamwork, resilience and initiative. It’s a proven formula.

Our call to action

Of the 1,000 12-24 year olds we spoke to as part of our research with ComRes, 82% of young people in the UK believe it is important for today’s youth to tackle social issues. That gives a sense of willingness out there.

However, only 35% believe that they have the opportunity to tackle social issues, with 37% participating in social action once every week. This compares with 73% of Scouts in the UK who are volunteering in their local communities every week, well above the national average.

As we launch A Million Hands, our message to the sector is to never underestimate today’s youth, who are passionate, who care about the world around them, and who want to tackle the big issues of today.

Together, we need to make sure that we are giving all young people in Britain the chance to harness that passion and to make change happen on a massive scale.

Matt Hyde is chief executive of the Scout Association

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