Young people have the power to change our world for the better. No matter what your setting, whether it’s a school, Church, your family home or a community centre,we all have a responsibility to help inspire young people to look beyond themselves, to see the need in their local communities and to know how they can bring transformation to the lives of others. Serving others through social action should be a key part of every young person’s development. Providing pupils with the opportunity to initiate and take a lead in wide ranging social action projects creates benefits personally and socially and develops key skills that are critical for young people to flourish in today’s society.
Here are some top tips and ideas to encourage young people in your setting to engage with their local community through social action.
Ensure young people know the purpose behind their involvement in social action
Ask your young people what service means to them, focusing on why it is important to help people in need that live in their community. Research from the iWill campaign found that 81% of young people care about contributing to making the world a better place for everyone, so let’s give them the opportunities to do that.
Explore the vulnerable, lonely and isolated groups in society
Who is it in their community that your young people think are in need? Is it the elderly, those in poverty, those who are homeless, those suffering with poor mental health? Take your young people on a walk to identify community hubs and areas of need. Provide them with questions to consider. You could also invite in a speaker or organisation to share their experiences with your group and give your young people the opportunity to see how they could really help those in need.
Help young people identify and develop their passion and interests for causes in their communities
This is essential as it allows the young people to take ownership of social action for themselves. Encourage them to reflect on causes they really care about. Modelling your own passion and experiences of volunteering, sharing the benefits to you and the people you have served, will bring their ideas to life. Be honest and open about the challenges and benefits you’ve personally experienced. As hard as it may be, try to let the action be youth led as this is how learning takes place. Taking a step back will allow them to feel a real ownership of the project.
Link in with topical issues in the news and on social media to generate ideas for social action projects
What is currently in the news that really interests your group? Is it to do with single-use plastic? Or modern-day slavery? Encourage them to engage with topical news and issues to see the differences they could make.
Build in a planning process to talking part in social action
It may be the first time that your young people will be organising a project of this nature. Give them advice on planning and running a project, help them to identify priorities and ask key questions for themselves
Encourage young people to dream big about possibilities for change
Thinking about what is realistic first can restrict you! Dream big and boldly about what you could do, and then narrow down your options for what is achievable afterwards. Young people bring energy and life, allow yourself to be inspired and taught throughout this process too.
Build in a process of reflection on the character virtues and skills developed
This is an important step that mustn’t be forgotten. Reflecting on what the young people have learnt through the experience, whether it is team building, public speaking, or negotiation, will enable them to model this learning in their everyday life. It’s not just about this one activity, but the development of their character through the project.