Youth social action refers to activities that you can do to make a positive difference to others or the environment.

There are lots of ways in which you can take practical action to make a positive difference. It can take place in a range of contexts and can mean formal or informal activities. These include volunteering, fundraising, campaigning or supporting peers.


Great education leaders know that education is about more than grades. Schools and colleges get students ready for life, equipping them to be active citizens – both today and in the future. In fact, when young people get involved in social action, it’s usually through their school or college.

When a young person takes part in meaningful social action it can improve their grades, transform their character and grow their sense of well-being. Those who take part are also more likely to feel engaged with their school or college, and ultimately develop the skills employers want.


When young people get involved in health and social care, it benefits patients, employers, communities – and young people themselves.

It means they can take on the small yet vital tasks that salaried staff struggle to prioritise. It introduces a new generation, including under-represented groups, to a career they might not have considered. And it ensures their voices can influence the design and delivery of services.

It also helps young people understand key issues and the system itself. This increase in health literacy can create a positive knock-on effect – for peers, families and wider communities.


We know that young people have the potential to make a huge difference to improving the environment through social action – or green action – whilst also developing valuable skills, experience and increased wellbeing.

Examples of green action include taking part in environmental volunteering such as litter picking or planting pollinator-friendly flowers, fundraising for to maintain or enhance green spaces or campaigning for the zero plastic waste agenda.



You will develop your character and confidence, and experience higher levels of wellbeing that can help improve your mental resilience. You’ll also develop vital skills and networks that can support your future.

Organisations will benefit from your energy, ideas and capacity to create positive change. You have a different perspective that can shift their way of thinking and open up new ways of working.

Communities benefit when you feel valued, engaged and involved. It can create a greater sense of community and boost social cohesion and integration.



We know that young people want to take part in social action: 68% of them say they are likely to do so in the future. However, only 4 in 10 young people are currently participating in meaningful social action – and participation rates have remained the same since 2014.

However, young people from lower-income backgrounds are less likely to take part in social action than their wealthier peers (51% in the wealthiest income brackets vs. 32% in the lowest income brackets).

That means that most young people from low-income backgrounds are not accessing the wide range of benefits that participation in social action can provide. It also means that their communities are not getting the full benefit of their talent, energy and ideas.

Why should under 10’s take part?

Starting a journey of social action at a young age is critical. The Habits of Service research by the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues demonstrated the value of starting early and exposing young people to meaningful opportunities to make a positive contribution.

The research found that those who first get involved in service under the age of 10 are:

  • More than twice as likely to form a habit of service than if they start aged 16–18 years.
  • More likely to be involved in a wider range of service activities and to participate in them more frequently.
  • More likely to identify themselves more closely with moral and civic values such as open-mindedness, compassion and hope.

What is High Quality Social Action?

What does great youth social action look like? Research suggests that high quality activities will meet six principles including:

  1. Be youth-led
  2. Be challenging
  3. Have social impact
  4. Allow progression to other opportunities
  5. Be embedded in a young person’s life
  6. Enable reflection about the value of the activity

The higher the quality of the social action, the more likely it is to benefit both the young people involved and the communities or causes they are trying to help.

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