Thirst for social action found among today’s ‘Generation Citizen’


There is an increased sense of civic engagement among the younger generation and an enthusiasm to take part in social action, research has discovered.

An in-depth study by the Demos think-tank involved 1,000 teenagers aged 14 to 17 and 500 teachers and investigated the social and political attitudes of today’s young people.

It found that 80 per cent of the young people believe they and their peers are more concerned with social issues than previous generations, while three quarters expressed their own desires to take part in social action. 

More than half of the teenagers said they had raised money for charity, with 35 per cent having signed petitions to support local and national issues and 33 per cent having helped local organisations or charities.

Volunteers among the respondents also told researchers of the higher levels of wellbeing, social cohesion and employability, which they felt as a result of their contribution; 90 per cent agreed that the experience made them feel better about themselves, care more about others, work better in a team, and improve their self-confidence.

Among the teachers, 88 per cent agreed that teenagers were more likely to volunteer today, with the same number agreeing that taking part in social action has helped their pupils to learn skills such as leadership and teamwork, and develop qualities such as persistence, resilience and empathy.

Michael Lynas, CEO of the National Citizen Service (NCS), which funded the research, said: “Critically, the report reveals that teenagers and their teachers want more opportunities for young people to engage in social action. 

“I believe that the NCS can play a unique role as a social action programme that helps schools and colleges provide more volunteering opportunities to students at no extra financial or resource cost.”

Jonathan Birdwell, head of the citizenship programme at Demos and author of the report, said: “Some have referred to the next generation as Generation C because they are the most ‘connected’ in history. Our research suggests that the ‘C’ title is apt for another reason: because the next generation could be the most active citizens we’ve seen in a generation. 

“We know they are motivated to make a difference, just the approach they take is radically different, which is why it’s arguably less visible. Rather than relying on politicians to solve the world’s problems, they’re rolling up their sleeves, and powering up their laptops to get things done.”

The NCS is a citizenship programme for 15 to 17-year-olds. For more information, visit



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