7 April 2017 | By Charlotte Hill Community

Helping young people helps communities and business

Three years ago, the #iwill campaign, coordinated by Step up to Serve, was launched by the Prince of Wales. The goal was to enable more young people to contribute to their communities through social action – campaigning, fundraising and volunteering. 

The business community is vital to the #iwill campaign’s success. From its launch, the core of the campaign strategy has been engaging influential organisations around the UK that can help embed social action in a young person’s life between the ages of 10 and 20.

Benefits for everyone

The campaign was founded on two evidence-based insights. Young people want to contribute more; and involvement in social action creates a dual benefit, because it helps communities and young people themselves. The second part of this dual benefit feels especially relevant to the business community and shows up repeatedly in Step up to Serve’s research. 

Fast forward to 2017 and the 60-strong group of organisations that originally pledged to support #iwill has now swelled to 700. Across the business, education and voluntary sectors, #iwill partners have made tangible commitments to develop social action opportunities for young people. More than 150 of these are businesses, led by a core group known as #iwill Business Pioneers, of which the CBI is one.

Together we are making good progress. New research carried out by Ipsos MORI found that 88 per cent of young people who participated in social action on a regular basis felt very confident about getting a job. At the same time a report from the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development (CIPD) revealed that two thirds of employers say entry-level candidates with social action experience have better employability skills, such as team-working and communications.

We know that, first and foremost, employers want young people with resilience, enthusiasm, good communication skills and creativity, not academic ability alone. We believe that social action enables young people to fulfil their potential. Helping them to participate supports employers and communities alike, by increasing civic participation, enhancing attitudes towards education and improving work-readiness.

Social action

British Gas has built youth social action into its recruitment process to ensure that young people are encouraged to talk about their experience and demonstrate the skills and competencies they have developed outside the workplace. This approach has enabled the company to identify and recruit young people who are ready for work and who possess the skills, confidence and ability to interact with colleagues and customers alike.

EDF Energy has created its Helping Hands youth volunteering campaign which helps students understand social action, identify an issue they want to contribute towards, and then plan and promote their project. Nearly 1,000 schools and youth groups are now taking part.

As part of the induction process at National Grid, graduates are encouraged to get involved in social action and specifically to support EmployAbility, the company’s internship programme for young people with learning disabilities. New recruits do this by organising Work Inspiration Week for around 50 young people with learning disabilities.

Through its Think Big programme, O2 has funded over 7,000 young people to set up social action projects in their communities. They gain leadership, management, finance, team-working, networking, and marketing skills, as well as boosting confidence and resilience.

“It gave me the motivation and drive to change my community with not just funding but a mentor too,” says 20 year-old Saeed Atcha after being involved in Think Big. I developed so much self-confidence to help me give other young people an opportunity to build their life skills. I think it’s hugely important for businesses to support youth social action because it’s supporting the future.”

Get involved

Our Business Pioneers have now launched an employer guide to encourage even more organisations enable and inspire social action among young people. Getting involved in the #iwill campaign has the potential to will make a real difference to our communities, to young people and to your organisation. You can download the guide, visit or email

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