News and Comment

Citizens for a Big Society

Tuesday 10 May 2011

‘… too many teenagers appear lost and feel their lives lack shape and direction … National Citizen Service will help change that … it’s going to mix young people from different backgrounds in a way that doesn’t happen right now. It’s going to teach them what it means to be socially responsible. Above all it’s going to inspire a generation of young people to appreciate what they can achieve and how they can be part of the Big Society.’ David Cameron

In July 2010, the Coalition Government announced plans to establish National Citizen Service (NCS), an initiative that will provide 16-year-olds across England with the opportunity to develop the skills and attitudes to engage more with their communities and become active and responsible citizens.

NCS will be a summer programme, bringing together young people from diverse backgrounds to take part in team-based challenges and social action projects in local communities. It is being piloted this summer and is being delivered by independent charities, social enterprises and businesses, all of whom had to compete through an open competition to run the programme.

OPM, as part of a consortium including the National Centre for Social Research, Frontier Economics and New Philanthropy Capital, have been commissioned by central government to evaluate the NCS pilots. Over the next two years we will explore how this programme is achieving its aims and provide strategic advice for improving its impact for young people and communities. OPM will lead on much of the face-to-face research with young people. This will help young people to say in their own words how the programme has affected their lives, families and communities.

We believe this evaluation will provide important insights to government, youth services and community organisations. It will explore how we can build a more integrated society – where people of different backgrounds work together towards a shared goal. It will provide evidence on how social action can be fostered in communities as part of the Big Society and on how young people can make a bigger contribution to their communities.

NCS and the Big Society

NCS is part of the wider Big Society programme, which sets out a new vision for the role of the state and citizen. The agenda has three key parts:

  • Community empowerment: giving local councils and neighbourhoods more power to take decisions and shape their area
  • Opening up public services: public service reforms will enable charities, social enterprises, private companies and employee-owned co-operatives to compete to offer people high quality services
  • Social action: encouraging and enabling people to play a more active part in society