In my role as Director of Oxford Hub I’d like to share our experience of youth social action with other charities in Oxfordshire. I hope this can support #iwill fund grant applicants to learn more about how young people can make a difference in their communities!

In simple terms, youth social action is about 'practical action in the service of others'. It involves young people making a difference through volunteering, fundraising or campaigning. Social action has a double benefit - it delivers community impact and also benefits the young people who get involved through increasing wellbeing and developing their skills. 

Our flagship social action programme is Schools Plus, where university students tutor local school pupils to achieve their academic potential. This initiative was funded by the #iwill fund at Oxfordshire Community Foundation in 2017 and 2018. Over the last academic year, we placed 236 student volunteers in tutoring placements across 13 schools in Oxford City. Schools Plus follows the double benefit model of youth social action - local pupils improve their academic attainment in different subjects; while young volunteers develop new skills in team work, communication, tutoring and leadership. 

For youth social action to have impact, it needs to follow the six quality principles set out by the Step Up to Serve Campaign. Depending on the different social action activities, some of the principles may be more important than others. Schools Plus focuses on providing a progressive experience, where you can start by tutoring and increasingly take up more responsibility, coordinating other volunteers in your school, organising training for tutors or fundraising events. In order to make sure the project is making an impact, it needs to be reflective, so tutors need to reflect on what is working and what they can improve in their interactions with pupils. 

In 2017 we received #iwill funding to improve the principle of embeddedness, making opportunities accessible to all. In particular, our equal opportunities data highlighted that we were not reaching enough disabled volunteers. With the help from OCF, we carried out outreach work across the disability community, with existing disabled volunteers leading this work, in line with the youth-led principle. Following this successful outreach project, we are now using the #iwill fund to reach out to more male students, who are a minority of volunteers in Schools Plus. This can help us be more socially impactful, as we respond to community need by placing more male role models in schools. 

If you are interested in helping young people shape a better world, you will find lots of interesting resources and background information about youth social action in the #iwill Campaign website and you can apply for #iwill funding in Oxfordshire through OCF.