Generation Z have been labelled “feral youth”, snowflakes, apathetic and self absorbed. However, research from National Citizen Service (NCS) shows they are actually the most responsible, compassionate and socially active citizens in a generation.
If you believe the press, the human race is heading for a bleak future. Gen Z constantly get a bad rep for being more narcissistic and less socially engaged than former generations, detached from their communities and permanently glued to a screen.
We at NCS never agreed with that; we believe in the power of young people to change the world around them - providing they are given the respect, tools and opportunities to do so. Several recent studies agree with us, as well as citing NCS as a major contributor towards a more connected, socially minded generation of young people.
In fact, since the implementation of our nationwide programme over the last few years, we’ve seen a trend in young people becoming more socially engaged. In 2015, we worked with the UK’s leading cross-party think tank Demos to produce the Generation Citizen report. The takeaway point was that, ‘Today’s teens are more engaged with social issues than ever …’ with them particularly valuing bottom-up social action.
Over half of teenagers (56 per cent) reported that they had raised money for charity; 35 per cent had signed a petition to support a local or national issue; and a third (33 per cent) had helped at an organisation or charity. Teenagers who had volunteered reported higher levels of wellbeing, social cohesion and employability - something we have known is true of our NCS graduates for some time.
Then, in 2016, the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) released findings from the government’s Community Life survey stating that the number of young people who had volunteered had doubled in recent years:
“In 2010/11, 23% of 16-24 year olds said they volunteered formally (ie through a group or organisation of some kind) at least once a month. By 2014/15 that figure was 35%. That’s a 52% increase, and in real terms it would mean around one million more young volunteers.”
NCS’s social action programme is directly cited as essential to this dramatic rise in GenZers spending time away from their smartphones and out helping in their local communities.
At the end of 2017, we published our youth report, Welcome to Our World, a major 12-month study that polled over 1,000 16 and 17 years olds from different socioeconomic groups across the country. This report, which was carried out by ICM Unlimited, was put together with, by and for young people, centering on the topics that matter most to them: identity, communication, citizenship, influencers, media and a lot more.
The report presents interesting findings for anyone who decries today’s teens. For example, 70% of teens said they have volunteered or fundraised. In fact, teens are more likely than adults to have volunteered for a charity or local cause (54% vs 34%). Surprisingly for some, teens’ top 3 most important freedoms are being able to drive, have their own bank account and, crucially, to vote in elections.
NCS is a relatively young organisation; originally piloted by government in 2011, before officially launching the brand in 2013. But already our four week summer programme, which centres on challenging young people to get out of their comfort zone, learn new skills and come up with initiatives to give back to their community, has made significant impacts towards building a more cohesive, caring and tolerant society. We hope this is one youth trend that will continue into 2018 and beyond.
As we build up to YMS London, we’re going to be introducing you to some of the incredible young people who will be speaking about the subjects that really matter to them. We will also be giving away 100 free copies of our youth report at our panel discussion, Kidulthood: What Really Matters to Young People, on Thursday March 22nd at YMS London, so come along and grab your copy then.