By Steve Clapperton, Campaigns Manager, CAF
The report highlights the time that young people give in support of good causes, with the Government’s latest Community Life Survey reporting that 74 per cent of 16-24 year-olds have volunteered in the past year, demonstrating that the overwhelming majority of people are keen to take action in support of their local community.
This has an impact upon people’s perceptions, with secondary schools using attributes such as ‘caring,’ ‘enthusiastic’ and ‘hard-working’ to describe the young people that they interact with on a daily basis. This warmth contrasts greatly with the way that young people are portrayed in the media, with the Demos report finding that the most common words use to describe them are ‘binge-drinking,’ ‘yobs’ and ‘crime.’ Given that, it is perhaps unsurprising that 81 per cent of teenagers think that they are unfairly represented in the media.
Interestingly teenagers increasingly see charities and social enterprises as the most effective agents for positive change, with 60 per cent arguing that organisations in the charity sector can be used as a force for social good, compared to only 10 per cent who believe that politicians use their skills in this manner.
Young people are keen to use new technologies such as social media to create change, and 29 per cent of young people have used social media to raise awareness of a cause, with 19 per cent of respondents reporting that they have donated money online. Significantly the attitudes of young people are permeating through to their teachers and 84% of teachers feel that expressing views through social media is as effective as traditional forms of engagement.
Contrary to the picture painted of disengaged youth, 80 per cent of young people believe that their generation is more concerned with social issues that previous generations of teens, and their teachers (66 per cent) agree. In fact, 46 per cent of teachers agree that teenagers are more likely to volunteer in support of food causes compared to previous generations, with only 11 per cent disagreeing.
Asked in more detail about the kinds of volunteering that they enjoy participating in, young people were likely to cite ideas such as supporting local primary schools or old people’s homes, helping pensioners to use technology or running community based campaigns.
That young people are keen on intergenerational volunteering is particularly promising, given that is allows different generations to come together and address existing views that they might hold about older or younger people.
Given the way that young people are portrayed in the media, this can be a great way of giving older people an opportunity to gain a greater insight into the way that young people work in support of their community.
Over the past year the Parliamentary Inquiry on Growing Giving has been looking at ways of encouraging young people to give their time and money in support of good causes, whilst also investigating how older people can pass the gift of giving onto the next generation.
It’s extremely positive that so many young people have a positive attitude towards charities and social change, and many young people want to get further information about the work of charities, including how they can get involved. Getting young people giving at an early age is essential if they are to grow up with a determination to support good causes, and opportunities must be put in place to encourage teenagers to turn these attitudes into action.
Involvement in charitable activity can also improve a young person’s employment prospects by making their commitment to a cause stand out, and give them a new range of skills from volunteering. In fact, part of the reason that the National Citizen Service has been so successful is because it has been able to capitalise on the interest of young people as well as their determination to bolster their future prospects.
At the end of April, the Growing Giving Inquiry will be producing recommendations aimed at giving more people a pathway into giving, and ensuring that young people are provided with opportunities to support good causes throughout their life. If you’d like to find out more about the launch of the Growing Giving Inquiry report, please email firstname.lastname@example.org