We were founded in 1953 with a mission to create initiatives that involve people from diverse sectors to shape a fairer future. We have a long history of supporting radical, game-changing initiatives, incubating more than 80 new organisations – including The Open University, The School For Social Entrepreneurs, Year Here, Social Innovation Exchange and many others.

Our founder

Michael Young (1915 – 2002) was one of the world’s most creative and influential social innovators. He wrote the manifesto that brought Clement Attlee’s Labour Party to power in 1945, and played a key role in shaping the post-war welfare state. In 1957, Young authored The Rise of Meritocracy, coining the word ‘meritocracy’ and criticising the government’s narrow view of merit.

Social innovation

In 1953, Young set up the Institute of Community Studies, building organisations to meet social needs, including NHS Direct, the Open University, The School for Social Entrepreneurs, and Which? Consumers Association. In his later life, Young focused on family issues and older people, helping to create the University of the Third Age, and Grandparents Plus.

Research approach

Together with Peter Willmott, Young delivered one of the most influential sociological studies of the 20th century: Family and Kinship in East London. Published in 1957, it examined the effects of post-war housing policy on urban working class communities, which moved many East Londoners into Essex.

Young’s desire to understand social need in depth, as it was being experienced, is reflected in The Young Foundation’s work today.

Michael Young: in his own words

On 22 March 1994, Michael Young was interviewed by Jane Gabriel, Kate Gavron and Geoff Dench. This shortened version of that interview was published in 2010, featuring The Young Foundation’s former Director, Geoff Mulgan.


Community research

We are a not-for-profit tackling societal issues with a collaborative, multi-disciplinary approach.

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Social innovation

Involving people from diverse sectors to shape game-changing initiatives.

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