A call for evidence
This call for submissions has now closed
Please share written and published evidence, case studies of best practice, and insights from the lived experience and knowledge of practitioners to help shape policy recommendations and support young people to develop as active and empowered citizens.
Our two-year Civic Journey programme explores the ways in which young people develop, mature and change as they grow up, forming personal and collective relationships(s) with – and participating in – their local communities and broader society.
This programme examines existing support structures, opportunities, and ties that bind young people to their communities. It recognises that the question of how we, as a society, can nurture future generations to reach their full potential has practical implications concerning the need for system-wide and ‘joined-up’ thinking. In exploring these, we hope to create greater equality of opportunity, drive economic growth, and shape a more positive and inclusive national culture.
The Civic Journey programme provides an opportunity for fresh thinking and fresh starts, and for building on best practice.
Why do we need the Civic Journey?
For too long, policies that aim to support young people to be active and engaged citizens have solely addressed specific issues and been tailored towards targeted age groups. Little attention has been given to the connections between policies, initiatives, or the overall landscape.
Our project aims to understand and show what the existing ‘Civic Journey’ is like for young people; evidence where it is – and isn’t – working to enable them to get involved and stay involved; and then to innovate to create more inclusive and sustained policies and provisions that supports young peoples’ ambitions.
What makes the Civic Journey different from previous approaches to youth engagement is its explicit focus on system-wide thinking instead of individual policies or investments, and its emphasis on critical ‘transition points’ between different life stages. The programme builds understanding of the ways in which young people become and are active citizens as they grow up. It focuses on the places and spaces in which they develop civic knowledge, skills, attitudes, behaviours and experiences – and explores how local, regional, and national policy and ‘civic scaffolding’ can better support young people in return. Most importantly, the Civic Journey aims to enhance a sense of belonging between individuals and their communities.
This calls for an integrated and youth-led approach, not a simplistic or ‘one-size-fits-all’ Civic journey that all young people should be forced to take. We need an imaginative way of nurturing and supporting a vast range of opportunities to learn, question, and engage.
Focused on those aged four to 30, our three key areas of exploration are civic learning, volunteering or social action, and forms of political participation. We are interested in the interplay between these three dimensions, current policymaking and provision within each area at different age stages, and how access, engagement and opportunity vary between sections of society.
We are also interested in how children and young people transition (‘enter’, ‘exit’ and possibly ‘re-engage’) with various elements of their Civic Journey, and the barriers or obstacles that that cause disengagement or might prevent re-engagement.
Finally, we are keen to know what we might be missing in terms of key issues, debates and opportunities concerning youth civic socialisation and engagement.Read our short, accessible report
Why a call for evidence?
We are working with government departments, public and third sector bodies, community organisations, and – most importantly – young people from across the UK to explore and develop the idea of the Civic Journey. We are also leading an extensive programme of participatory research with young people to identify what they think of the Civic Journey as both an idea and a way of understanding their everyday experiences.
But we want to reach out far and wide to:
- better understand the existing evidence base;
- stress-test the Civic Journey idea by inviting constructively critical (or supportive) submissions;
- build a coalition of partners who are interesting in refining, designing, developing and promoting a renewed and integrated Civic Journey.
- develop ‘communities of partnership’ to support collaborative next steps projects to address the findings and recommendations of the Civic Journey project.
Topics of interest
We welcome evidence on five themes. Submissions do not have to address every point raised; they might focus on just one or two elements, or raise an important issue that has been overlooked in our framing of this call for evidence:
The ‘Civic Journey’ concept
- Does the journey-based framing make sense in the context of young people both being and becoming informed, engaged, and active citizens as they grow up? How novel is it and is it used elsewhere in relation to civic learning or participation? What are its limits?
- What scholarship or practice connect with the Civic Journey idea? How does the concept of civic socialisation link with a journey-based approach to youth engagement?
- What do we know about the relationship between civic learning, volunteering and social action, and different forms of political participation? How and why might children and young people alternate between elements?
- To what extent does the established age-related categorisation of children and young people aid or hinder understandings of the Civic Journey? What do we know about key ‘transition points’ as children and young people grow up? How do civic transitions connect and interplay with other personal, social, cultural, and life transitions?
- Where are the critical ‘gaps’, ‘traps’ or ‘holes’ in the existing policy framework? What’s missing from how the Civic Journey is currently being thought about?
- How might more efficient and integrated structures be put in place to share and synthesise relevant research and evaluation that might help inform and shape policy around the Civic Journey?
- How does civic learning fit within the broader Civic Journey approach? Where does civic learning occur?
- Where is the evidence that civic learning programmes delivered in education, community or online settings develop appropriate knowledge, skills, behaviours, attitudes, and experiences? At what ages different elements of civic learning best introduced, and how?
- Do civic learning programmes connect as children and young people transitions between primary, secondary, and further education?
- What opportunities are there for those undertaking higher education studies to continue to undertake civic learning and engagement?
- What opportunities are there for civic learning for those young people who leave formal education at 18 (or 16 in Scotland)?
- Is there a need to think about civic learning throughout the whole life course? How might older and retired people support educational initiatives in ways that build inter-generational understanding?
- Are there different ways to support ‘political literacy’ and ‘volunteering literacy’ for all children and young people so they understand and can participate in ‘helping out’ (volunteering and social action) and ‘having a say’ (political participation)?
- What can be learnt from approaches to distinctive approaches to ‘character education’ and ‘citizenship education?
Volunteering and social action
- How can the Civic Journey idea support sustained and connected opportunities for children and young people to have consistent opportunities to undertake volunteering and other forms of social action as they grow up?
- How can education, community, and online-based opportunities to volunteer and undertake other forms of social action be better connected and integrated to ensure children and young people have appropriate ‘civic scaffolding’ to support all children and young people?
- How can opportunities for children and young people to volunteer and undertake other forms of social action be best signposted for and accessed by children and young people at different stages of growing up?
- What could a model of volunteering and other forms of social action, including service-learning, that supports children and young people through educational and other significant transitions points as they grow up look like?
- What evidence is there that ‘reward-based’ volunteering opportunities foster long-term engagement?
- What is the relationship between place and volunteering and other forms of social action? How can we better understand how social and spatial inequalities that might affect engagement and participation?
- How can the ‘triple burden’ of precarious work, family responsibilities, and mental health challenges that often act as a barrier to continued volunteering by young people be best mitigated?
- Who currently votes – and why? What evidence is there that other forms of political activity intersect, support or supplant formal political engagement?
- How are different forms of political participation conceptualised by children and young people and to what extent does they differ from the conceptions held by politicians, policymakers, educationalists, older citizens and other groups?
- What is the role and impact of political literacy in supporting different forms of political participation?
- Is there evidence that volunteering and other forms of social action can encourage different forms of political participation?
- What forms of ‘civic scaffolding’ might encourage greater political engagement? Does early engagement embed positive patterns of behaviour? What evidence is there for this ‘momentum effect’?
- How are digital spaces and forms of activism reshaping established ‘real world’ political participation?
- How can a journey concept (or other concept) support the recognition and integration of the ways children and young people might self-organise and/or become active citizens outside of formal institutional or democratic routes?
Policy and practice learning and innovation
- Are there parts of the world with a more visible or integrated Civic Journey-like approach to supporting children and young people?
- How can the Civic Journey be developed to both focus on children and young people and also connect with opportunities for broader generational thinking and lifelong civic engagement?
- How can the Civic Journey idea connect better with recent civic-focused initiatives – such as the UK Government National Youth Guarantee or the Service Year pilot – while also contributing to other key policy agendas affecting children and young people, such as the cost-of living crisis, Covid-19 recovery, net zero targets, youth unemployment and skills crises, or levelling up?
- How can we best coalesce the existing ecosystems of policy, practice, research, and evaluation linked to civic learning, volunteering and social action, and political participation to build a sustainable ‘community of practice’?
Submit evidence to this programme
This call for evidence closed on 30 April 2023.
Submissions can be made in writing (up to 2,000 words) or other creative approach, such as film, photography, spoken word, or other medium. We are keen to hear from as broad a constituency of stakeholders as possible, including:
- academic and non-academic researchers and research institutions
- statutory bodies and teams working with young people
- businesses working with young people
- schools, colleges and universities running volunteering, social action or citizenship programmes
- democratic reform organisations
- civic literacy networks
- social enterprises
- youth representation bodies
- the volunteering and charity sectors
- youth work practitioners
- political and citizenship education specialists
- non-traditional political and social action organisations
- political parties
- young people from all walks of life.
We are keen to receive non-academic published reports and analyses of initiatives and/or programmes (evaluations, final reports, blogs etc) that provide evidence of their impacts and legacies. There are no restrictions in terms of scale of analysis or evaluation, or methodological restrictions.
Confidentiality, data protection and use: important note on submissions
Please keep submissions as clear, succinct and short as possible. Staff at the Institute for Community Studies will contact you if they require more information.
We are committed to open access evidence. Submissions will therefore be available for anyone to view on request, including names and affiliations referenced. Please ensure you have permission to include any name, personal data or identity in the submission.
If you would like access to a submission of evidence, or if you have any questions about this call for evidence, please contact us.