Youth Social Action : A Question of Politics

A few of us are thinking about submitting a possible paper to this conference with the working title, ‘Taking the Politics out of Social Action’, drawing on our own histories and a different interpretation of what Social Action might mean –  Their Social Action and Ours – social change or social control? Your thoughts welcomed.


Voluntary Sector Studies Network – VSSN – Day Seminar, Birmingham, 22 November 2016

Youth social action: What do we know about young people’s participation?

The next VSSN Day Seminar will take place at the University of Birmingham on Tuesday 22 November: 10.30am – 4.00pm.
Please put the date in your diary now!
And consider submitting a paper….

The next VSSN day seminar is hosted by the Third Sector Research Centre at the University of Birmingham in association with the #iwill campaign. The seminar will explore the broad theme of youth social action, which includes activities such as volunteering, fundraising, campaigning, political participation, democratic engagement and activism that young people do to help others and the environment. The landscape of provision for young people in the UK has changed in recent decades, particularly at a local authority level for out-of-school services. On a national level, the last 15 years have seen various social action initiatives promoted by Labour, Coalition and Conservative governments, including the introduction of Citizenship to the National Curriculum; the introduction of the government-backed National Citizen Service, and recently-announced plans to inject further funding; and cross-party support for the #iwill campaign. The #iwill campaign is a cross-sector, collective impact campaign aiming to increase the involvement of 10-20 year olds in the UK in social action by 2020. It is coordinated by the charity Step Up To Serve.

A recent survey of participation in youth social action shows that in 2015 42% of young people participated in social action at least every few months, or did a one-off activity lasting more than a day, and recognised the benefits it had for themselves and for the community or cause they were helping. Yet, similar to some of the patterns we see in adults’ participation, there are socio-demographic differences in participation. Significantly, those from less affluent backgrounds (C2DE) are participating less than those from most affluent backgrounds (ABC1) – 45% compared to 39% respectively. The same study found that the majority (68%) of young people who weren’t involved could think of at least one factor that would motivate them to take part, namely, ivolvement with friends or family, or if it was close to where they live.

This broad context raises several questions, including for example:
· What barriers do young people face to participating in youth social action? What are the costs of participation for young people (financial and otherwise)?
· What difference does taking part in youth social action make to young people’s lives, and/or to society?
· Are government programmes and/or wider societal factors changing how young people can participate?
· What types of participation are being encouraged within youth social action initiatives? Are some forms of participation seen as more legitimate than others?
· How does social action relate to the formation of identities amongst young people?
· In a wider political context, to what extent is youth social action being constructed around the idea of a responsible citizen?
· How do we research young people’s participation? How are young people getting involved in the research process?

Presenters and delegates are invited to consider how their research and experience relates to youth social action, and in particular to the questions listed above. The theme ‘youth social action’ is deliberately broad to encompass work on volunteering, campaigning, citizenship and fundraising, as well as activism and participation of young people in civil society more widely.

Submitting an abstract
We welcome presentations from researchers, academics, doctoral students and practitioners in voluntary organisations who are doing research that can shine a light on the issues raised in this call. We will be pleased to consider papers that provide empirical, theoretical, methodological, practice or policy insights associated with our theme. Papers are usually based on completed or ongoing research (qualitative or quantitative) or a review of the evidence or literature in an area of interest to voluntary sector researchers.

If you would like to propose a paper for the day, please submit an abstract of around 250 words and a brief biography by email to Emma Taylor at no later than 3 August 2016. Your abstract should contain a question, problem or dilemma arising from practice, theory or research findings, the argument you intend to make, and how this contributes to the theme for the day. PLEASE DO NOT HIT THE ‘REPLY’ BUTTON to this message or you will be replying to everyone on this VSSN list. Please note that, if selected, your abstract will be posted on VSSN website and you will need to book and pay to attend the Seminar.

For any other queries, or if you wish to discuss a proposed paper’s suitability, please email

Attending the event
VSSN aims to promote an understanding of the UK voluntary sector through research. The event is aimed at researchers, academics, doctoral students and practitioners in voluntary organisations or foundations interested in the UK voluntary sector. We also welcome policy makers engaged in the voluntary sector. We are also keen to meet and receive contributions from, colleagues in other countries who are involved in research on civil society organisations. The working language is English.
Booking will open once the programme is finalised. We look forward to welcoming you to Birmingham on 22 November.

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