#iwill Week 2023: Social Action and Schools Linking

22 November, 2023

November 20th – 24th 2023 is #iwill week – an opportunity to celebrate the efforts of young people who are engaged in social action. Youth social action refers to activities that make a positive difference to others or the environment. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the week of action which seeks to share the message, “You don’t have to try and save the world on your own. Taking small positive actions to improve your home, school or local community can all make a big difference.”

Social action is at the heart of all our Schools Linking work and we strive to find ways to connect young people to their ability to create change. We have found the #iwill principles for high quality social action, a very helpful guide to the design of our activities. Supporting young people to engage in social action is a great way of creating the conditions in which young people can work with others different to themselves, in an enjoyable and positive way. It is also a way to ensure young people retain a sense of hope and optimism in a very overwhelming world and key to that is ensuring they are supported to be part of the changes they identify as needed in their communities.

In 2016 The Common Cause Foundation surveyed a thousand people of all ages across Britain about the values people hold to be most important. They found 74% of respondents attached greater importance to compassionate values such as kindness, honesty, social justice, equality and forgiveness than selfish values such as wealth, public image and success and these values motivate their actions. But significantly, 77% of respondents underestimated the importance that other people placed on these compassionate values and overestimated the importance other people placed on selfish values. 

Schools Linking partner classes work together to explore and decide on social actions to engage in. Classes interact and gain a sense of one another’s values. This collaboration with ‘others’ helps to highlight how compassionate values are our shared values.

Pupils are given the opportunity to learn about young activists such as Dr Mya Rose Craig, Marley Dias and Yash Gupta who individually campaigned on issues that struck a chord with them, from the environment, representation and inclusion to a campaign for young people to have access to glasses. By hearing these stories children are galvanised towards their own activism in their own lives.

Link Classes reflect and think about the things they care about and consider what socially impactful actions they can take to make changes in their school, community and wider world. Pupils might choose to create bunting carrying messages of equality to be hung in the local library, write top tips on how to reduce food waste and work with the school kitchen on a survey or create a wormery for the school.

Classes then share their social action journey with their Link class, school community and families using the image of a Kindness Tree.

Lesson 1 Kindness Tree Completed Example

The experience of working together towards common goals will build children’s awareness of the values held by their Link Class and develop the awareness that we all hold similar values. We hope this will help them play a part in building a kinder, more connected community.

Other social action projects include creating welcome packs for asylum seekers, learning and teaching Sign Supportive English, planting trees together, recycling more, building bird feeders and forging connections with residents in a local care home. We always enjoy seeing the huge range of actions that young people select and how they are inspired to turn their values into action.

The social actions chosen may benefit local people, the environment or a wider national or global community. But all help to build pupil agency – as children and young people are involved in choosing, planning and delivering their chosen project or action through carefully planned sessions. Pupils learn the power of working with others when they see how multiple small individual actions have a powerful impact when delivered together.

According to research by Citizens of Now, RSA 2021, Participating in high-quality youth social action opportunities has a ‘double benefit’. It benefits both the young people … and their communities.”

  • pupils benefit from the skills and experiential learning that youth social action brings,
  • communities feel the rewards of engaged young people,

In this 2023 RSA report, ‘Make it authentic: Teacher experiences of youth social action in primary schools.’ a third benefit of social action is identified;

  • educators have signalled the ways they have been able to build positive relationships and gain an improved sense of wellbeing.

However, when social action is carried out as part of Schools Linking we see a fourth benefit– an awareness of something we have in common – we all share values of compassion and social justice.

The RSA research also revealed two other key points

  1. Children who take part in social action before they are 10 years old are more than twice as likely to keep participating in their community through the development of a ‘habit of service’
  2. Most teachers either don’t know what social action is or haven’t thought about it, so most primary age pupils, their schools and communities are missing out on the benefits of youth social action.

This is why here at The Linking Network we believe in providing young people with opportunities to engage in social action and are proud to support #iwill week.

If your school is not yet involved, please get in touch to find out more.

Common Cause Foundation (2016) Perceptions Matter: The Common Cause UK Values Survey, London: Common Cause Foundation.

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