Demos Daily: Generation Citizen


There’s no doubt this is a frightening time for the country and the world, and many of us find our minds getting clogged up with negative thoughts. But when you look for the glimmers of hope, you can see astounding acts of kindness across the whole of the UK. As of today, over half a million people have already signed up to the government’s call for NHS volunteers – a team of committed citizens ready to help those in need. Many of these citizens will be millennials, aka Generation Y: the very same avocado-eating snowflakes we’ve read so much about. Yet back in 2014 our report Generation Citizen projected that – despite frequent stereotypes and negative portrayal in the media – as a generation, millennials are exceptionally civic minded and will lead a revival of volunteering and active citizenship. With the biggest crisis we’re facing in decades, we’re now seeing this in action.

Read the foreword below from the then CEO of the National Citizen Service Trust, Michael Lynas, and you can read the report here.


We’re on the cusp of a new generation. Today’s teenagers will shape the future of our country and our planet. If you believed the headlines, our outlook would look distinctly gloomy.

We know the next generation faces some real challenges. They’ve grown up in the shadow of the financial crash and live in a globally competitive world. From the media debate it sometimes seems that our teens are at best feckless and at worst feral.

The teenagers I meet through National Citizen Service (NCS) couldn’t be further from these stereotypes. They are committed, connected and caring. They are responding to the challenges of the future not just by buckling down but also by giving back. During the three years of NCS, over 70,000 teens have come together in their holidays to put back over one million hours to make their mark in their communities.

When I spoke out against the stereotypes, the cynics told me that the people signing up for NCS were the exception: the good apples in a rotten basket. At NCS, we wanted to prove them wrong and that’s why we commissioned this report from Demos.

The report shows the true face of the next generation. On just about every indicator, the popular stereotypes are wrong. Today’s teenagers are shown to be behaving more responsibly when it comes to drink and drugs; caring more about social issues both at home and abroad; and being more willing to get out and take action to make their world a better place.

Critically, the report reveals that teenagers and their teachers want more opportunities for young people to engage in social action. Both groups recognise the profound impact that social action can have in terms of skills for life and work – confidence, wellbeing, teamwork and leadership. I believe that NCS can play a unique role as a social action programme that brings young people from different backgrounds together in common purpose – building bridges across divides and ladders to opportunity. That’s why more and more of us believe that NCS should be a national institution available to every teenager.

The false stereotypes about the next generation are not only grossly unfair, they are also holding them back. Something incredibly powerful is happening among the teenagers of our country. If we understand it and harness its power, then we will all reap the benefits. That’s why I’m proud to be setting the record straight and introducing Generation Citizen.

Michael Lynas

CEO, NCS Trust