Pathways to power: UpRising Leadership Programme can level playing field for young people from disadvantaged and under-represented backgrounds, independent evaluation finds

  • Demos’ independent evaluation of the UpRising Leadership Programme found it significantly improved leadership, networking and advocacy skills
  • 68 per cent of young participants reported gaining employment from the programme, with one in five of its alumni going on to set-up a social enterprise or business
  • The unique programme, which aims to establish pathways to power for diverse or disadvantaged groups, connects young people with mentors and professional networks to help them to realise their leadership potential
  • Demos believes the programme shows “the potential to rapidly improve young people’s life chances, unravelling years with the odds stacked against them”.

A new Demos independent evaluation of UpRising Leadership Programme – the youth leadership development charity – has found undertaking social action, access to mentorship and professional networks can significantly improve the leadership skills of young people from BAME and lower socio-economic backgrounds.

As social mobility once again finds itself at the centre of the UK’s political agenda, this evaluation finds huge gains can be made – in relatively short time periods – to young people’s ability and motivation to become leaders.

The UpRising Leadership Programme is built on a “theory of change”, which holds that providing young people with four key ingredients – relevant knowledge, networks, skills and confidence – will enable them to realise their leadership potential. Run over nine months, the programme involves two-day residential sessions, training on “knowledge” and “skills”, coaching and goal setting, career mentoring, and access to a network of alumni to provide support during and beyond the programme. A key element of the programme is running a social action campaign on a local issue participants care about.

Conducting surveys before and after the programme with 133 participants, Demos found statistically significant improvement on participants’ scores on all four measures. The evaluation demonstrated an average positive improvement of 26 per cent in the participants’ networks score, 19 per cent in their development of relevant knowledge, 11 per cent in their skills; and eight per cent in confidence levels.

These findings of the short-term benefits for participants build on Demos’ interim evaluation (2015) of the medium- and longer-term impact of UpRising’s work. Interviews with leaders from under-represented backgrounds in business, politics and the public sector highlighted the importance of the tools identified by UpRising in their journeys to leadership. Key findings from the interim report included:

  • Over two-thirds (68 per cent) of UpRisers – the now 3,000 strong alumni of the programme – reported gaining employment since completing the programme
  • One in five reported setting up a business or social enterprise
  • Over half (52 per cent) reported taking on a role of leadership since completing UpRising’s Leadership Programme

Prominent individuals such as Rushanara Ali MP, Chair and Co-Founder of UpRising, David Lammy MP, Trevor Phillips and Nick Baines, Bishop of Leeds identified knowledge of culture, professional networks, technical skills and confidence as key factors in their success. They also pointed to experiences like those provided in the UpRising Programme as being important to their development, including new cultural experiences, finding mentors and taking up positions of leadership.

In addition to building leadership capabilities, Demos identified a considerable increase in participants’ democratic engagement, with a 14 per cent increase in participants describing themselves as having a “significant interest in politics”. The evaluation also showed a substantial improvements to wellbeing, finding a 26 per cent increase in life satisfaction and a 20 per cent positive change in participants’ reflections on how happy they were the previous day.

Demos undertakes evaluation research into a wide range of governmental and third sector projects – with a particular focus on innovative pilot schemes and social mobility programmes. Evaluations are undertaken with empirical rigour, balancing both quantitative and qualitative research methodologies, to capture personal and professional outcomes and project design efficacy.

Commenting on the findings, Ian Wybron, Senior Researcher at Demos, said:

The UK’s social mobility record remains extremely poor, with top leadership positions in society still dominated by the privileged few. UpRising seeks to turn this state of affairs on its head – putting in the groundwork so that young people from under-represented backgrounds can defy expectations and go on to achieve great things.

The findings of our evaluation paint a very positive picture of the impact UpRising is having – both in developing the relevant knowledge, networks, skills and confidence that individuals need to be successful, while also benefitting local communities through social action. Programmes such as this have the potential to rapidly improve young people’s life chances, unravelling years with the odds stacked against them.

Alice Memminger, Chief Executive at UpRising said:

“This evaluation confirms the staggering impact of our Leadership Programme and the opportunities it unlocks for the diverse and under-represented young people we support. The recent review by the Equality and Human Rights Commission on the inequality faced by ethnic minority and disadvantaged white communities demonstrates that social mobility and equality remain one of the biggest challenge facing the UK. UpRising’s work has never been more important.”

To discuss the evaluation findings with Demos’ research team, contact:
Philippa Alway – Communications and Events Assistant, Demos
[email protected]
Ph. 0207 367 4200, (Out of Hours) 07969 326069

To speak with participants about the programme, contact:
Sam Williams – Director of External Relations & Deputy CEO at UpRising
[email protected]
Ph: 07881 286 215

Notes to Editors

This report marks the culmination of a two-year-long independent evaluation of UpRising conducted by Demos, which began in summer 2014. Our evaluation sought to capture short-term outcomes for participants of UpRising’s flagship nine-month Leadership Programme, and to measure medium- and longer-term impacts for alumni. Our interim report, The Power of UpRising, covered the medium to longer term. This report focuses on the short-term outcomes, measured through surveying the 2014/15 cohort of UpRisers. The survey findings are supplemented with qualitative insights from four additional focus groups.

The full evaluation report is available at:

The interim report is available at:

For further information on the programme, please contact: Sam Williams – Director of External Relations & Deputy CEO at UpRising, on [email protected], or Ph. 0203 7457962, M. 07881 286 215


The full report can be downloaded here.