Redefining Developmental Success


In 2016-17, Big Change and the think-tank Demos are working together to investigate this question and its implications for education and youth policy.

The project will challenge current understandings of ‘success’ and the purpose of education – too often narrowly defined through academic results, which fail to capture the full range of knowledge and skills necessary for happy, fulfilling lives.

Working with expert partners, leading researchers and exemplar organisations, it will seek to understand what attributes matter for later life success, how these are developed, and what changes need to be made at various levels to ensure that all young people leave full-time education with them.

The project will take place in two phases:

  1. Evidence-gathering (from June until September 2016): in collaboration with an expert ‘brain trust’, the project team will construct a broad definition of success and draw together the evidence from neuroscience, developmental psychology and educational research on what attributes influence it, and how these are developed. The key output of this stage will be a minimum viable product version of the model of developmental success in time for the Strive challenge, as well as work on the language and branding of the work.
  1. Movement-building (from September 2016 to March 2017): working with a specialist communications agency and expert partners across the education, business, youth work and policy sectors, the project team will socialise the evidence and promote the findings and ways forward to key audiences. We will also uncover exemplar organisations to describe what it means in practice, conduct a citizens’ jury with the public to determine the democratic priorities in this area, and pilot methods of measurement with a partner school. Outputs include a standalone website of practical use to young people, parents, teachers and school leaders, including a visual representation of the overall framework and a summary of the evidence in a concise and accessible format.

As a result, the project will provide an alternative vision of developmental success: giving those at the grassroots steps they can take immediately and providing influencers with something to unite behind.


From the beginning, Demos and Big Change will look to secure interest and engagement from a wide range of partners to build a coalition and provide a strong network for the work.

This will include:

  • 10 expert researchers to form a ‘brain trust’, who will inform and lend credibility to the evidence review
  • Latimer, a youth-led communications agency, to help craft the message and outputs throughout the course of the project
  • 12 case study organisations, including schools, businesses, youth social action providers and other delivery organisations, to provide examples of how this works in practice

The activities taking place in the two phases described above are as follows (see attached Gantt chart for more detail):


  • Convening and coordinating the ‘brain trust’, including one focused roundtable conversation to bring these voices together and kickstart the evidence-gathering.
  • Conducting a wide-ranging literature review of the evidence on how to define success, what attributes matter most for achieving it, and what works best to develop these attributes.
  • Undertaking a series of expert interviews of expert neuroscientists, psychologists and education researchers to inform and supplement the review.
  • Producing a draft of the development model as a ‘minimum viable product’.
  • Undertaking a collaborative design process with young people, teachers/parents and business/sector experts to assemble an intuitive framework for the model, through one workshop each and possibly online consultation.
  • Developing the branding, language and content for the project, led by the communications agency and co-created with young people.


  • Perform original longitudinal analysis in order to fill any important gaps in the evidence base that are identified during the review.
  • Continuing the consultative process to further develop the model or discuss barriers and opportunities through two more workshops with each group.
  • Establishing what this evidence means for policy through a participatory citizens’ jury with members of the public that are recruited randomly to be broadly representative.
  • Carrying out 12 case study visits to schools, colleges and other organisations that provide examples of best or innovative practice towards this goal.
  • Piloting new methods of measurement with a partner school during the course of the project, as an exemplar of what might be possible (eg, intuitively tracking wellbeing or social relations in a school population through a new technological tool).

The outputs of the project will be:

  • An intuitive and accessible visual framework designed in co-creation with young people that outlines the definition of success, describes the clusters of attributes that matter and the evidence base for these, and the suggested next steps both for policy and individual practitioners.
  • A standalone website designed for key audiences (teachers, parents and young people) to present the framework in the most intuitive way.
  • A final research report that draws together the inputs from the evidence and the brain trust, the sector representatives and the public.
  • A high-profile launch event and accompanying media launch.