We know that youth social action – practical action in the service of others – can have tremendous benefits for the young people taking part and the communities they serve. Social action includes everything from volunteering, to activism, mentoring, civic participation and fundraising. Tackling tomorrow’s social and economic problems requires a new generation of activists and active citizens raised on social action. Service Generation sets out to uncover exactly what we know about social action in the UK: how many young people take part, the details of what they are doing and the impact it is having on their character and their local communities.

This report is published to support the launch of Step Up To Serve, a new cross-sector campaign which aims to achieve over 50 per cent of British young people between the ages of 10 and 20 taking part in high quality social action projects by 2020. With the Prince of Wales as the its Royal Patron, and the strong support of all three of Britain’s major political parties, the campaign aims to achieve a once-in-a-generation step-change in attitudes to social action, such that it becomes a habit for life and something we come to expect everyone to take part in.

The campaign has set an ambitious target and this report has some ideas on how to achieve it. First, it is crucial to recapture the spirit of London 2012: the Olympics inspired young people in particular to volunteer and there is some evidence that this has continued, but more can be done. Second, social action opportunities need to be more accessible for all young, and greater involvement of the education and business sector will be especially important. Third, analysis by CASM finds that social media have created new digital spaces significant to social action: this should be harnessed through celebrity endorsements and event-specific social media campaigns. And finally, measurement of this is crucial – Demos calls on the Cabinet Office to supplement the Community Life Survey to ensure that any gains from the campaign are captured.