This three year research project is funded by the ESRC (ES/L009315/I) and examines the state’s motivations behind, the voluntary sector’s engagement with, and young people’s experiences of, National Citizen Service (NCS).

NCS is a UK government funded voluntary scheme for 16 and 17 year olds delivered through a range of charities, private sector partnerships and youth organisations during spring, summer and autumn. Around 64,500 young people completed NCS between 2011-13 and the scheme aims to have 1 million graduates by 2020. The programme involves two residential experiences and diverse activities across a three week programme, culminating in 30 hours of a youth-led social action project. NCS is increasingly shaping the youth work landscape in England and Northern Ireland, with a pilot currently running in Wales.

Using NCS as a case-study, and positioning this new scheme within the historical context of youth citizenship development, this research project aims to address timely and policy-relevant debates on the state, civil society and third sector and contribute to academic debates on youth, volunteering, citizenship, and informal education.

The project addresses the following research questions:

  1. What have been the objectives and spatial formations of youth citizenship training schemes in Britain over the last thirty years and how do these compare to NCS?
  2. How are 'good' and 'troubled' youth and families understood within the NCS framework and in what ways does the
    NCS programme seek to engage young people at the local, national, and global scale?
  3. What have been the motivations and experiences of youth service providers and volunteers delivering NCS since
  4. What have been the motivations, experiences and outcomes for young people participating in NCS since 2011?

The project will use a mixed-methodology combining quantitative and qualitative research methods:

  1. Archival research (primarily at the National Archives, London)
  2. Policy analysis
  3. c.24 semi-structured interviews with one representative from each stakeholder organisation that has delivered NCS in England between 2011-13 [e.g. CEO or lead-volunteer]
  4. An online survey with young people who completed NCS between 2011-14
  5. 30 semi-structured interviews with a representative sample of NCS ‘graduates’
  6. An ethnography of one NCS cohort/team in one region in 2015
  7. A participatory animated whiteboard-video project written and directed by young people from the 2015 cohort (as part of 6 above) and produced by a professional animation company
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