Children, among the ‘cuddliest’ of causes, in the language of the sector, are most often on the receiving side of philanthropy. We are less primed to think of them as the givers – of time, talent, and funds – to ‘cuddly’ and ‘non-cuddly’ causes alike.
However, the recently published Giving Green Paper poses the question, how can we ‘increase levels of giving and mutual support in our society and catalyse a culture shift that makes social action a social norm’? And the paper readily recognises that the building blocks of empathetic attitudes and complex social understanding established in the earliest stages of development will inform lifelong giving: ‘giving is more an attitude than something you only do when you have money. It’s easiest if you learn it young’.
Similarly, Go-Givers‘ broad theory of change is that embedding the knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviour of giving and other forms of social action in the primary stages of education will persist across the individual’s life span to create a more vibrant democracy and cohesive society for generations to come. The vision of the Big Society recognises that access to opportunities for participation and giving is a social differential that needs to be equalised. Operating in almost a third of English primary schools, Go-Givers has been working towards mobilising a mass population of dormant givers — often overlooked as cuddly, but ineffectual.
We know from our organisational memory and research that primary-aged children are often startlingly aware, empathetic and ready to mobilise, but with little structured opportunity to do so. An entrant to our ‘Dear Prime Minister’ competition held during election season in 2010 laments the fact that for upper primary pupils, ‘there isn’t a way to get thoroughly involved! I feel at the moment children’s voices aren’t being heard, we seem to be drowned out by the monsterous bellows of adults.’ In its fourth year of implementation, Go-Givers has been addressing this appeal by offering comprehensive citizenship-oriented learning resources and active citizenship opportunities to primary schools across the country.
As prescribed by the government’s Green Paper, Go-Givers has a history of focusing on the benefits of giving to the individual – the skills gained and knowledge acquired – as well as the less tangible benefits to society that come with transformed attitudes and positive early experiences of giving. This month, Go-Givers launched its annual Make a Difference Challenge, where pupils in Greater London, Kent, West Berkshire, Hampshire and Leeds learn about, campaign, and generate solutions to an issue of their choice. A participant from last year claims, ‘before I started the project I felt selfish, but now I feel more kind’.