Keep Giving Nation in our schools!

This week one of the longest standing users of our Giving Nation programme launched a petition to keep the programme alive.

Julie Stuart-Thompson has always been one of our heroes – as she’s typical of the hard working and effective teachers who go the extra mile to support the students in her care.

She heard that we haven’t got funds to keep the programme going after 12 years. We’re gutted. Me as much as any as it’s the reason I’m here in the Foundation today.

Giving Nation started when I worked for the Giving Campaign. I guess I planted the seed.

The challenge was to get more students to connect to charities and discover how they can change the world around them.

The first funding came from the HMRC… the people who take our taxes, because at the same time we launched Gift Aid.

The programme proved popular – in the first 2 years 70% of secondary schools got hold of the pack.

In 2005 we developed it further, creating the Challenge mechanism where schools get a small roll-over grant that primes class-based activities. With £50 to spend each class has to out-do the other to raise money or generate volunteer activity.

It has worked brilliantly – have a look at the statistics on Julie’s petition here.

Or last year’s impact report here.

Every year we’ve held an awards ceremony and recognised the incredible things that young people have done and learned through the Giving Nation Challenge.

Funding went from the HMRC to the Home Office and DfE, then to the new Office for Civil Society. We’re hugely grateful to them for it!

When the government changed in 2010 we were told that funding would slowly phase out and it dropped massively that year. We got a bonus from the Youth Social Action Fund which was matched by Santander and so we kept going.

Teachers and students may not realise just how much work goes on behind the scenes trying to keep programmes funded, but boy have we tried…

Youth Social Action programmes in particular are hard to fund. Which is tough because there’s currently a massive campaign called #iWill that is looking to increase youth social action by 50% by 2020.

It’s possible that this will change the climate for social action funding – but many of us are struggling on the ground. Funders tend to put money into creating a pre-determined social change, not building the capacity of others for creating social change.

Julie, like many teachers, can see the potential for schools to build this capacity at the same time as delivering other aspects of education. It’s a ‘public good’ alongside other aspects of education.

What we’ve discovered is that schools need a certain amount of help, incentive and encouragement to do this at a deeper level. To bring out real educational and personal development rather than, say taking £1 for non-uniform days. Sure there’s nothing wrong with that: it’s just not really building a students capacity as a self-starting social contributor who knows how to shape the world around them.

That’s what Giving Nation has been doing.

We hope to save it. We’re taking everything we get from the petition and will approach funders. Of course we’d like the government to change their mind too.

We’ll keep you posted!

Here’s that petition if you’re with Julie.

We hope so – thanks.

Views expressed on this blog are not necessarily those of the Citizenship Foundation.

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