We all want to live in a country with connected, confident and caring citizens where everyone feels at home. Ten years ago, 158 young people from very different backgrounds came together in common purpose for the first NCS pilots to help bring this vision to life. A decade on, we’ve grown a movement of young citizens that is almost half a million strong, and engages one in six of our country’s sixteen year olds every year. This is down to the inspirational work of tens of thousands of passionate people working for more than a hundred great youth organisations.
This week, we have reached another important milestone as we begin the process of contracting with the partners who we want to deliver NCS in 2020 and beyond. We have used this opportunity to listen, learn and build “NCS 2.0” - doubling our network of partners, delivering more impact, improving our value for money, and reaching more young people.
Doubling our network of local partners
NCS is brought to life by a brilliant network of local organisations, from youth clubs to football community trusts. NCS 2.0 will be delivered by almost twice as many local partners than in the current model, helping us to be even more rooted in local communities and to reach more young people from all backgrounds.
We will begin the roll out of a new model in which NCS Trust will work directly with our frontline delivery partners in the North East, London and the South West. This will allow us to be even closer to the grassroots of delivery and even more responsive to local needs.
Delivering more impact
Countless independent evaluations have demonstrated the value of NCS with, for example, young people emerging more confident about getting a job, more likely to get a place at university, more trusting of people from different backgrounds, more likely to volunteer and less likely to experience social anxiety. NCS 2.0 will build on this success in a number of ways.
Great NCS programmes are led by team leaders who inspire and challenge young people to be their best. NCS 2.0 will provide even more support and training to our brilliant team leaders and help provide more pathways for NCS graduates to grow into the next generation of NCS team leaders.
NCS 2.0 will also do more to spread some of the brilliant practice that you see when you visit local NCS programmes. We will do this by providing more opportunities for NCS partners from across the country to listen to and learn from each other. We will also work together to codify some of the best practice around important areas like electoral engagement and public speaking. This will allow all young people to benefit from flagship experiences no matter where they do NCS.
We believe that local communities could be benefiting even more from the passion and purpose of the NCS movement. To support this, every region will have a new Community Engagement Manager who will work with other organisations to embed NCS locally in a way that responds to the needs of communities. In addition, every local authority area will have a new NCS graduate action squad. This will allow NCS grads to continue to make their mark with sustainable, youth-led social action projects - developing their skills and providing opportunities to remain actively involved in their communities.
Improving value for money
NCS already delivers a positive return on investment according to the very stringent standards of HM Treasury Green Book methodology, so we know that for every pound invested more is returned in social value. NCS 2.0 will further improve this value for money not just by deepening our impact, but also by reducing our delivered unit cost. We recognise that as a taxpayer funded organisation we have a special duty to buy as efficient and effective as we can. So we’ve worked hard to deliver more for less. NCS 2.0 will be more streamlined, with nine regions instead of nineteen. We will use the buying power of NCS to deliver greater value, for example by purchasing the accommodation for the residential weeks of NCS centrally. Our new direct regions will remove a management layer between NCS Trust and the frontline of delivery. We have redesigned our payment mechanism to reduce the risk to the taxpayer when young people sign up and don’t turn up. We believe that all of this will allow us to significantly reduce our unit cost by more than a fifth in real terms over the lifetime of the contracts.
Reaching more young people
NCS is the country’s largest movement for sixteen year olds, reaching one in six of this cohort. But our aim is to become a normal part of growing up. By helping to deepen our impact at a lower unit cost, NCS 2.0 will support us to reach more young people. And when we talk about young people at NCS, we mean all our young people. That’s why we are introducing dedicated funding to be given to organisations and people that can help those who would benefit most to take part.
We also know that the current NCS programme may not be right for all young people. So NCS 2.0 will allow innovation to improve our programme. As one example, we are testing new models of NCS that allow young people who might not want to take part in outdoor activities to choose an arts or sports variant instead. Our aim is to provide the same challenge and bonding experience in a way that will inspire as many young people as possible.
To help us recruit as many young people as possible as efficiently and effectively as we can, NCS 2.0 will seek to build even closer links with schools and colleges. We will expand our network of School and College Coordinators so that we have engaged teaching professionals promoting NCS to their students. And we will invest in our brand so that our new network has the best assets to promote NCS to young people and parents. To be clear, we will not be spending a single penny of taxpayer’s money on refreshing our brand.
Looking around, it’s easy to be despondent. Young people face huge challenges, and our country feels more divided than ever. But working with the next generation makes you optimistic. As Margaret Mead put it, “Never doubt that a group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” At NCS we believe that by delivering NCS 2.0 we can do even more to empower the next generation of connected, confident and caring citizens to change the world around us for the better.
CEO, NCS Trust