The spirit of volunteerism is alive and well… It just needs recognising - RSA

The spirit of volunteerism is alive and well… It just needs recognising


  • Community engagement
  • Fellowship
  • Youth engagement

During the 2012 London Olympics around 70,000 Games Makers volunteered to help to make the 2012 Games a huge success. Their purple and red shirts seemed to be everywhere, and they were heaped with praise as the games came to a close. And rightly so! To put together a sporting event on the scale of the London Olympics to such a high standard would have been impossible without the thousands of budding volunteers. This spirit of volunteerism didn't just appear overnight. Over 250,000 people applied, nearly half of whom had never volunteered before. Committed volunteers are out there, but often they are not given the recognition or publicity that their commitment deserves.

One of the greatest successes of the 2012 Olympics was that it destroyed the notion of a nation that was uninterested, unmotivated, and unwilling to get involved. In fact it highlighted the reality that people are willing to give up their time to be part of something they can be proud of. Lessons need to be learnt from the way the Games Makers were able to have such a positive impact on the Games. The main factor behind this success was that they were given something in return. Their efforts were appreciated, their contributions praised, and they were made to feel like a vital part of something special. The same model needs to be implemented to young volunteers that contribute towards positive social change in their communities. By recognising exceptional contributions and achievements we can inspire more young people to become engaged in volunteering, in much the same way as the 70,000 Games Makers inspired a generation during the Olympics.


One of our partners here at the RSA is doing exactly that. The Young Achievers Trust (YAT) is a youth-led organisation that recognises, celebrates and supports inspirational young people who have made outstanding contributions in volunteering. Led by a board of 12 young trustees (who are volunteers themselves), the awards present an opportunity for exceptional young volunteers to be commended for their amazing achievements in the arts, sport, community, and the environment sectors. This year also saw the launch of The Future Leaders Award to recognise the work of young individuals holding a governance position within a charity or social enterprise. Organisations such as YAT can play an important role in motivating other young people to get involved in implementing positive changes within their communities, but they need to be given the publicity they deserve.

I was lucky enough to attend the Young Achievers Awards (YAA) this year. The awards were introduced by Luke Lancaster, YAA winner in 2012 for the Community category. At the age of 17 Luke has been the CEO of his national charity Young Pioneers for six years. In his impressive introduction speech he was keen to heap praise on the Young Achievers Awards and the positive impact being recognised for his achievements had for him. Since winning his award last year, he seems to have gone from strength to strength, and is a prime example of why it is so important that we recognise the accomplishments of young achievers.  

 The Young Achievers Trust (YAT) is a youth-led organisation that recognises, celebrates and supports inspirational young people who have made outstanding contributions in volunteering

From community initiatives focused on surplus food such as The People’s Kitchen, to student based tutoring service Tutors United, the creativity, innovation and determination shown through the various volunteer projects the winners have been involved in is truly inspirational. As the winners stepped forward to collect their awards, I began to wonder what impact this event would have and the potential to inspire a generation if these achievements were recognised more widely. Would this year’s winners be even more likely to build upon their achievements? Would other young people be inspired to follow in their footsteps? Is the enthusiasm and commitment to make a positive change in society out there in the younger generation?  After attending the Young Achievers Awards, all answers led to yes. The spirit of volunteerism is alive and well, it just needs the kind of recognition and publicity the 70,000 Games Makers received to keep people motivated to persevere.

The RSA has been working in partnership with the Young Achievers Trust since 2008.  We aim to support award winners by helping them to become RSA Fellows, and involving Fellows by asking them to provide money-can’t-buy opportunities as part of their awards package.  One of our core aims of working in partnership with other organisations is that we can help them achieve their charitable objectives, thus putting us one step closer to achieving ours.  Should you be interested in partnering with the RSA Fellowship, please get in contact with our Partnership Development Manager, Jo Painter.

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