Nurturing a new generation of social leaders - RSA

Nurturing a new generation of social leaders


  • Picture of Jonathan Harper
    Jonathan Harper
    Chief Executive Officer of Future Foundations
  • Schools
  • Creative Institutions and Systems
  • Catalyst
  • Fellowship

Chief Executive of Future Foundations and recent RSA Catalyst Award Winner, Jonathan Harper FRSA believes we need to nurture a new generation of leaders who are socially and globally aware to ensure a more sustainable future for all. The RSA Fellowship can play a crucial role today in supporting their development.

If we are to create a more sustainable future we need our young people affected most by our decisions to have a voice and to be coming up with solutions to solve the social, environmental and financial problems we are facing.  

I am a social entrepreneur with experience of developing future leaders.  Between 2003 and 2007, I established the Enactus programme in the UK at 25 universities. I left Enactus in 2007 to join Future Foundations because I believed we needed to focus on developing social leadership prior to university. I have since overseen the delivery of the National Citizen Service in 9 cities and the creation of a leaders and ambassadorial programme for this government funded programme. Future Foundations has been recognised by the Department for Education in 2015 with an award for developing young people’s character through its transformational programmes.

In 2013 - in partnership with the Wellington Leadership Institute - Future Foundations delivered the inaugural Global Social Leaders World Summit, bringing together young people and teachers from around the world to identify and nurture future leaders within our schools. In 2016, Future Foundations and the Wellington Leadership Institute launched GSL (Global Social Leaders) Society, a new school club established to follow on from our GSL programmes. Its aim is to enable sustainable high quality social action projects led by students (aged 10-17), supported by teachers and the wider school community. 

GSL Society is supported by organisations at the forefront of social change, including:  The Diana Award, Enactus UK, Ashoka UK, The Aldridge Foundation and Generation Change. Their collective aim is to change the world by empowering a new generation of socially conscious young people to generate valuable ideas for positive change in communities, and equip them with the skills and networks to make them happen. 

GSL Society is seeking to enable schools and colleges to embed social action and in so doing, to move away from exam results as the sole indicators of success for their schools and students.  This moves education towards a broader set of outcomes, prioritising both academic progress and the development of ‘character’.  This direction also aligns with an increasing body of evidence led by the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtue, which asserts that ‘through a dedication to social action the character of young people and the communities they live in can be transformed.’ 

The RSA’s Fellowship Catalyst Grant has enabled the GSL Society programme to scale up and has funded schools to participate that would not otherwise be able to do so.  The programme launched on Monday 21st November 2016 at Wellington College with 20 schools (15 state schools and 5 fee paying schools), 85 students and 25 teachers attending from across the country. Following the launch, participating schools are establishing a GSL Society and social action projects within their schools. They will return to Wellington College on 25th March 2017 for the annual GSL Conference to present the outcomes and learning from their projects.

I am inviting RSA Fellows to support the GSL Society. I believe that the RSA Fellowship has people who would be an incredible inspiration and source of support and advice for participating students and teachers.  Fellows can support in different ways depending on their time and expertise, including attending events as guest speakers, ‘social’ Dragons or by mentoring an individual GSL Society member either online or in-person. 

If you are a fellow, click here to express your interest in supporting this project or contact Jonathan directly at: [email protected]

Find out more about the project by visiting: and

Be the first to write a comment


Please login to post a comment or reply

Don't have an account? Click here to register.