The Diana Award aims to develop young people and engage them in social action projects. The rationale behind this is grounded in empirical research and evidence.

There are 7.4 million young people in the UK and in line with article 12 of the UNCRC, the Diana Award believes that young people have the right to play an active role in the decisions that affect their lives.

Young people are:

  • best placed to understand the challenges and opportunities presented to them – this has been acknowledged in research about peer-to-peer strategies in addressing bullying (Cowie and Wallace, 2000) student voice (Flutter and Rudduck, 2004: 4), and student council (Dewey, 1917)

  • their energy and enthusiasm can feed ‘broad and deep participation’ and they have the ‘capacity to mobilise more quickly and with greater vigour than other groups’ (Delago, 2007)

  • best placed to influence each other as they can communicate with each other in the ‘vernacular’, absent of the authoritarian tone which adults may exude (Topping, 1996)

Furthermore, our Awards programme is rooted in an aspect of behavioural psychology which is used widely in educational research: the idea that behaviour can be controlled through positive reinforcement (Skinner, 1939; Ashford et al, 2001). On this basis, we believe the best method of fostering youth participation in social action is through awarding young people who have made a difference in their contexts.


We believe that through encouraging social action, providing young people with networks, and rewarding active citizenship, we can:

  • Encourage young people to be active citizens. This is in agreement with empirical research about youth-led campaigns in school (Baginsky, 2004) and the British Council’s (2009) definition of an ‘active citizen’

  • Provide young people with the networks to be successful. We believe that networks “expand a person’s asset base because they can use their relationships to engage with others to share resources, gain opportunities, improve their livelihood, develop entrepreneurial initiatives or challenge dominant assumptions” (Gilchrist and Kyprianou, 2011)

  • Mentor young people to use networks positively in order to support their careers and personal development (Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 2013)

  • Prepare young people for the world of work. Social action “enables young people to become better learners, and so to be more successful in school and in society” (Gauntlett, 2011). Furthermore, the OECD (2015: 33) emphasise that young people need to be “deft in ‘soft skills’” like empathy, positive attitudes, and peer-to-peer learning (Youth Action Network and Centre for Social Action, 2009)

  • Build character and resilience – in an evaluation of one youth social action project, the research reported that “Youth social action has a transformative effect on young people’s character” (Arthur et al, 2015).


  • The double benefit aspect of youth social action has been well-documented by researchers: “good youth social action has a positive impact on the young person themselves as well as the wider community.” (Hill and Stevens, 2010)

  • Furthermore, the very definition of social action is when “Young people taking practical action in the service of others in order to create positive social change that is of benefit to the wider community as well as to the young person themselves.” (Young Foundation and IVR, 2013)

Empirical research has quantified the economic benefits that youth social action can bring:

  • Booth et al’s (2013) evaluation of the National Citizens Service (NCS) programme found that per pound of expenditure the NCS programme, there were £1.70–6.10 of benefits

  • Research from Columbia University (Belfield, 2013) three social action programmes found that benefits were likely to be four times greater than the annual cost

  • Join In UK (2015) Research: for every £36 invested recruitment, the potential economic value per volunteer is £16,032.29

Our mission is to inspire and recognise social action in young people.

© 2016 The Diana Award. The Diana Award is a registered charity (1117288 / SC0141915) and a company limited by guarantee, registered in England and Wales number 5739137.


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