At RIO we have now have a relatively long history working to support young people to make positive change happen – in their lives, schools and communities. So the recent Demos research resonated with us very strongly.
They suggest that this generation of young people are more willing to get involved in community activity than their predecessors; they value bottom-up social enterprise over top-down politics, and need support from policy makers to be enabled to engage in high quality social action.
Schools should play a significant part in this – helping nurture, develop and grow these young social entrepreneurs – but it would be hard to argue that, as a whole, the educational system is set up with the prime aim of springing socially enterprising young people out of the top of it, brimming with energy and alive with possibilities – and yet this is what is needed if we are serious about building a better world, with more equal and positive ways of working and being at heart.
But there is a moment to seize here. We can turn this on its head. Given the unprecedented levels of reform and freedom for schools in the current educational context – which makes it possible to think big and differently – how could schools be repurposed and re-energised in order to:
– The type and content of the learning they then promote and deliver (avoiding a gap opening up between ‘we say’ and ‘we do’, and becoming an active and living lab for young people to learn and work in).
– The nature of the changes and developments they are seeking in their students and community.
– A sound ethical base, within an increasingly challenging free market framework, that is valued by parents (enterprising, effective, efficient and ‘customer focussed’, but without profit leaking from the system, away from children and young people).
Social enterprise schools! That’s what this generation of young people need. And we are working together with some amazing schools already, including Plymstock School and Victoria Park Primary Academy who have very good ideas about what these schools would look like. Watch this space.