Understanding how to use networks can be a quick path to broader horizons.
National Citizen Service (NCS) is a five-phase programme of outward-bound activities and social action that aims to help young people aged 16-17.
It assists them in improving their teamwork, communication and leadership; facilitate the transition to adulthood; improve social mixing and encourage community involvement.
The NCS pilot in 2011 was big by the standards of many social innovations, involving 8,500 young people. It’s grown rapidly since. In 2012, NCS reached 28,000 participants. The following year, some 40,000 people took part. By 2020, it’s aiming to have a total of one million graduates.
NCS is funded mainly by government, with young people contributing a £50 fee to take part. In fact, the programme started off being run from inside government, before being spun out in 2013. It’s now overseen by NCS Trust, an independent body.
NCS is delivered through a network of providers. 19 regional leads are responsible for setting up networks of local delivery partners, with some 220 charities and partner organisations currently involved in delivering NCS as at a regional and local level.
This model allows NCS to tap into local knowledge and experience while still having regional coordination, making it more manageable from a central perspective. Delivering through a network means that NCS Trust has to set boundaries around what’s fixed and flexible.
The programme structure is standard, but providers have some control over the content, for example what types of activities they run and how they facilitate the programme.
Getting the network model to work effectively requires good communication - NCS Trust employs Provider Managers responsible for keeping in touch with regional providers – and a strong focus on quality.
NCS has invested in multi-year evaluation and uses a ‘train the trainer’ model. This ensures that everyone working ‘on the ground’ has been trained by someone trained by the trust.