Mapping Social Action

A social action map launched today at the Creative Collision conference, gives a clearer picture of the volunteering opportunities currently available to young people in the UK as well as the gaps need filling.

Launched by Generation Change; a coalition of specialist youth social action organistions co-founded by Envision, the map marks over 20,000 locations at which sustained socal action takes place.

This research shows huge disparities in opportunities for young people to engage in social action projects across the country. Given that every community has a school, we believe that schools have a valuable role to play in levelling this playing field. We look forward to sharing our specialist experience to help harness schools’ unique position within community infrastructure.

Jennie Butterworth, CEO, Envision

Using real data from its 18 member organisations, covering almost 600,000 young people, Generation Change has been able to represent the distribution of youth social action across the UK – an important step in better understanding the barriers that prevent young people from taking social action, enabling gaps to be identified, and, from this, targeting initiatives for creating crossover, and fostering collaboration between social action organisations, schools, universities and employers.


Key findings:

  • London is the UK’s key social action hotspot, followed by major cities Birmingham, Cardiff and Coventry respectively. Positively, a number of smaller towns, including Doncaster, Canterbury and Peterborough also make the top 20 list.
  • However, living in a large town or city is no guarantee of opportunities, with many young people facing a ‘postcode lottery’ when it comes to accessing volunteering. Despite capital status and a large population, Edinburgh only manages 58th in the table. 
  • Similarly, other cities with large populations including Liverpool, Wakefield, Sunderland, and Hull are absent from the top 30 locations. 
  • In terms of regions, Greater London and the South East are the areas in which most social action takes place, followed by the West Midlands. 
  • Northern Ireland, East and North East England have the fewest locations where sustained volunteering is being carried out by young people.


The findings highlight that, while there are young people engaging in social action right across the UK, there is little consistency in where or how this happens. This suggests that local factors driving the awareness, recognition or funding of social action determine whether or not young people are given the opportunity to engage, reinforcing the need for local government, education, and businesses to do more to recognise and support young people’s participation.

You can view the social action map at