Innovating to improve the impact of the National Citizen Service programme

The Problem

NCS runs a 4-week programme to 300,000 young people, delivered by a diverse network of youth organisations. This model enables the programme to adapt to local needs, but throws up challenges around consistency of experience and quality of provision. We identified a need for an overall framework to ensure quality standards and the redesign of two core elements of the programme – Guided Reflection and Social Action.


  • A redeveloped Theory of Change for the whole programme, which provides the basis for aligning the aims of providers across the delivery network.
  • A framework for delivery partners, to encourage their own reflective learning on their quality standards
  • Skill sharing and mentorship to build the capacity for ongoing improvement within the NCS Trust and delivery network
  • The design of engaging toolkits to help leaders run effective, engaging and consistent Guided Reflection and Social Action sessions.
  • A Mass Action Campaign, motivating all NCS attendees to take part in a single positive action, contributing to a national totalised output, helping foster a sense of community across the network.

Some Stats & Facts

  • Revised Theory of Change shared with 100+ NCS providers
  • 20+ people from across the NCS network participated in co-creation workshops and 100+ NCS providers educated on Shift’s design methodology
  • 200+ young people, team leaders and local delivery partners involved in the development and testing of the Guided Reflection and Social Action kits
  • 100% of team leaders enjoyed using the Guided Reflection kit and 75%  thought it helped the young people deepen their reflection skills
  • 80% of young people found the new model of Social Action engaging, compared to 57% in the control group
  • 50+ people attended our co-creation workshops – including young people (NCS graduates), delivery partners, team leaders, and NCS Trust staff.





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