Blog | Practical action


Dame Julia

Ahead of Volunteers’ Week (1-7 June), we spoke to Dame Julia Cleverdon, the co-founder of Step Up To Serve and #iwill campaigns, about volunteering, social action and making a real impact in our communities…


Why start something like Step Up To Serve?

I had worked as Chief Executive of Business in the Community where the Prince of Wales was a very active president. He had always been keen to encourage young people to be of service to their communities. When the Prime Minister asked Amanda Jordan and I to do a review in the wake of the Olympics, I jumped at the chance. The Olympics, through its gamesmakers, had shown a practical vision of engaging thousands of volunteers. From there, it was asking ourselves how we could help build a society where many more young people from the age of 10 to 20 could contribute to communities though their energy, skills, passions and campaigns.

From where did your passion and drive originate?

My Welsh grandfather was a vicar in the Welsh valleys during the Depression in the Thirties and as a result my mum believed fervently in supporting neighbours and being involved in the community. My father was immensely energetic and passionate about his work as a BBC Radio Producer – so they were both role models of energy and drive! I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have a campaign that I believed was worth fighting for.

What is social action?

Social action comes in all shapes and forms and Scouting has been at the heart of supporting young people’s contribution to communities. I shall never forget a young Scout at the launch at Buckingham Palace who told us all of how he had worked tirelessly to raise funds to support the cause he cared about most – the appalling impact of a massive flood in the Philippines. Community impact is about practical action in the service of others.

For our A Million Hands project, young people picked four social issues to tackle…

I am thrilled with the menu that has been chosen as it covers some of the biggest challenges for our society. For me, the need to connect young people with those in old age is vital. Loneliness – in one of the most connected societies ever – is a scourge of old age and the rise of dementia desperately needs a focus.

What can Scout leaders and parents do to encourage social action in young people?

Work with your young people to support, encourage and get involved together in the causes and people who most need help in their local community.


Share your own volunteering success stories, insights and highlights on our Facebook page during Volunteers’ Week (1-7 June).

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