The government has argued in various arenas that ‘active citizenship’ is one way in which young people can be effectively re-engaged with their communities, and with the political process more broadly. As part of this analysis, it has placed particular emphasis on the potential contribution of youth volunteering. However, many researchers have argued that such initiatives are essentially conservative, placing emphasis firstly on the skills and competences necessary to make a contribution to the economy rather than more innovative understandings of citizenship, and secondly on the importance of active community participation rather than an understanding of welfare rights and social citizenship. In engaging with this debate, this article draws on a study of 21 young people (aged between 16 and 18) involved in a range of different voluntary, peer-driven and socially focused extra-curricular groups in sixth-form colleges. It argues that, for the young people involved in this study, the effects of becoming involved were complex, multidirectional and, in some cases, apparently contradictory. While in some ways the activities appeared to serve essentially conservative functions (for example, by developing sympathy for those in positions of power), in other respects they engendered a much more critical stance to some aspects of the young people's worlds.
Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.