New report demonstrates the value of overseas experiences in transforming young people's lives
New research from the Institute of Public Policy Research (ippr) has found how overseas youth expeditions make a life-long impact on participants from disadvantaged backgrounds.
ippr was commissioned by Raleigh, a youth and education charity which runs overseas expeditions for young people, to examine the long-term impact of the experiences on former participants from disadvantaged and working-class backgrounds. The research is the first study of its kind to evaluate the long-term impact of overseas expeditions.
As part of the project ippr consulted more than 100 former Raleigh ‘venturers' from disadvantaged backgrounds who had been on expeditions between five and 20 years ago. The group included young people who had experienced a range of difficulties in their life such as unemployment, homelessness, drug and alcohol problems, mental illness and violence.
ippr's research found that mixing young people from different social backgrounds increased aspirations and interest in education and learning and that intensive experiences and breaks have the potential to widen young people's horizons and networks and break away from destructive influences and patterns of behaviour. It also found that international experiences engaged young people with global development issues.
Participants described how the experience made them feel stronger, enabled them to take control and move on from destructive behaviours and helped them cope subsequently with difficult periods in their life. The survey supports previous ippr research which identified goal-oriented, supervised and structured group activities as important to improving emotional and social development in young people, helping to protect them from committing anti-social behaviour. Lisa Harker, Co-Director, ippr said: "This research demonstrates that structured group activities play a powerful role in improving the emotional and social development of the UK's young people.
"ippr's research shows what an overwhelmingly positive experience expeditions like Raleigh, that test people and mix those from different social backgrounds, have proved in changing people's lives, by increasing aspirations and giving young people the confidence to succeed both on a personal level in relation to their education and career, and in terms of their global citizenship and community participation."
Stacey Adams, Raleigh Chief Executive, said: "ippr's research shows how our overseas programmes transform the lives of the young people involved. 94 per cent reported that their confidence in their own abilities increased as a result of Raleigh and 83 per cent of respondents said that Raleigh increased their career aspirations.
"Raleigh's success comes from its work bringing people together from all backgrounds to challenge themselves whilst learning about themselves and others, and really making a difference to communities and the environment."
Children's Minister, Beverley Hughes, said: "The report found the success of Raleigh's approach to youth development - bringing young people from different social backgrounds together in a tough environment - is in challenging their preconceptions about themselves and others, raising aspirations and helping people learn about team-working and leadership.
"This research provides really useful evidence on the impact of informal education and socialisation experiences and underpins the government's commitment to support young people from disadvantaged backgrounds in their transitions to adulthood by improving opportunity, aspiration, confidence and learning." .
The research revealed that Raleigh broadened people's horizons. 76 per cent of survey respondents said that being with people from different social backgrounds to their own was an important part of the Raleigh experience. 81 per cent said that the experience increased their friendships with people from different backgrounds. The survey also showed that the overseas adventure successfully promoted wider cultural awareness. 94 per cent of survey respondents said that their understanding of other people's cultures and backgrounds had increased as a result of participating in Raleigh.
Participants viewed their Raleigh experience as an opportunity to volunteer, explore and learn about themselves and others. 73 per cent of participants reported increased participation in volunteering activities as a result of their involvement. The report found that participants' confidence, interpersonal skills and aspirations were greatly increased as a result of their experience.
Other ippr recommendations are for Raleigh to continue to:
- include young people who may have experienced complex difficulties
- encourage constructive relationships between young people from different social backgrounds
- provide ongoing support to participants after they return from their expedition and, when possible, to increase the level of support given
- explore ways of providing extra learning opportunities for participants.
Notes for editors
The Raleigh report ‘Rallying Together: A case study of Raleigh's work with disadvantaged young people' is available upon request from the ippr press office or to download from the ippr website: http://www.ippr.org/publicationsandreports/publication.asp?id=643
A film of interviews with former Raleigh venturers is also available to download from http://www.raleighinternational.org/about-raleigh/impact/impact-on-participants and http://www.ippr.org/pressreleases/?id=3361.
Freedom's Orphans: Raising youth in a changing world is also available to download from the ippr website at: http://www.ippr.org/publicationsandreports/publication.asp?id=496
The Institute of Public Policy Research (ippr)
The Institute for Public Policy Research is the UK's leading progressive think tank, producing cutting-edge research and innovative policy ideas for a just, democratic and sustainable world.
Since 1988, we have been at the forefront of progressive debate and policymaking in the UK. Through our independent research and analysis we define new agendas for change and provide practical solutions to challenges across the full range of public policy issues.
With offices in both London and Newcastle, we ensure our outlook is as broad-based as possible, while our international and migration teams and climate change programme extend our partnerships and influence beyond the UK, giving us a truly world-class reputation for high quality research.
Raleigh is a youth and education charity. Since our launch in 1984 as Operation Raleigh, we have paved the way in using real, sustainable projects as vehicles for personal and professional development. We have inspired over 30,000 people from all walks of life, nationalities and ages to get out there and rise to the challenges of life on an expedition, develop their leadership potential and make a difference on their return.
Raleigh works closely with youth agencies across the UK, such as Groundwork and Foyer Federation, so that together we can help young people from all backgrounds benefit from a Raleigh expedition. Working together as partners, our programme forms part of an overall approach to engaging disadvantaged young people and helping them to develop new skills. Approximately 1600 young people from disadvantaged backgrounds have taken part in our overseas expeditions.
Quotes from participants about their Raleigh experiences
"For the first time in my life I was with people from different parts of society that I didn't normally associate with or come into contact with ... in my life up to then, I'd never spent any time with people from very privileged backgrounds and people with very good schooling and also graduates and undergraduates ... But I started to realise - not to sound big-headed - that I potentially had the intelligence, perhaps to consider going to college and university, where before it wasn't even on the agenda." (Interviewee I, Male, 1993)
"Without the help of Raleigh International and especially the staff and crew I would probably be sitting with a bag of glue stuck to my face in a dark alley somewhere where no-one would find me. The skills and development programme that they have and use is totally mint" (Survey respondent 99, Male, 2000)
"I'd recommend it to anyone...I think the main thing that people get out of it is having to work together as a team for three months and the relationships you build up... You've got to work together. You can't just say I'm fed up with you lot and go home. And I think that the key thing about it, is what you learn about yourself when you're forced to get along with people" (Interviewee K, Male, 1989)
A lot of them [locals] lived quite simple lives but it just, you know, you can learn a lot from that can't you? And I think I did learn a lot from that because I think we get so caught up in this country about, you know, always wanting material things - always wanting bigger houses, always wanting better jobs, always wanting more money, you know, and they don't necessarily bring happiness" (Interviewee J, Female, 1991).
"Before I joined Raleigh International I was going through a really hard time, extremely low and didn't see the point in my existence, I didn't even see the point in getting out of bed I was taking anti-depressants, seeing councillors. When I came back from Mongolia knowing I have seen what I had and done what I had with Raleigh it has made me much more positive and proud of myself, I'm still very proud of myself and I always will be as I have achieved and learnt so much and not many people will get the chance, so I think I am very lucky! Things are still difficult at times but I'm stronger and more positive!" (Survey respondent 5, Female, 2000)
Over 100 past venturers who had participated in Raleigh's Youth Development Programme returned a self-completion survey. Fifteen in-depth interviews were conducted with people who ranged in age from 22 to 40 and had gone on expeditions between 1989 and 2006.