In April 2009, five employees and a handful of volunteers founded The Challenge. They were concerned that, as Britain becomes more diverse by income, age and ethnicity, it becomes more important that different groups and individuals mix. Otherwise, our differences will come to divide us. That year they set out to run a summer programme that would reach 158 young people in the heart of London and kick-start the life of an organisation which has continued to expand ever since. The programme launched that summer would become the National Citizen Service (NCS) and would, within a few short years, touch the lives of tens of thousands of people.
In 2013, we launched our HeadStart programme; a chance for NCS graduates to continue their journey and give back to their local community through exciting volunteering opportunities. When a young person volunteers for 16 hours or more, they are guaranteed an interview for a part-time job with a leading employer. In 2013 the programme launched with just 30 young people. Since then, over 3,000 graduates have completed HeadStart, resulting in over 50,000 hours of volunteering.
In 2014, we launched Step Forward, our one-year apprenticeship programme for London school leavers. In the first year Step Forward achieved an 88% completion rate, which is significantly above the national average. Step Forward associates get a paid job for 12 months along with one day a week of free professional development training, support from a fully trained mentor, and friends and connections made for life.
Today, The Challenge is the leading charity for building a more integrated society and employs over 700 members of staff. The modest number of 158 young people reached in 2009 continues to grow and we now deliver our programmes to over 40,000 people each year and impact the lives of a great deal more through our work with policy-makers.