our story

Our story

In 2009 five friends saw there was a growing problem in their communities – people becoming less connected with those around them.

They came together to find a solution and created The Challenge. Find out how we grew through the years to become the UK’s largest social integration charity and thought leader.

Ten years and counting

Scroll along our timeline to see just how far we’ve come in ten years.

  • our story 2009


    The Challenge begins: five employees and a handful of volunteers run a pilot programme in London. ‘The Challenge’ brings together 158 young people to increase understanding and appreciation of others’ differences across their communities.

  • our story 2010


    The Government announces its commitment to our work by establishing NCS. The Challenge expands by running programmes in Birmingham.

  • our story 2011


    The Cabinet Office begins to manage NCS and other partner organisations start to deliver the programme.

    We reach over 3,000 young people by expanding NCS to Greater London, the West Midlands and North-West England.

  • about story 2013


    With support from the Mayor of London and Starbucks we launch HeadStart, an innovative programme encouraging young people to volunteer, in return for skills workshops and a job interview with a leading employer.

  • A group of young people

    2013 (Cont.)

    The NCS Trust is founded to shape and support the network of NCS providers. We remain the leading provider, reaching 14,000 young people across London, Surrey, the West Midlands and Greater Manchester.

  • about story 2014


    We launch Step Forward, our one-year apprenticeship programme for school leavers. In the first year 93% of finishers go on to full-time employment, training or further and higher education.

  • An adult woman behind a sitting on a panel

    2014 (Cont.)

    We support The Social Integration Commission to produce three reports, to explore the extent of social segregation in the UK, why social integration matters, and what can be done to increase integration.

  • A young person clapping


    The Challenge reaches over 34,000 young people across our three programmes, and HeadStart expands to the West Midlands.

  • Chuka Umunna MP


    We support Chuka Umunna MP to launch and run the APPG on Social Integration.

    We conduct our first British Integration Survey to find out how much people mix with others from different backgrounds.

  • about story 2017


    We design and pilot a successful industry placements model for the Department of Education, to be rolled out nationally in T-level qualifications from 2020.

  • A group of people got together to make a image of the letters J and O surrounded by the a love heart. This is seen from an aerial view

    2017 (Cont.)

    Together with the Jo Cox Foundation and More in Common, we run Great Get Together events. These set up to create a chance for people from all different faiths and backgrounds to come together to celebrate their differences.

  • Three cogs. The top one says the cycle of social mixing, the one of the right says the cycle of economic participation, the left one says the cycle of empowerment. These are all reovling around a middle cog that says 'a more integrated society'


    Our Theory of Change and key ingredients for positive social mixing are published in our All Together Now report, which is reflected in the government’s Integrated Communities Strategy and the Greater London Authority’s All of Us social integration strategy.

  • A massive group of young people sitting down for lunch

    2018 (Cont.)

    Thanks to our amazing partners, staff and participants we have reached 175,000 young people to date, and are building stronger, more connected communities.

  • The Challenge is ten years old


    We celebrate our 10th anniversary, having had a positive impact on more than 225,000 young people’s lives to date, through the NCS, HeadStart, Step Forward and Industry Placements programmes.

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