Our Story

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 they 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 2010 our first programme, which became NCS, rolled out to encompass South-West Birmingham before expanding still further to cover Greater London, the West Midlands and North-West England the following year. By 2013, NCS delivered by The Challenge was being offered in all London Boroughs, Surrey, the West Midlands and Greater Manchester, seeing us become the leading provider of the NCS across the whole of the UK. This swift story of growth has not yet reached its conclusion, however, and to this day The Challenge continues to expand in line with our desire to encourage social integration across Britain.

The Challenge has always sought to adapt to the needs of those we seek to empower and we now run three programmes that enable us to live out our mission of inspiring and connecting people in order to strengthen their communities. Alongside our year round NCS programme, The Challenge delivers a successful school leavers programme called Step Forward, as well as an innovative volunteering programme which upskills and empowers those looking for work, called HeadStart.

Today, The Challenge is the leading charity for building a more integrated society and employs over 550 full-time staff. The modest number of 158 young people reached in 2009 continues to grow and we now deliver our programmes to over 30,000 people each year and impact the lives of a great deal more through our work with policy-makers.

We have faced challenges of our own along the way, but our ever-expanding pool of employees remains firmly committed to bringing about positive social change by inspiring people to strengthen their communities and forge meaningful and lasting connections with people different to themselves.

We have come a long way in just a few short years. If you would like to be a part of our story in the years to come and support the work that we continue to do across the UK, please visit our vacancies and partnership pages.

  • The Challenge is the largest provider of the National Citizen Service in the UK

  • 72% of our NCS participants agreed with the statement: ‘I am more able to trust people’

  • We employ over 550 permanent staff nationally and over 3,500 seasonal staff

  • 76% of our NCS participants felt more confident about getting a job in the future

  • 93% of HeadStart graduates felt they had improved communication skills

  • 66% of HeadStart graduates said they would continue volunteering after HeadStart

  • Nearly a third of young people who have heard of Step Forward rated it as their first choice when leaving school

  • 85% of HeadStart graduates felt they better trusted people from different walks of life

  • 78% of HeadStart graduates felt more connected to their community

  • 88% of our NCS participants felt they were better at working in a team

  • 94% of NCS participants attended state schools, with 13% on free school meals

  • Step Forward received over 400 applications in its first year for just 48 places

  • Over 30,000 16 and 17 year olds took part in NCS delivered by The Challenge in 2015