Young Foundation

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The Young Foundation
The Young Foundation Logo.jpg
Formation February 1, 1954; 62 years ago (1954-02-01)[1] as the
Institute of Community Studies
Type Social Innovation think tank
Headquarters 18 Victoria Park Square
Bethnal Green
E2 9PF
United Kingdom
Chief Executive
Simon Willis

The Young Foundation is a non-profit, non-governmental think tank based in London that specializes in social innovation to tackle structural inequality.

It is named after Michael Young, the British sociologist and social activist who created over 60 organisations including the Open University, Which?, Economic and Social Research Council, and the School for Social Entrepreneurs and Language Line.[2]


The Young Foundation

The Institute for Community Studies (ICS) was set up by Michael Young in 1954. The ICS was an urban studies think tank which combined academic research and practical social innovation. In 2005, it merged with the Mutual Aid Centre and was renamed The Young Foundation, in honour of its founder, Michael Young. In both current and previous incarnations, The Young Foundation has been instrumental in leading research, driving public debate, and implementing social innovation in the UK and abroad, with an emphasis on combining research and practical application.

The Young Foundation is still based in Bethnal Green, where the ICS started.

During the second half of the 20th century Michael Young was one of the world’s most creative and influential social thinkers and doers. After 1945 he helped shape the UK’s new welfare state. In the early 1950s he set up the Institute of Community Studies and used it as a base for research and action.

Together with collaborators including Peter Willmott, Peter Townsend and many others, he wrote a series of bestsellers which changed attitudes to a host of social issues, including urban planning (leading the movement away from tower blocks), education (leading thinking about how to radically widen access) and poverty.

Young pioneered ideas of public and consumer empowerment both in private markets and in public services, some of which are only now becoming mainstream (for example NHS Direct, the spread of after-school clubs and neighbourhood councils can all be traced to his work). One of his books coined the term ‘meritocracy’. Another radically rethought the role of the family.

Young's greatest legacy was institution building. He initiated, and in some cases directly created, dozens of new institutions including: Open University, Which?, International Alert, University of the Third Age, Economic and Social Research Council, National Extension College, National Consumer Council, Open College of the Arts and School for Social Entrepreneurs.

Other organisations Young created pioneered new approaches to funerals and baby-naming, neighbourhood democracy and the arts. He was described by Harvard’s Daniel Bell as ‘the world’s most successful entrepreneur of social enterprises’.[3]

The Young Foundation Today[edit]

The Young Foundation uses the tools of disruptive social innovation to tackle structural inequality; Believing that collectively we have the power to shape the societies and communities we want to live in. The Young Foundation engages with government, business and the community to build new movements, institutions and companies that tackle the structural causes of inequality.

Operating as a social enterprise with charitable status, the Young Foundation aims to create a more equal and just society, where each individual can be fulfilled in their own terms. Its work covers a range of contemporary issues including health, education, communities and housing, youth leadership, and wellbeing. It works across the UK and internationally - carrying out research, influencing policy, creating new organisations and supporting others to do the same through capacity building programmes and investment for social ventures.

Research and policy work[edit]

The Young Foundation conducts research and action research on contemporary life and changing needs with a focus on combining in-depth qualitative research with more traditional data. It has produced reports on teenage pregnancy, isolated older people, night working, worklessness and civility.[4] In 2009 the Young Foundation published Sinking and Swimming, one of the most comprehensive studies of changing needs in the UK.[5] It is also recognised as one of the world's leading authorities on social innovation methods.

Notable former employees[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Tricia Hackett (17 November 2011). "Designing in Social Sustainability: How to create thriving new communities" (PDF). The Young Foundation. Retrieved 20 December 2014. 
  2. ^ Gavron and Dench,eds, Young at 80, Carcanet, London, 1995
  3. ^ "History - The Young Foundation". The Young Foundation. Retrieved 20 December 2014. 
  4. ^ Young Foundation Publications
  5. ^ Sinking and Swimming

External links[edit]