British Council Active Citizens programme - a group of women from the Middle East sat down learning

British Council Active Citizens

Clients Partnership
2009 to 2015
Country Multiple

Active Citizens is a community cohesion and leadership programme that is delivered in over 40 countries through a network of 400 partner organisations.

These partner organisations (such as charities and faith groups) equip groups of volunteers with the skills, attitudes and networks to tackle issues that they have identified in their communities.  The Active Citizens go on to create social action projects that deal with issues ranging from youth unemployment in East London to firewood shortages in South Sudan.

Each year the programme runs a series of International Study Visits in a selection of countries. Active Citizens meet to learn about the local volunteering landscape and generate ideas for social action.


Return on investment

  • $3 for every $1 spent
  • $286,637 per community
  • Based on average number of volunteer hours at $2.11 per hour

Audience reach

  • Face-to- face: 510,860
  • Exhibitions and festivals: 133,721
  • Digital: 3,951,225
  • Publications and broadcast: 141,346,623
  • Total programme reach: 151,087,518


  • 40 countries
  • 450 partner organisations
  • 2,322 facilitators trained
  • 98,958 Active Citizens trained
  • 4,353 community engagement projects

Programme delivery

Active Citizens can be adapted to suit the needs of communities across the world. Below are the nine stages to ensure the programme keeps its core values but remains relevant, no matter where it is delivered.

  1. National strategy - national priorities are identified and developed with strategic partners
  2. Recruitment of partners and facilitators
  3. Induction - delivery partners and facilitators attend workshops to familiarise themselves with programme content and to network
  4. Content development - content of the programme is contextualised to reflect national strategy and local needs
  5. Content delivery - facilitators deliver the Active Citizens ‘ learning journey’ to participants in the community
  6. Social action projects - Active Citizens use their new knowledge, skills and networks to create social action projects which deliver positive change in the community
  7. International Study Visits - Active Citizens representative of participating Regions visit another country to learn about a different context and generate ideas for social action projects. These ideas are shared in their own communities on their return
  8. Research - this sets the agenda for future Active Citizens themes and priorities
  9. Shared learning - international platforms, online networks and social platforms.

Active Citizens at a glance

  • Key themes include citizenship, education, rights and equality, gender, community cohesion, conflict resolution and climate change. 
  • Participants have included youth workers, women’s groups, educators, community development professionals, voluntary sector representatives, social entrepreneurs, politicians and faith leaders. 


‘The British Council has got an excellent reputation in Pakistan. I wanted to be involved in the report because of the credibility of the institution.’ 

Rukshana Rashid, member of the Next Generation Taskforce 

‘I think the programme worked because the British Council understood who we are, what we do and what we are trying to achieve.’

Jacqui Roberts, Chief Executive, Shoreditch Trust 

‘We were inspired by the women’s organisations we visited in the UK and used the Active Citizens tools to empower women back home.’

Cherry Naing, Active Citizen, Burma