ACEVO Guest Blog – The Value of Youthfulness

ACEVO member Gary Buxton writes about the merits of involving young people in your organisation. 

What do youthfulnessNASA and Trustee boards have in common?  Well not enough in my view and the reason lies with a little creativity test that was used by NASA to find innovative engineers and scientists.

In 1968, George Land gave 1,600 5-year-olds a creativity test used by NASA to select innovative engineers and scientists. He then re-tested the same children at ages 10 and 15. The test results were staggering! 98% at age 5 registered genius level creativity, 30% at 10 year and 12% at 15 years of age. The same test given to 280,000 adults placed their genius level creativity at only 2%

NASA craved diversity and creativity and so should we.  There is growing evidence that diverse boards are better boards, delivering improved performance and stronger engagement. It also seems that ‘knowing less’ can mean ‘contributing more’, and despite all of this new wisdom, figures from the Charity Commission show the average age of a trustee is 57, and that just 0.5% of trustees are 18-24 years old.

Now I am not suggesting that we all immediately go out and recruit a young person to our board, as for some this might be quite a leap. We can all however think about how might unlock the divergent thinking, enthusiasm and passion that a younger mind can offer our collective thinking.

Having worked with thousands of young people over the last decade, there are three methodologies that I always come back to:

  1. Open Space Technology: is a way to host an event with young people focused on a specific task, but beginning without any formal agenda.
  2. Edward De Bono’s 6 Thinking Hats: is a great tool for group discussion and individual thinking.
  3. Appreciative Inquiry: is a great ‘change process’ that focuses on strengths.

There is loads of stuff online about each of these methodologies, and knowing a little about each will give you a great toolbox, not just to engage with young people, but anyone who enjoys contributing to social impact in a fun and rewarding way.

Still unsure if working with young people is right for you?  These statistics will give you a heartwarming sense of how much fun it could be!

Activity Children & Young People Adults
Smile 400 times a day 15 times a day
Laugh 150 times a day 6 times a day
Play 4-6 Hours a day 20 mins a day


Gary Buxton, CEO, Young Advisors CharityGary Buxton is CEO of the Young Advisors Charity and an ACEVO member.  He successfully campaigned to be the first charity in England to have trustees aged under 18 and was awarded an MBE for his services to the young people of England in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 2014.

To find out more about his work, go to: or follow him on twitter @GazzaBee

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