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Why Radio 1 and 1Xtra have asked young people to pledge 1 million hours

Rebecca Frank

Head of Production, Radio 1, 1Xtra and Asian Network

As Star Wars continues to break daily records in the cinemas, it’s hard to move for talk of ‘The Force’. An indefinable and benign power, which when used in the right way can literally rid the world of evil. While not wanting to over-inflate Radio 1 and 1Xtra’s role on the planet - and certainly not to draw any direct parallels between Luke Skywalker and our presenters - we never take for granted the influence we have over our audience, and the trust they have in us to guide them in many areas of life.

That trust has allowed us to bring our precious audience with us on our #1MillionHours year-long volunteering campaign which launched in December. We want to encourage our audience to give 1 million hours of their time to good causes over the next 12 months - and there’s nothing like a big target to motivate: In the first month of the campaign, over 100,000 hours of volunteering were pledged to good causes - an amazing start, and something we hope helps to inspire others.

#1MillionHours is Radio 1 and 1Xtra’s most ambitious social action project to date. Time is a precious thing, but in a world where money rules, it feels right to subvert the usual ask, and motivate real action instead. In an unprecedented move we are side by side with four of the UK’s most experienced charities; Age UK, Barnardo’s, Cancer Research UK and Oxfam. Most people will be affected or moved by the work one of those organisations does at some point in their life, so being able to bring stories and causes to life via those partnerships has felt fresh.

Listeners can pledge 8, 16 or 24 hours for various volunteering opportunities that they can cash in over the next year. From working in shops, to helping in children's play centres and daycare centres for older people, cheerleading at fun runs and helping in festivals, the opportunities are as much about them gaining skills, confidence and material for CVs themselves. A survey Radio 1 and 1Xtra conducted last year taught us that after the cause itself, personal benefit was the next biggest reason for young people wanting to volunteer.

Radio 1's Nick Grimshaw and Annie Mac volunteer for #1MillionHours

#1MillionHours is also about wrapping our arms around the thriving volunteering sector as a whole. Aside from our featured charities, there are so many inventive and hard working organisations, both national and local, already relying on the kindness of strangers and motivating young people to take part in something ‘more’. From the familiar Guides and Scouts to newer organisations like, we plan to shine a spotlight on good works in progress. What Radio 1 and 1Xtra can bring to their expertise, is scale, and our ability to pull people together. We see ourselves as the link between our loyal army of young listeners and those organisations, so we’re encouraging our audience to pledge time to any cause close to their heart too via social media, using the #1MillionHours hashtag.

The first drive in December was about getting the #1MillionHours message out there, establishing intentions with our audience, and connecting fully with the sector. We’re excited to be gathering many faces from the volunteering world in January to plot the detail of the rest of the challenge ahead. Our use of ‘The Force’ there will be about encouraging collaboration and hopefully matchmaking between likeminded organisations. We're in a unique position to be able to do that, and for that we have endless energy to reach targets like #1MillionHours.

Our audiences trust us to get them the best new music, the most accurate and relevant news, the latest in the world of entertainment, the most up-to-date everything. Having earned the trust of a loyal group of young people, comes the potential to inspire and make waves in their lives beyond pop culture. So Radio 1 and 1Xtra have come to consider ourselves a force for good in the UK for young people - ensuring we curate the best advice for getting ahead in their careers, dealing with the trials and tribulations of first times, and how to stay safe and happy in a complicated world.

But our definition of this ‘Force’ is more than our own weight and influence; we have a strong belief that our young listeners themselves are a positive power, ready and able to change their world for the better. At events we do with and for young people up and down the country, we are always struck (but never surprised) at how motivated and curious our audience is to change things. As grand as this sounds, the swell of good intentions is often flooring.

From Radio 1’s Academy1Xtra’s outreach sessionsInternet Safety focuses and our weekly Surgery programme, to the newly launched #1MillionHours campaign, Radio 1 and 1Xtra’s commitment to utilising our platforms, talent and staff for something ‘more’ is second-to-none. Beyond our public service duties, it’s just what we do on the 8th floor of New Broadcasting House and is one of the many reasons that Radio 1 is distinctive.

Rebecca Frank is Editor, Radio 1 and 1Xtra.

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