On Friday 8th July local councillors played the role of dragons in a 'Dragons Den' competition with a difference. Rather than judging business proposals from budding entrepreneurs, Barking and Dagenham councillors watched and listened to local young people pitching their ideas for community campaigns and volunteering projects.

The event was part of the National Citizen Service (NCS) programme in Dagenham. NCS is a scheme which brings together 16 and 17 year olds from different backgrounds to complete a series of personal and team challenges and make a difference in their community.

Following an action-packed stay at an outdoor centre, participants spend a week learning a new skill in a university-style setting. In the final week of the programme, the young people complete projects for local charities, which allows them to use their newly acquired skills in a practical setting.

In the coming days, young people will put their ideas into action, and work with local groups including: Redbridge Respite Care Association, Abelle Kids Club, Avelon House, Inspirations OSCS.

Councillor Margaret Mullane, Village Ward, Dagenham said: “This is such an inspiring initiative, and it shined a spotlight on how talented the young people across the borough are. I'm so pleased that I was invited along to take part - each participant was better than the last and it highlighted great potential and promise for the future of community innovation.”

Jon Cruddas MP for Dagenham and Rainham commented: “I think it is great that we have this type of project taking place in the borough, it is vitally important that young people are engaged, and encouraged to get involved in the development of our community. I have no doubt that many of these young people will be the campaigners and entrepreneurs of the future.”

334 of young people from Barking and Dagenham will take part in NCS between June and September. Programmes run in the Summer holidays and the October half term. 16 to 17 year olds can sign up at www.ncsthechallenge.org.

These activities were organised by The Challenge, the UK’s leading charity for building a more integrated society and the largest provider of NCS in England.