This website uses cookies to help us understand the way visitors use our website. We can't identify you with them and we don't share the data with anyone else. If you click Reject we will set a single cookie to remember your preference. Find out more in our privacy policy.

NCS Diaries: Phase 2 Discovery

Go on NCS this summer with our leaders on the programme as they let us experience NCS through weekly blogs from each phase.

08 August 2019

National Citizens Service (NCS) is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for young people to take on new challenges and meet new friends. NCS consists of the four phases: Adventure (Residential), Discover, Social Action and Celebration. Catch22 delivers NCS across England, last year we took 4,386 young people on the programme.

During the busy summer months, our NCS teams wanted to take everyone on the journey with them. Who better to give everyone an insight into what young people get out of NCS than our Wave Leaders who work on the ground with these young people every day? This week Ryan Phillips, from our West Midlands team, talks us through discovery week.

Ryan Phillips, NCS Wave Leader

Phase 2: Discovery

What do participants get from the discovery week of NCS?

During discovery week, teenagers get an opportunity to experience more independence. Living in a flat with their new found mates they met on residential, they take part in a variety of mentor and third party led workshops each day. This week encourages teenagers to not only develop existing skills, but also challenge themselves to discover something new. The workshops focus on important topics such as enterprise and business, political engagement, community exploration and healthy eating.

If a young person is considering applying for university, this week provides them with the opportunity to explore a university setting.  Even if a young person knows that university is not the pathway for them, they are still able to experience independent living. For most, NCS is the first time young people stay away from home.

Out of all of the workshops delivered, enterprise day tends to be the most memorable. Young people spend the day developing a social enterprise idea with the goal of creating a product that aids a specific community or demographic, such as the elderly, LGBTQ+ or the visually impaired. We then run a ‘ Dragon’s Den’- with local business leaders  are invited to sit as ‘Dragons’ on a panel for teams to present their ideas to. Some standout ideas from this years teams included, Partly, an app that provides unemployment support for 16 to 25’s, sharing live advice on job seeking, CV and cover letter writing . Elderlink’s goal was to eradicate loneliness within their local elderly community by creating an app that signposts local activities and meet ups, helping create a support network for members. If a team is interested in bringing their social enterprise to life, they’re encouraged to join their NCS Local Action Group – one of the many opportunities available to NCS Grads.

Who will they meet this year?

Whilst a young person is on NCS, they are in a team with 15 other young people. An NCS wave is made up of young people from multiple secondary schools across the area. This means that a team of 15 has a mix of genders, schools and backgrounds. Although, young people can also let us know if they have a friend on the same programme so that we can team them together.

Apart from meeting new people from the same county, it is not uncommon to meet other young people from other NCS providers during Phase 1: Adventure and Phase 2: Discovery. These young people could be from a neighbouring county or an area the other end of the country! This presents a fantastic level of diversity and interaction where young people can learn about different cultures, interests and life experiences – and potentially new friends!

What speakers/local businesses have young people responded best to?

For our Shropshire cohorts, we have worked with a variety of third parties to present workshops ranging from Shropshire Fire & Rescue, a local nutritionist and solvent awareness trainer. Young people have best responded to a solvent awareness workshop delivered by Re-Solv. Rather than condemning the use of drugs, the trainer educates the young people around the safety and risks of drugs. Young people commented that they are used to being spoken down to when it comes to illegal substances, rather than having it explained to them so they can understand the risks themselves.

What was the best moment from last year/this year?

I’ve been involved with delivering NCS for three years, and each year I tend to see the same scenario. The majority of young people start the programme alongside a couple of their friends. However, there are always a handful of young people who book on to NCS without friends – either knowingly, or because friends have withdrawn themselves. Understandably, a young person in this situation tends to be quite nervous about making this decision. One of the great things about NCS is that a lot of the activities challenge young people to step out of their comfort zone and make the groups work as a team. So a young person starting NCS on their own, can quite quickly end up with 14 new friends by day two.

A particular highlight for me is seeing how engaged young people are with each other. We cover a range of topics and encourage young people to talk openly with each other. Seeing them respecting each other’s opinions and considering different viewpoints when making decisions is always a great moment.


  • Check out Ryan’s takeover of Catch22’s Twitter account here
  • Keep up with Catch22’s NCS West Midlands team by following them on Facebook 
  • Keep an eye out for our next blog on Phase 3: Social Impact Week
  • Find out more about NCS here