Our Vision and our Mission

Every young person in Germany has the chance to lead a self-determined and fulfilled life and feels part of our democratic society. Regardless of how much money and education their parents have.

We equip young people aged 14-24 with a strong belief in their own worth and help them find their passion, purpose and place in the world.

Our goals until 2025

Our goal is that from 2025

  • 3,000 new participants start their Duke each year and at least 50% of them are from at-risk backgrounds
  • at least 75% of our participants successfully complete the Duke and receive an Award
  • at least 75% of all participants will have gained confidence and feel more resilient as a result of participating in Duke

How we work - social field of action

Bringing young people into their power

We license institutions and organisations that work with young people, e.g. schools, colleges, training companies and businesses, juvenile correctional institutions, homes and hospitals, and support them in implementing the Duke.

Many young people lack a protected space in which they can discover and develop themselves as personalities independent of societal expectations and pressure to perform, build self-confidence and self-awareness, and have the concrete experience of self-efficacy.

It is becoming increasingly rare for them to experience situations in and outside of school that enable them to rise above themselves in immediate challenges and to directly feel that there is much more to them than what is visible in everyday life. Some young people have had poor grades since primary school and consider themselves worthless failures because they have never experienced recognition and appreciation as a personality outside the family, regardless of school grades, or even confidence in their abilities. Others strive to meet societal and parental expectations and lose sight of their own needs and dreams, often realising this only years later.

We believe that in accordance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, we have a duty as adults to provide all young people, regardless of their background, with experiences that enable them to develop as personalities to the best of their ability and “become aware of their hidden powers” (Kurt Hahn), enabling them to lead fulfilling and self-determined lives. Only those who have experienced agency and take responsibility for their own lives can also be part of our democratic society and actively shape it.

Unfair future opportunities

Although young people who grow up in favourable circumstances do not always develop in the best possible way and fulfil their potential, they generally have significantly more social participation and better chances of leading a self-determined and fulfilled life in the future than children and young people who are socio-economically disadvantaged.

In Germany in 2020, around 21 per cent of those under 18 grow up at risk of poverty or dependent on basic state security (1). Regionally, the figure was up to 25 per cent. The Corona crisis threatens to exacerbate child poverty. According to evaluations by the Institute for Employment Research, 24% of children and youths whose families are dependent on basic security do not have access to a PC with internet capability.

However, even without the additional restrictions that Corona entails, growing up in poverty, which often goes hand in hand with parents’ lack of education, has significant consequences for children’s development and greatly impairs their future opportunities: only 5.9% of the students at Gymnasien in 2019 had parents with a Hauptschulabschluss as their highest school-leaving qualification and only 1.8% had parents without any school-leaving qualification (parents with Abitur: 67%) (2). At Hauptschulen in 2019, over 41% of the students had parents with a Hauptschulabschluss and only 16% had parents with an Abitur. Educational disadvantage and poverty are inherited in Germany.

Despite considerable efforts by politicians, school administrators and teachers, more than 53,000 young people in Germany still leave school every year without a school-leaving certificate, without prospects for a future and thus without participation, and the trend is rising.

Many more young people fall far short of their potential because they are not (or cannot be) adequately seen, supported, encouraged and empowered in the school environment. A large proportion of students with social and economic disadvantages attend schools that gather many disadvantaged students.

Headmasters of these schools are in a constant balancing act. On the one hand, they have to ensure that the framework curriculum is implemented and that lessons are offered in the most differentiated way possible, despite scarce staff resources. On the other hand, they are obliged to fulfil their educational mandate formulated in the School Act with regard to the personal development of their pupils without having additional resources to implement it and to bring their pupils “into their power”.

A structured framework for autonomous development of the whole person

Under the motto “You can do more than you think!”, the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award provides schools and other organisations working with young people with a globally proven framework for non-formal education and personal development that, while facilitated by teachers or other adults, is designed by young people themselves and takes place in their own time.

Participation in the Award challenges young people aged 14 to 24 to dream big, encourages them to be able to achieve their dreams, activates them to change their world in a positive way (developing “agency”) and celebrates their successes.

We understand the Award equally as a preventive programme that supports young people to “come into their power” and paves their way to a fulfilled and self-determined life, and as a straw that can offer young people a way out of resignation, despondency and school absenteeism after years of experiences of failures. Experience has shown that participation also (intrinsically) motivates students who have already left school without a degree to obtain their degree in a different way, as soon as they see a perspective for themselves and believe in themselves.

The programme in detail

The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award is a global non-formal education framework, which operates in more than 130 countries and territories, helping to inspire young people to dream big, celebrate their achievements and make a difference in their world.

It is available to all 14 to 24 year olds and since its launch over 60 years ago it has inspired millions of young people to transform their lives. Doing the Award is a personal challenge and not a competition against others; it pushes young people to step outside their comfort zone and recognise their achievements.

The Award is comprised of three levels and four sections:

• Bronze – for those over 14 years old
• Silver – for those over 15 years old
• Gold – for those over 16 years old.

Participants complete all four sections at each level to achieve their Award – Service, Skills, Fitness and Expeditions. At Gold level, participants also complete a residential project.

In a poll of more than 500 senior managers commissioned by The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award in the UK, nine in ten of the business leaders surveyed revealed they are more likely to employ a candidate who demonstrates achievements beyond grades.

Adults support the participation at the Duke as mentors.

“Imagine anything is possible, who or what would you like to be? What would you like to be able to do? Is there something you have wanted to do all your life? What is the most beautiful activity you can imagine?”

Our Award Leaders guide their participants to dream big and support them in identifying and naming (secret) wishes. Together with them, the young people consider which activities could support the achievement of these dreams and wishes, plan a concrete course of action and set challenging but achievable, specific and personally relevant goals.

Often this is the first time that someone takes such an interest in the young people, really wants to know what they want for their future and gives them the feeling that they can achieve these goals.

We rely on the fact that the experience of achieving self-set, challenging goals in different areas makes young people (re)gain faith in their own abilities and that this faith enables them to set more and more challenging goals and to work towards them with the necessary perseverance. In this way, they get into an upward spiral of experiences of success that initially have nothing to do with their academic performance and grades.

When they encounter difficulties along the way, they can rely on the support of their mentors, who do not prescribe a solution but guide them in finding one themselves. This approach enables the young people to acquire strategies to solve difficult situations. In the face of resistance, they no longer bury their heads in the sand, but increasingly see such situations as solvable and – depending on their personality – even as motivating due to positive experiences.


1 Lietzmann, T., Wenzig, C. (2020): Materielle Unterversorgung von Kindern. Bertelsmann Stiftung (Hrsg.)

2 Destatis.de: mailto:https://www.destatis.de/DE/Themen/Gesellschaft-Umwelt/Bildung-Forschung-Kultur/Bildungsstand/Tabellen/allgemeinbildender-abschluss.html


Our Award Outcomes and Impacts are reviewed annually both at international and national level.

We distinguish between surveys sent to our participants towards the end of their participation, which measure their satisfaction with the Award and their own perceived impact, and additional surveys sent to participants at the beginning and end of their experience. In Germany, with regard to this Outcomes research, we focus on the goals of self-confidence and resilience. The Outcomes research is led by the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award Foundation in collaboration with UCL University College London. First results are expected in 2021/2022.

The top level of our impact logic is the social value of the Award. As of now, some countries have participated in studies measuring this impact in collaboration with PwC.

The results of our evaluations can be found below.

Our Team

Our team consists of people who are passionate about the issues of potential development and equal opportunities and who want to contribute to the realisation of the UN Children’s Rights and the Sustainable Development Goals.




Our Advisory Board

Our advisory board advises and supports our team in the strategic direction of our association. In doing so, we take to heart the Duke’s motto: We can do more than we think!

We thank our advisory board members for their great commitment.





International Network

Our association belongs to the international network The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award Foundation, which supports and accompanies national Award Operators in over 130 countries.





On the history of the Duke Award and the German National Award Operator

The Duke of Edinburgh first pursued the idea of a national programme to promote the development of young people in concrete terms in the autumn of 1954 at the request of his former headmaster Kurt Hahn.

The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, like its “siblings” Round Square, Outward Bound and United World Colleges, is inextricably linked to the name and pedagogy of its inventor Kurt Hahn (1886 – 1974). Although its direct roots can be found at Schule Schloss Salem, where the reform pedagogue worked as headmaster from its founding in 1920 until his expulsion in 1933, these go back to the origins of pedagogy in Plato’s State and Pindar’s “Become who you are!”.

The programme was founded in the UK in 1956 by Prince Philip, whose title, “Duke of Edinburgh”, it still bears in its name. Philip was a pupil at Salem and then at the “second Salem” Gordonstoun, which Hahn ran from 1934 to 1953.

In the early years, the aim was to make the time between leaving school at about 15 and entering military service at about 18 meaningful and to give young men the opportunity to develop their personalities during this time.

An initial pilot was rolled out to local education authorities, the Navy, the Army and the Royal Air Force, as well as a handful of independent schools and grammar schools across the UK. After the first year, 7,000 boys had started their Duke and around 1,000 of them had received an award. In fact, the pilot project proved so successful that projects were soon launched overseas, now also for girls.

The Duke continued to evolve over the following decades. In 1980, the age limit was extended so that any young person between the ages of 14 and 24 could enter. At that time, the Award took on its current format with four Award sections: Service, Talents, Fitness and Expeditions, and at the Gold level, additionally the Gold Project.

The popularity of the Award continues to grow, with over 130 countries and territories now offering the Award under the umbrella of the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award Foundation.

In Germany, several organisations that were already working with the programme under the direct supervision of the International Secretariat founded the Trägerverein in 1994/1995. This was recognised in 1996 by the Ministry of Culture and Sport of Baden- Württemberg as an independent youth welfare organisation and by the World Programme as the German “Programme Publisher”. One of the Award providers in Germany is Schule Schloss Salem, where it all began in 1920. The German association was led by Klaus Vogel until its 25th anniversary in 2020.