The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award was founded by His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh KG, KT in 1956, in conjunction with Kurt Hahn, the German educationalist. Modelled on Hahn’s ‘Moray Badge’ scheme, the Award, or DofE, as it is sometimes known, was intended as a means to support young people on their journey of self-development, regardless of their background, culture, physical ability, skills or interest. Concerned that young people’s development was being held back, together they created a programme that would support young people on the journey of self-development as they find their purpose, passion and place in the world.
The purpose and principles are perhaps best explained by His Royal Highness in the foreword to the International Handbook for Award Leaders, composed circa 2000:
“Young people growing up in this modern and complicated world have many difficulties to face, and opportunities for personal achievement are often limited. At the same time, parents, teachers, voluntary organisation leaders and employers who recognise their responsibilities towards young people also have their challenges.
“The Award is intended to help both the young as well as those who are concerned for their welfare. The object is to provide an introduction to worthwhile leisure activities and voluntary service, as a challenge to the individual to discover the satisfaction of achievement, and as a guide those people and organisations who would like to encourage the development of their young fellow citizens.”
Six decades later and millions of young people have been inspired to transform their lives and discover what they are truly capable of achieving – More than 5.5 million Awards have been gained in 160 countries and territories. Right now, more than one million young people are striving to achieve their Bronze, Silver, or Gold Awards in more than 130 countries and territories.
The Founder’s vision, purpose and principles remain at the core of the Award’s ethos, as well as his fervent hope that:
“Everyone who takes part in the Award will find an added purpose and pleasure to their lives. I am quite sure that all those who help to run it will gain that special sense of satisfaction which comes from helping others to discover hidden abilities and overcome a challenge.”
The subsequent growth of the Award across the globe is testament to the universal appeal of the programme, and the vision of its founder more than 60 years ago.