Our values, mission and history

Vision from our Founder – Prof. Theo Gavrielides

It was 2001, when, as a young migrant, I came up with the IARS idea, as I felt that I needed to have voice for matters that involved me. Then, I very quickly realised that my voice was louder when I joined other voices … and there were many. I’ve always believed that if you have a dream, the only barrier from achieving it is you. I left home young and found myself in all sorts of situations and available “options”. Some of these options saw me as a “marginalised young person”, and wanted to support me to get out of my disadvantage. I ignored them, as this is not how I saw myself. Others, pushed me hard … they gave me “tough love” and made me achieve what they saw in me as talents and strengths. I worked with them, and when I was content, I felt that it was time that I give back the same tough love.

This journey led me to setting up IARS, which stands for evidence-based change that is bottom-up and community-led. I did not have a business plan or a clear idea about how I was going to fundraise or sustain an organisation. What I had was the support of other volunteers as well as the guiding light of three key principles upon which IARS was founded (1) User and civic participation (2) Restorative justice and dialogue (3) Individual Empowerment and Responsibility.  The journey was not always easy, and I can say I have grown and learned so much over the years. 

IARS stands for “Independent – Academic – Research Studies” meaning that  irrespective of your background, training, socio-economic status, age, abilities or race, the charity will support you to carry out independent, credible and evidence based (academic) research studies to inform and influence policies, laws and practices impacting on you.

20 years later and the IARS mission is more current than ever. 

Professor Dr. Theo Gavrielides

IARS Founder (2021)

In September 2020 six new trustees were appointed to the Board to help drive the direction of the charity under its new CEO, and in May 2021 Dr. Gavrielides stepped down as a Trustee. He remains connected to the charity as its Founder.

User & civic participation

IARS’ first value is based on our belief that strong democracies are not those that elect and maintain systems of governance that cultivate and enforce power over others, but those that truly share that power with those who need it. Society can be improved through social enterprising taking place at all levels: individual, project and organisational. However, social change cannot be done by dictating how one should participate in civic life. This is especially true for those groups that have traditionally been disenfranchised let that be our young people or the victims of our overt or explicit biases. True empowerment happens when we let go of our own power and allow its organic transition into the hands of others. Despite the risks involved, when this happens, the results can be incredible. We have seen it in the internal structures of our organisation. When we let go, the staff team, our interns and volunteers see IARS as a ‘flower pot’ with fertile soil where they can grow their ideas and projects. And it is with these flowers and with flower after flower that we believe we can make demo(δήμος)-cracy(κράτος) more meaningful and worthy of its name. User participation and bottom up approaches to society’s problems also offer something very practical which cannot be captured by ‘experts’ living in ivory towers. And that is the grounded and lived experiences of those facing the problem that we are asked to solve. Hence, our strapline “Community-led solutions for a better society”. We are particularly proud of our user led projects and indeed the user-led research methods that we have pioneered internationally as well as the infrastructure that we have developed to help individuals, projects and organisations to identify, measure and maximise their social impact.

Restorative Justice and dialogue

When we feel that we have been wronged, we tend to take the adversarial road, shut down, avenge and punish. If there is one thing that I have learned from my research and personal experiences is that contest breeds contest while the harm is never truly restored. Healing is ignored and the powerful manifest their power even more. I have championed the restorative justice values of dialogue, equality, empowerment, negotiation, forgiveness, empathy and respect throughout my academic career and I would be disingenuous if I did not to adopt them for my own organisation. I hold restorative circles for our staff meetings and I am particularly proud of our restorative justice projects.

Individual empowerment and responsibility

I see this principle as the glue for the other two. If we are to pursue a shift in power and demand a voice through participation in civic life or through dialogue in justice processes, then we must do so responsibly. This responsibility comes in many forms and in IARS’s case it is translated in the way we champion change. This has to be through evidence and the application of robust research methods. We are mindful, however, that certain truths can be discovered only through in-depth research methods and thus we have argued in favour of qualitative approaches to social problem solving. We are also responsible for our non political and independent voice and programmes. We take responsibility for the result of the work that our funders and supporters empower us to do, and we teach this responsibility to those with whom we work.

IARS policy applies to all staff, including senior managers and the board of trustees, paid staff, volunteers and sessional workers, agency staff, students or anyone working on behalf of The IARS International Institute (IARS).

The purpose of this policy is:
● to protect children, young people and vulnerable adults who receive IARS’ services. This
includes the children of adults who use our services;
● to provide staff and volunteers with the overarching principles that guide our approach to
safeguarding and the protection of individuals.

Download Safeguarding Statement

This notice explains what personal data (information) we hold about you, how we collect it, and how we use and may share information about you. We are required to notify you of this information under the EU GDPR regulations and other data protection legislation. Please ensure that you read this notice (sometimes referred to as a ‘privacy notice’) and any other similar notice we may provide to you from time to time when we collect or process personal information about you.

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We embrace diversity and provide paid and volunteering opportunities proactively reaching out to disadvantaged youth from deprived London areas. 




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We are Sculpt

IARS International Institute to operate as Sculpt

*Charity CEO available for interview – details in notes 

A UK-based youth charity today changes its operating name from the IARS International Institute to Sculpt. 

IARS is an international NGO that’s been working to empower young people to forge a fairer society for over 20 years. Their work is guided and evaluated by young people themselves.  

Over the last 20 years, IARS has delivered more than 70 successful projects that have addressed real problems that young people face, in areas such as: 

  • Gender discrimination 
  • Violence against women and girls 
  • Supporting young people to find work 
  • Creating green and sustainable business 
  • Promoting collaboration among young people across the world and much more. 

In 2021, with the world changing rapidly and opportunities for their work shifting, they decided to refresh their purpose and identity, and made the decision to rebrand as Sculpt. 

Claire Bonham, Chief Executive of Sculpt, said: 

‘We are delighted to launch our new brand that speaks to our aim to empower young people to shape their future.

‘We believe that many of today’s young people are facing unjust challenges – economically, environmentally and socially. A fair, sustainable society can only evolve if all young people have the opportunities, the confidence, the ambition and the skills to make their voices heard and propel change in their communities, irrespective of who they are or where they come from.  

‘Our rebrand, like our work, has been guided by research and by young people themselves. As an organisation we base our work on rigorously researched evidence and are led in our approach by our youth advisory board. Their voices and insight are critical to solving the right problems in meaningful ways.’  


Notes to editors:  

Dr. Claire Bonham, Chief Executive of The IARS International Institute is available for interview. Contact Claire directly on: director@iars.org.uk +44(0) 7833 224442  



Sculpt is a UK-based charity providing research, training and work-experience opportunities that empower young people to shape their own futures and those of their communities. 

We work directly with young people, employers and professionals who support young people. All our work is guided by young people themselves and based on carefully researched evidence. We: 

  • Facilitate forums for young people to make their needs and their voices heard. 
  • Publish a magazine by young people to express their perspectives and encourage debate around public policy issues. 
  • Conduct research to uncover young people’s real needs and what works to empower and support them. 
  • Deliver training to build young people’s confidence, skills, ambition, resilience and sense of responsibility, so they can shape their futures and change their communities for the better, as leaders, social entrepreneurs and active participants in civic life. 
  • Deliver training for professionals who work with young people, drawing on our research and expertise. 
  • Engage with employers to facilitate work experience and employment opportunities for young people to develop skills and access diverse jobs. 
  • Facilitate international exchange opportunities to encourage and enable young people to experience and appreciate other cultures, perspectives and ways of life. 

We tackle disempowerment from three angles: working directly with young people to build confidence and skills and their voice, working with professionals who support young people, and working with employers to break down barriers to opportunity.