Youth respond to youth violence

If you live outside London or the south-east of England you may well not know of the housing association “Catalyst”. It was formed by the merger in 2002 of Kensington Housing Trust (formed 1926), Ealing Family Housing Association (formed 1963) and Northcote HA.

On Saturday 20th July, 2019 five young Brent residents, one aged just 13 and the others just 14, worked with Catalyst to organise and host the first ‘Stamp Out Youth Violence’ event at the Unity Centre - a thriving community hub in Brent, as reported on the Catalyst website and in the Kilburn Times.

Stamp Out poster

Stamp Out poster

All the organising teenagers are part of a Catalyst young person’s group that meet regularly after school and during the holidays.

How rewarding it must have been that over 80 people, of all ages, attended.

Here are two quotes from the article:

Shanice, one of the young organisers “The violence around here is affecting all of us, it’s on our front doors and it needs to stop. We organised this event because we want to develop in leadership, do well at school and be more active in solutions.”

Peaches Cadogan, Youth Engagement Practitioner at Catalyst said, “I meet with young people in Brent that are affected by violence in the borough every day, and they all want to do something positive about it. I call these five girls my queens, because they have a drive and vision that inspires me. This whole event was their idea and we want to keep it going. We will be back next year for sure.”

“Active in solutions”; not a bad motto, hey?


No push over for three teenagers

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The situation: It’s night time in Ontario, Canada. Your car is giving you trouble. You are on the side of the road with smoke coming out of a car you’ve had just six weeks. You are a woman on your own and you don’t have enough money to pay for a tow truck to get you home.

A lucky break. You are spotted by three teenagers out on a late night run to a donut shop.

Then something almost unbelievable happens. The three teenagers take it upon themselves to push your car back to your home. It’s five miles away! Another motorist stops to help by driving behind with his hazard warning lights on for safety.

CNN US reports that the trio grabbed bottles of water and a speaker so they could "jam out" and then started their trek. They faced several obstacles. The first was a big hill 300 yards from the start. Halfway through, they took a break and the battery died. They had to charge it just to get back into neutral.

After more than two-and-a-half hours of pushing, they finally delivered the car back home. The stranded motorist was both thankful and amazed. The trio never got the woman's full name.

Positively inspirational.

The young demand action

A paraphrased old proverb, ’From small acorns, forests might grow’, seems appropriate for an initiative taking place in the local government district of Wealden in East Sussex. After all, its very name comes from the “Weald” – which was once an unbroken forest occupying much of the area. And it is the younger generation that is calling for action, in this case, on climate change.

The following information is from an article published in the Sussex Express which reports that yesterday, July 12th 2019, a group of teenagers launched a petition for the local district council to acknowledge and declare a climate and ecological emergency. They used a local supermarket’s car park (which was flooded during the 2000 floods) to speak to members of the public. And in the coming weeks, the group will be seeking signatures in towns and villages across Wealden district and asking shops to have the petitions at their tills.

The group are seeking the support of people who work, live or study in the area to demand radical action immediately and to become fossil fuel free within ten years.

The petition asks that Wealden District Council undertakes to:

• Acknowledge and declare a climate and ecological emergency.

• Pledge to make Wealden District Council carbon neutral by 2030.

• Call on East Sussex County Council and the UK Government to provide the powers and resources to make the 2030 target possible.

• Call on East Sussex County Council and the UK Government and governments internationally to determine and implement best practice methods to limit global heating to 1.5 deg C.

• Convene a Citizen’s Assembly to advise on potential approaches and solutions based on independent scientific evidence.

Wealdon is a relatively small district, with a population of about 160,000, but, just as acorns may grow into a forest, let us hope that this young persons’ initiative keeps growing and takes over more and more of the UK and beyond.

The young Are rising to the challenge; thank goodness.

We really need to start involving young people

The RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce), based in London, has been at the forefront of social change for over 260 years. Its underlying ethos, as stated on its website, is “believing that all human beings have creative capacities that, when understood and supported, can be mobilised to deliver a 21st century enlightenment.”

“All our activity aims to strengthen, empower and mobilise networks to work together in taking on today’s most pressing social challenges”.

This organisation, and their work, was, of course, established long before Beuys ‘invented’ social sculpture. Whereas parallels do exist, for Beuys there was no clear distinction between art and life. As Dr. Davor Džalto writes in reference to Beuys’ ideas: “Human life means life in a community, with other people. Therefore, artistic activities (should) have a direct social impact....Each human being has a creative potential in Beuys’ eyes. This potential is to be realized in communion with others. So the particular activities of individuals do matter but gain full meaning only if they lead to building a new society based on solidarity, creativity and freedom. In such a communion, man can reach his/her real identity, not only as a social atom, but as a person. This is the reason that Beuys perceives society as the greatest work of art, a “total work of art” (Gesamtkunstwerk).”

Almost exactly one year ago the RSA produced a report entitled: “Teenagency: how young people can create a better world”

As the RSA website states, its key findings were:

· Young people’s participation in social action significantly outweighs adult perception: 68% of young people have participated in volunteering or other forms of social action, but just 5% of adults think that young people today are very likely to do social action.

· Some demographic groups are more likely to participate in social action than others: young women are somewhat more likely to volunteer (74%) than young men (61%), and 73% of young people who identify as religious have taken part in social action compared with 65% of young people who do not consider themselves religious.

· Young people today have a strong desire to help others but many do not feel like they can make a difference: 84% of young people want to help others but only 52% believe that they can make a positive difference in their communities. Some young people believe that their age and inexperience are limiting, but report building confidence in their ability to make a difference through participation.

· Creative young people feel more confident that they can make a difference in their communities: 61% of young people who describe themselves as a creative person believe that they can make a positive difference in their community, compared with 34% of young people who do not consider themselves creative.

· We need to prioritise encouraging young people who do not see themselves as creative to take part in social action: creative young people are also less likely to need the encouragement of others to participate in social action than non-creative peers, and they are more likely to get involved because they spotted an opportunity or were moved by something that happened to someone they know.

· Young people from less affluent backgrounds especially need the encouragement of schools to participate: young people with parents who do not work full time or who are from social grades C2DE are less likely to be encouraged by their parents to take part in social action, therefore the encouragement of school becomes particularly important if they are to gain the benefits of taking part in social action.

· We need to provide more opportunities for young people to shape social action activities: young people welcome the opportunity to shape the social action they participate in, but currently, less than a quarter of young people have the chance to select the problem they want to solve. Social action that young people shape offers opportunities for personal development that are particularly important to young people from low socio-economic backgrounds who may not get these chances in other parts of their lives.

Clearly we really need to start involving young people in the decisions and actions that will shape their world.

Dame Juilia Cleverdon (co-founder of the #iwill Campaign) emphasised that research suggests that high quality activities will meet six principles, including:

Be youth-led

Be challenging

Have social impact

Allow progression to other opportunities

Be embedded in a young person’s life

Enable reflection about the value of the activity

The higher the quality of the social action, the more likely it is to benefit both the young people involved and the communities or causes they are trying to help.

Please take time to watch he video below