In the last two blogs I have described the problems of professional cultures and poorly developed interventions which foster some of the issues of youth violence and crime. I will now turn to the opportunities where innovation is most needed:
A different way of thinking: System Behaviours.
If we are to seriously address youth violence then we need to challenge the way in which professionals are presently understanding violence. This means engaging with youth violence from a systems perspective. This would address the factors which increase youth violence but also identifies activities that reinforce youth violence. This can be tremendously challenging particularly for professionals who are trained to be output and outcome focused. The emphasis in systems thinking is about connections and recognising high levels of uncertainty. There is a need to change the way in which professionals’ approach youth violence from outcomes to systems. This would allow for creatively and collaborative thinking on ways to prevent and recognise the drivers of youth violence.
Recognising technology has a powerful role to play:
The professional sector seems incredibly resistant to adopting technology. There are technologies already available which could have a tremendous impact if applied to challenging youth violence. Research is already showing the use of games such as Tetris can help reduce post-traumatic stress disorder if applied quickly enough to stop the trauma becoming deep-seated within individual. New technologies could be used to engage young people, such as in virtual reality (VR). This could be used to create previous risk situations to assess their ways of coping with challenge. The opportunity of VR would enable them to recognise their choices and the consequence of their actions. Likewise, the opportunity for big data to play a role in disrupting youth crime could have a tremendous impact on resources and interventions. By way of example, if Youth Offending Teams were to use the massive amounts of data with the support of an AI system, greater insight could be provided into both risks and gaps in present datasets to recognise trends and patterns which could inform both interventions and outcomes.
Need for research that supports practice and practice which support research:
Two big research areas which could be vital areas for disrupting youth violence are group dynamics and socio-spatial navigation (post-code territorialism). Firstly, how group dynamics play a role in instigating, performing and continuing particular types of violence is well researched. Applying this to present day youth violence, it is absolutely vital as the recent hate crime attack in Croydon illustrates (30 mixed gender perpetrators aged 15-25 attacking a 17 year old Kurdish Iranian Asylum Seeker). Few professionals are given any support to understand how these complex dynamics play out, let alone have access to the latest research on the types of analysis needed to recognise when these situations occur and how to support young people susceptible to group dynamics. Secondly, socio-spatial identifiers are limiting the ways in which young people perceive the world around them. I’ve yet to see work done with young people to help map out safe spaces and risk spaces within their localities. This is different to hotspot mapping, but rather the focus is on exploring how spaces and places are perceived in their locality and what are the opportunities for safe movement through these spaces. This could be done through embedding researchers within high activity areas to give updates on the perception shifts of young people.
Of course, there are more things that we could be done. Such as improving policy at the national, regional and local levels, commissioners funding innovation projects and evaluations models moving away from simplistic ‘Theory of Change’, or more training but these are always raised. Whereas, the three solutions discussed above could be developed quickly, if the youth crime sector is serious then we need disruptive innovation now as the cost is too high not to do anything different.
For info about the artwork and the project please go to: http://www.scriberia.co.uk/projects/resolve
 https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/apr/01/asylum-seeker-fights-for-life-after-hate-attack-in-london s.