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© 2019 Dr. Charlie Howard

Young people are not the problem. They are the solution to the problem.

July 26, 2018

 

I am disillusioned. OK, I am the mother of a five-month-old baby who doesn’t sleep. But it isn’t that. A few months ago, it was announced that for the first time, the murder rate in London was higher than that in New York. Stabbings in London are at their highest in six years and a shocking amount of children have been shot to death.

 

A Channel 5 law and order debate on Monday evening was the last straw. At best a blizzard of sound bites. And there were no young people. None.

 

It’s 10 years since I set up MAC-UK, the result of me spending months and months hanging around with young people. Listening. It took a long time.

 

I did it because I didn’t have the solution to their problems. They did.

 

The ideas coming out of MAC-UK have been mirrored around the UK, the violence reduction unit (VRU) in Glasgow and Redthread’s Youth Violence Intervention Programme, to name but two.

 

These examples have one thing in common. They take a public health approach to violence reduction. By this I mean that they see violence as something that is not an inevitable outcome. Most importantly of all though, they are about young people. And they don't blame. 

 

In this debate young people hardly get a look in. Instead we are having fruitless conversations about more policing and harsher sanctions. Yes, policing is important. But it’s ridiculous to think that it can solve the problem on its own.

 

And of course funding cuts get blamed. Money can help or it can hinder. It all depends on how it gets spent. More of the same isn’t the answer.

 

I have started up a movement called Street to Scale. We give young people pre-paid credit cards loaded with £100. They use it to try stuff they think will make a difference.

 

Some young people use their money to innovate. They're some of the best social entrepreneurs I've met. Street to Scale nurtures these ideas. There are no organisations. No overheads. No output measures. No staffing problems. Just great ideas to make the world a safer place.

 

This method of funding is empowering and rapidly demonstrates we are listening. That’s half of the battle won. And hey, maybe they might just know how to spend it too.

 

When I gave a young man some cash, he bought some speakers to set up a music group in his community. What is the point of that I thought? There are lots of organisations running music clubs. But this wasn’t somebody else’s music group it was THEIR music group. And because it was THEIRS lots of people who wouldn’t go near a conventional club started to show up.

 

Something isn’t working. That much is clear. Young people are dying, many at the hands of other young people. 

 

But young people are not the problem. They are the solution to the problem.

 

So, if anyone out there is listening, I challenge us to set up different ways of finding, funding and nurturing new ideas.

 

If you are ready for that conversation, I’m here. Hopeful and excited.

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