This is a reference for Paul Smyth

Young people and extremism: Building resilience through youth empowerment

The training activity took place
in Birmingham and Belfast, UK
organised by UK NA
20 - 25 November 2017

Aims & objectives

1. To provide theoretical and practical support to youth workers (and others with responsibility for youth work and young people’s non-formal learning) to develop the knowledge, skills and experience needed to build young people’s resilience to extremism and radicalisation.
2. To build the capacity of youth organisations to respond to the risks of extremism and radicalisation, and to increase young people’s resilience.
3. To highlight relevant experience and good practice in the UK (at local and national levels). In particular, to highlight the role of civic youth work as an approach that encourages young people’s active citizenship and can help in reducing the risks from extremism and radicalisation.
4. To engage learners in reflecting on and sharing experience and lessons learnt from their own context.
5. To highlight opportunities under the Erasmus+ Programme to develop joint projects and to strengthen European networks working on this theme.

Target group & international/intercultural composition of the group & team

There were 14 participants from a total of 12 EU Countries. The participants ranged from volunteer youth workers to senior policy makers and researchers - all of whom had an interest in understanding and preventing the violent radicalisation of young people. We focused on the role of youth work and youth workers in addressing these issues and helping to identify vulnerable youth.

Training methods used & main activities

The study visit included academic and expert inputs, site visits, and meeting with youth workers in both contexts. It also included group work and the debriefing of a range of sessions, including one with former violent radicals (one far right, one Islamist). It was an extremely intensive programme and discussions often went on well into the evening as participants were getting to know each other but also to process the information they were receiving and the experiences they were having.

One example of an activity which proved powerful, was to ask the participants to introduce themselves to a partner as their 13 year old selves. They were partnered with people they didn't know. Then the partner introduced their new friend. This really helped the participants to get to know each other, but also to think about the vulnerabilities, hope and opportunity present in young people in moments of transition. This was very early in the programme (day 1) and really helped to create a strong group with mutual trust and respect.

Outcomes of the activity

A full report was submitted to the UK NA, and the feedback from participants was overwhelmingly positive. Immediate feedback told us that participants were able to apply what they learnt and that the visit caused them to think about their work in new ways. I also received feedback from many of those who met and presented to the group and they found the engagement stimulating and engaging. Whilst there are no other documentary outputs of the project, we actively used a resource on helping to prevent the radicalisation of young people through youth work created by Deborah Erwin: Young People and Extremism: A resource for Youth Workers

Your tasks and responsibilities within the team

I was a lead co-trainer with a colleague. Together we designed the programme and helped to select the participants. We then co-facilitated the programme across the two locations and accompanied the group throughout.

I worked on this training for 5 days as a full time trainer.

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