Once engaged, it is vital that young people participate in projects designed to offer them new opportunities, and different ways to look at their lives. There are many projects that involve young people in diversionary activities, helping to keep them off the streets and out of trouble. All need support, which is increasingly difficult as financial cuts bite deeper into local authority budgets and less money is available for charities and voluntary-sector organisations.
A recent report by Brooke Kinsella (downloadable below) provides some excellent examples of participatory projects across the country, including a few that are arts based. We can only applaud the tremendous efforts by these projects to keep going when funding is so tight. Brooke identified the following elements that she felt makes a good project tackling knife crime:
Have an educational aspect
Consider both genders and also parents or younger children where appropriate
Have local promotion and support
Be based in a neutral area
Have access to reliable and predictable funding
Interact with other agencies (for example, the police)
Be interactive with its audience
Be authentic – clearly reflecting reality
Consider victim interviews and impact
Signpost young people towards positive outcomes, ideas and solutions
The Trust thoroughly agrees, and would add a few more:
Involve young people in the construction of the project
Provide opportunities for facilitated reflection
Ensure there are accessible routes to follow-on activities
We know that arts-based participatory projects provide many of these elements, and there is much research available to show that they work well. But, like engagement projects, they are seldom taken seriously by the higher-spending government departments, and never mainstreamed.
However much the Trust would like to support such projects, it only has limited funds. Instead, the trustees think it is better to concentrate its resources on engagement projects that find it difficult to attract funding because there are no measurable outputs. These projects can help to prove the value of activity that would otherwise remain marginalised or overlooked.